Nov 8, 2011

Fate of the World: Tipping Point Review

Fate of the World: Tipping Point is a unique, deeply political, scientific and thus truly rare beast. It also is an indie game that plays a lot like a card game and is tasking you, the player, with saving the world. Well, humanity to be precise, as I'm pretty sure that the world will do just fine without us. Shockingly though, saving humanity does not involve fighting aliens with ridiculously sized guns or destroying hordes of zombies while exposing nefarious conspiracies. No. This time around it involves tackling real societal problems and their environmental and political consequences in a frighteningly realistic manner.

Fate of the World is after all based on the scientific and political theories of Prof. Myles Allen, and does an incredible job in transforming an apparently complex set of ideas into a game; not that I'm aware of the good professor's theory mind, but I've apparently been exposed to quite a few similar ones. The EU's official environmental policies do, for example, spring to mind: environmentalism mixed with moderate free market doctrines and capitalist developmental ideas... 

Problem is that such a profoundly political game cannot simply be judged as a mere piece of entertainment software. It should and will have to face political and scientific criticism and -happily- what with me being a geographer, there are a ton of things I disagree with. Now, I could tire both you and myself by providing an extensive critique, but I will simply stick to my key problems: a) the game seems to ignore the political importance of the masses, b) it considers capitalism as a natural and unchangeable socioeconomic reality, c) it fails to see such facts as the strong relationship of services and production and d) it is incredibly deterministic.

The typical gameplay screen is most atypical.
Now, this doesn't mean that the game isn't good or that it doesn't base itself on a sound scientific base. It's just that I couldn't help but notice a few things I strongly disagree with and mainly that generally irritating bourgeois, supposedly technocratic school of thought. It does make quite a few decent and generally accepted points though and I can't help but admit that some of the game's ideological problems might be attributed to the fact that turning a theory into something enjoyable, let alone playable, is very difficult indeed. But I really don't want to sound negative. Really. Fate of the World: Tipping Point is a great, deviously educational, rich and incredibly thought-provoking game.

I am, after all, most impressed with what Fate of the World actually achieves. It's an astoundingly simple to play strategy game that manages to be both deep and educational. Let me give you an example of play: you have to make sure that the living standards of Africa rise, while its carbon emissions fall; you thus buy agents for northern and southern Africa (each agent allows one card to be played in the region he/she is stationed); you buy and play an equal number of cards to your agents (cards are usually certain policies); you click the end turn button and hope for the best. Sadly Africa gets destroyed. Well, the first few times you tackle its problems at least.

Playing, you see, is easy and the mechanics straightforward. Understanding the consequences of your choices is another matter entirely and this is what makes the game such a brilliant offering. You could help industry, but damage the environment and them wages. You could go for supposedly eco-friendly fuel and somehow kill off the panda. You could educate people only to have them revolt (which does make a lot of sense) and so on and so forth. What's more you have a ton of scenarios and cards to play around with and a multitude of connections to discover. 

Oh, and if you already own the original Fate of the World, you should really upgrade it to Tipping Point. It features some apparently important updates and fixes, and two whole DLC packs. You can get the game and the upgrade pack right here.

Want to feel my wrath? Play these cards and wait.
Verdict: Despite some political shortcoming only a few will notice, this is an excellent strategy game, that can indeed educate on certain environmental truths. Definitely worth your time.

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  1. Haven't had a chance to give this one a decent play-through yet, but it's next on my list. I can't help but be somewhat reminded of the old Chris Crawford classic "Balance of Power", though obviously the game has very different objectives.

    Nicely reviewed, as always.

  2. Thank you me dear Captain. Your kind words are always most welcome!

    As for the Fate of the World, well, you should give it some time in order to discover its depth. A good game indeed.

  3. An interesting premise that has been attempted in the past in a much cruder form in such games as The Global Dilemma: Guns or Butter and so forth. As computing processing power increases, the games become more rounded. It also occurs to me that it would be most difficult to make a game such as this whose mechanic was not deterministic. JMO

  4. lol By the time I typed out my response, CaptainD already mentioned one of the Chris Crawford simulations.

  5. Hey, I haven't played The Global Dilemma, but now I'm intrigued. Anyway. I do indeed agree with you that such games have to be deterministic in order to be playable. Then again a well-trained neuronic network could make for more interesting outcomes. And that would of course need, as you wisely noted, even more processing power.

    Still, the quality of the theory used will always be paramount.

  6. :( We killed off Africa AND the Panda?

    the WWF are going to be really pissed...

    (Gnome's phone rings...)

  7. For the five seconds that The IndieRoyale bundle was live and not broken because of too much traffic it looked like this game was in it.

  8. @ Elderly: Yes, sorry about that. We all do mistakes. Now, if you'll excuse me... the phone... Hello? Oh! Ah. Hmmm. Nope, gnome's not here.

    @ Jonathon: It is in it! And those amazing Ben & Dan adventures also!

  9. Well it looks like it is just the original game in the bundle but we can hope that it will be added as a extra latter (and not the DLC for the original [as that is completely included in the Tipping Point edition]).

    For anyone who does not know Tipping Point appears to be a kind of complete ultra edition of Fate of the World and includes all of the original game + DLC and some extras as well but is enough like the original to warrant a 53% of price tag if upgrading instead of buying new.

    But it appears like if you own DLC and upgrade to Tipping Point that you don't get any benefits from them.

  10. Masterfully explained dear Jonathon!

  11. (Attempts to mark the cards...)

  12. :(

    (in floods of tears, elderly smooths out the cards, remorseful in his wrong doing..)

    sniff! I'm sorry mr koala bear..

  13. (burries koala bear)

    You couldn't have possibly known my friend. Apparently geopolitics when mixed with ecology can be incredibly confusing.

  14. (still in floods of tears, elderly looks pleadingly at Gnome...)

    Please tell me mr.Koala bear had no family!

  15. Nah, I really wouldn't call this assortment of little creatures a family...