SuperPower 3 is a geopolitical simulation game developed by GolemLabs and published by THQ Nordic. The game launches on October 8, 2022 on Steam for us here in Australia and is the third iteration in the series. This latest game has a fun premise however is held back by everything else. Crashing, losing connection to the server, interface bugs, unresponsive and limited controls, poor options menu, opaque systems, and worst of all, it just isn’t fun. A lot these problems also affect the developer’s other game, The Guild 3, although that game at least has some fun that can be gained from it.
This third iteration in the SuperPower series brings modern graphics as well as present day military hardware and technology, while representing in detail over 190 countries of the world. You are placed in charge of a modern-day nation in one of fifteen scenarios. There is a free for all ‘conquer the world’ sandbox, however I would recommend choosing one of the real-world scenarios to understand how to play the game fully. Some of the scenarios are familiar like USA v North Korea, or a topical conflict in current times is the Ukraine-Russia conflict. You can choose to play as one of the involved countries, each of which has specific goals to complete.
Next you need to create your leadership character avatar and this creation tool is quite well detailed. There are various ethnicities represented which I thought was great, and you can dress them in traditional garbs if you know what they are, choose military uniforms or standard office attire. There’s a range of hair types to choose from as well as hats and sunglasses to accessorize your leader. I liked the range of options available. Then came the loading screen for the scenario, and this took just short of five minutes to load. Thankfully subsequent load times weren’t as long.
We are then presented with a world map and the geography is quite accurate. You can zoom in a fair way and Australia looks cool. I am from Perth, Western Australia and the game hasn’t given us any military outposts, but you can see designations for the Australian states and see who we are allied with in Oceania, including Antartica. The other major countries are represented with their flags which was cool to zoom around and have a look, and other major areas will have approximations of cityscapes and landmarks.
Most of the primary gameplay is done within four large windows – one each for demography, politics, economy, and military. Full credit to the developers here for including a lot of real-world data about each region such as population numbers and the culture of each region, political parties, military strength, and much more in-depth information that you can use during your scenario. The last two, economy and military, are the main ones you will be operating within. However, there is no breakdown of performance to give you an idea of the results of your actions for anything other than popularity and stability when it’s really needed for the economy screen.
The depth of the systems in SuperPower 3 seems quite unbalanced or rather cheesy for want of a better word. I had to increase my relationship with a particular country and initially they wouldn’t form a treaty as my relationship with them was too low. I thought about how to raise this, you know doing favours for them or something. Instead, I just gave them a large chunk of money and that was enough for them to like me and form a treaty.
It just seemed like some of the win condition objectives were too easy to achieve where you can radically increase your tax rates (say from 10% to 40%) or to throw a billion dollars into the military budget. The only effects of doing this are temporarily lowering your political support and increasing your tax income so you can just reduce taxes again just before the next election, with no consequences. This lack of depth and interlinked mechanics is the primary reason the game just isn’t fun or too challenging.
The rest of the gameplay interaction is done on a representation of the earth; however, it is purely to look pretty until you get to the military part. Though the only action you can perform on the map is to move units around and, when at war, to attack other units. You cannot build defences on a border, airports to stage aircraft from, build industry, deal with natural disasters, or anything else. It is limited to an almost RISK style movement of units. The political system is negligible too, you can declare war on your neighbour, conquer and annex them but there are no repercussions.
In the Ukraine-Russia conflict scenario, I had completed all but one goal within 10 minutes because the game is so unbalanced. Something that should be troublesome is trivial, such as allying with a nation, or spending 150 million dollars as a relatively poor nation. Even then, that was before I begged trillions of dollars from the United States who seemed to have no limit to how much money they would give out if you just kept asking them for it. While working towards the last objective of increasing my military by 10% (there was no way to see how close I was to this goal) I was bored and frustrated so much with the interface that I declared war on Russia just to see how the combat system worked, and it was even worse than the rest of the game.
The interface is often unresponsive and can take several seconds for the input of a value or command to be acknowledged. This is bad enough in the main interface where you’re controlling your country’s systems, but it makes it unplayable in combat where it can take multiple attempts to issue a command for them to register. Key binding is also limited in SuperPower 3. You can’t bind pause and I would say you can’t bind adjust speed, but you can’t adjust speed to begin. This alone makes the game even more boring since so little happens for long stretches of time.
Changing scroll and zoom speed only applies to keyboard control, not mouse control. However, outside all these issues, the game would rarely run for more than 15 minutes without losing connection to the server or crashing, no matter what was being done at the time. It helped that there was an auto-save on crash but especially when combined with the other bugs and poor design choices, this made the game a chore to play.
Overall, there is no value to be had in playing SuperPower 3 in its current state. Even with substantial bug fixing and interface improvements, the only player I could see possibly enjoying this would be someone that wanted RISK but with a slow and shallow layer of country management on top of it.
This review utilised a key provided by Plaion ANZ and SuperPower 3 will launch on October 8, 2022 for us in ANZ on Steam.