Fate of the World: Tipping Point – Review

Title   Fate of the World: Tipping Point
Developer  Red Redemption
Publisher  Lace Mamba Global (retail)
Platform  Windows PC (reviewed), Mac OS X
Genre  Educational/Turn Based Strategy/Card Game
Release Date  27th January 2012

For reasons I’ve never been entirely able to understand, there are certain factions out there obsessed with the idea of the apocalypse. Instead of appreciating the life we have and living in the moment, we’re all constantly looking towards what happens at the end, and the gaming industry is one of the worst offenders. How many of us revel in the idea of gunning down zombies, or strapping on some loose fitting leather clothes and traversing the world post-nuclear war? Surviving in the apocalypse is overrated; why not try preventing it instead?

Well, someone at Red Redemption must have eventually asked that question because last year they released Fate of the World, which tasks the player with preventing Earth’s devastation from climate change. Think ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, but without the backing of a former US Vice President. The game is instead backed by a number of foundations, including Oxfam, TckTckTck, TakingITGlobal and the University of Oxford, and later released more content in the form of DLC that has now been collated and re-released as ‘Fate of the World: Tipping Point’.

Fate of the World is best described as an educational turn-based strategy card game.  The player is given a series of different scenarios that they can tackle, whereupon they will have to cater to the needs of twelve regions and do their best not to mess everything up. Each turn, you’ll be able to deploy up to six agents per nation and use those agents to activate cards of your choosing for each individual one. Each agent and card costs money to deploy and some cards will either take a turn to activate, or remain active in that region until such time as you deactivate it. You’ll be given an inbox for each region, filled with news as well as what you’ve been doing right or wrong and what problems you’ll need to tackle, with support for your actions either rising or dropping depending on how well you adhere to their needs. You’ll also have to install offices in each region to control environmental measures, what technological advances should be made, improve the people’s standard of living, or even send in the army to stop war breaking out. You’ll also be able to install a HQ that allows you to affect everywhere you have agents installed, granting you the ability to enact global measures like banning fossil fuels or even launching a space programme to find a way off this stinking rock.

After the tutorial, you’ll feel more than ready to take on the scourge of climate change… and then the stabilisers fall off your bike and you crash head first into a giant wall with ‘difficulty curve’ written on it in big letters. I’m no good at similes. The thing is, the tutorial only puts you in charge of two regions and only introduces you to a few of the mechanics you’ll need to understand to play the game somewhat decently. Every level afterwards requires you to keep an eye on all twelve nations, and that’s not even the half of it. You’ll need to keep a track of their HDI, their economy, energy usage, forestation, political stability, technological progress, their satisfaction with what you’re doing, and that’s still not all. You’ll need to build up defences against consequences of climate change, make sure everybody is working, prevent any economic crises from occurring, and constantly monitor temperature rises, emissions, fuel supplies, making sure that you have your eyes on all this and more at the same time, on top of whatever the win and fail conditions of each level demand you do or not do. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack, then asking you to repeat the task but in the Grand Canyon instead. The overall difficulty is like you’re David and the game is Goliath and you’re only allowed to fight him with mushy peas, but your peashooter is broken and you’re naked and your ex-girlfriend is laughing at you. Too much? Okay, the game is truly, incredibly difficult.

It’s not just the extent of the micromanagement you have to undertake, it’s also that success in the game relies so much on trial and error that you can often feel at a loss of what to do, and sometimes you may feel forced to depart from plans you’d like to enact by several turns just to make sure no one kicks you out of a region.  Should this happen, it means you’ll no longer get money from them or interact with them for a number of turns, meaning that it’ll be an even bigger uphill struggle to get things on track when they eventually let you back in. Some regions will start the levels actively protesting against you, and it will get often get to the point where you’ll just find yourself rolling your eyes at the fact that your progres has been slowed yet again by people that seem almost impossible to make happy.

Admittedly, this may make you feel less guilty about some of the Black Ops you can fund. Governments aren’t supporting you? Fund some terrorist groups to destabilise the land and replace the opposing politicians with some yes men. Overpopulation causing famine, lack of housing and ridiculous rates of unemployment? Covertly sterilise everytone and drop birth rates to a sustainable level. Sick of everyone and feel like wiping them out and starting all over? Unleash plagues designed to wipe out a quarter, half, or ninety-nine percent of the population. Enacting them means that there’s a risk you’ll get caught and probably kicked out, but it adds yet another dynamic to the playing field as long as you’re feeling a little amoral.

While you may find yourself justifying such tactics in one mission it doesn’t necessarily mean you will in another, because while Fate of the World will normally fail you if you’re banned from too many places or the temperature of the Earth rises too much, the other objectives you’re given will completely change the way you approach each situation. Tactics you’d employ when trying to keep the world’s temperatures down go out of the window when you’re told to make as much money as you possibly can, or when every nation starts out already environmentally friendly. The variety of the mission structures are something that’ll keep you coming back and trying again, as well as the fact that you’ll be given a score for how well you’ve performed, provided you can even succeed in the first place.

This is where I have to make a horrible confession: I was actually unable to complete any of the missions beyond the tutorial. You know when I said the game was hard? Fate of the World kicked my arse seven ways to Sunday. One of my many playthroughs resulted in disaster when my next turn led me to get banned from two regions who were supportive of me the turn before, which turned out to be the least of my worries as I was then told I’d failed the level anyway because I’d been assassinated. On easy mode. But do you know what?  I still enjoyed playing Fate of the World.

At the time of writing, I have over thirty-five Firefox tabs up with various pages of information, tactics and forum threads full of people discussing the game, just in the vain hope that if I try reading them in another hour then I’ll understand what people are talking about this time. I’ve come out of a university lecture having learnt absolutely nothing because I was plotting my next Fate of the World playthrough instead. Most of my daydreaming of late has been about some aspect of the game in the hope that the next attempt will bring more success. I can literally spend up to ten minutes agonising over a single turn in the fear I’m going to do something wrong and screw the world over yet again. Despite the fact that I’m staring at cards and spreadsheets over an unchanging background to annoyingly repetitive music for hours on end, most of my thoughts keep coming back to this game. I’m not sure if playing it has given me some form of Stockholm Syndrome, but the first thing I want to do as soon as I’ve finished typing is to load it up and try again.

On one hand, Fate of the World is one of the hardest games I’ve ever had to play, and it’s the only game I’ve ever reviewed for GamingLives that I’ve been unable to finish. On the other hand, it’s unique, addictive, and manages to be fun despite being an educational title. If you’re not a hardcore strategist who is willing to pour over stats, graphs and plan several moves ahead, you will find this game a struggle, but what Red Redemption have done is made an educational game that is well worth playing, regardless of your views on global warming.

  • Doesn't force its views down your throat.
  • You can easily lose hours at a time without realising it.
  • Plenty of mission variety and scores encourage you to keep coming back for more.
  • May temporarily take control of your life...
  • May temporarily take control of your life... potentially at a detriment to everything else in your life.
  • The difficulty gap from tutorial to other missions is extreme and doesn't adequately prepare you.
  • Lacklustre presentation and music.
  • Harder than diamonds.

The idea of an educational strategy game based on global warming isn't something that will immediately prick the ears of those who hear it, but if you put your reservations to the side you'll find something more unique than you'd think. Granted, you will fail a lot, but you'll find yourself coming back for more, determined to show the game what for and improve the world, one step at a time. Much like the threat of climate change, not everyone will be taken in by Fate of the World, but those who invest the time will find themselves with an experience unlike many others in gaming, for better and for worse.

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One Comment

  1. Lorna Lorna says:

    I love the sound of this game, even if the micro-management sounds absolutely insane. The concept is a great one and a good, current topic to wap a game around and the management style of play certainly suits it. I tend to be a bit rubbish at management games, either taking on too much and trying to do everything at once, or otherwise going the opposite way and focussing on one tiny element while the rest goes to hell. Still love ‘em though :)

    I like the thought of being a shady, bad guy, slowly destroying the world for profit… after all, that’s what inevitably happens when you set tricky goals that fly in the face of doing ‘what is right’, no matter what lofty ambitions you start out with, but then that’s propbably one of the things that the game is subtley trying to get across. Great stuff, Ed.

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