Yet another first impression/beta feedback thread

… which, I hope, won’t be considered to be redundant, seeing as there are several of these. Maybe a single, official “first impression/feedback” thread could help?
I’m just writing this because I may very well not post again after this, unless I face ingame issues, but I felt that a little feedback was in order.

That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the game. On the contrary, I like it a lot. Being the politically interested person I am, I was elated to turn a country (in this case Canada) into an utopia without crime, poverty or unemployment, where everybody is healthy, well educated and the GDP doesn’t budge an inch when the rest of the world is suffering from recession.

There is a lot of feedback on bigger and smaller issues with the internal workings of countries, so, here, I want to address the three I found to be the most important and didn’t find explicitly mentioned in other feedback threads (which, to be fair, I only skimmed, so forgive me if I simply overlooked them): Political capital, the “endgame” and foreign politics.

- Political capital:
It kinda ties into the second subject on my list, but let’s take a real world example: President Obama tries to make significant changes to the health care system (or maybe he doesn’t and he just blames it on the opposition, but, for the sake of this argument, let’s assume the former). It is his big agenda for this term, the project that looms over everything else he does, a gamechanger.
Throughout my first playthrough, I didn’t feel like there was one big agenda I had to pick. On the contrary, it felt like I could change the world every other quarter. I definitely understand why the current political capital system is in place, to make the cabinet more important and so you can’t do everything in one quarter after saving up, but I felt that it eliminates the idea of “saving up” altogether. At the start of my game, I struggled a little bit to keep up with everything because there were so many issues to address at once, so many interconnections threatening my progress and so little time to deal with all of that.
But after only two five-year terms, I had implemented pretty much everything I wanted and needed to stabilize the country. I eventually started looking for other laws to pass just for the heck of it because I didn’t want to waste all that political capital. And a little later down the line, I gave up on that and just watched my approval and party membership rise and the national debt decrease, then passed another turn.

You could, of course, argue that I should simply ramp up the difficulty and then I’d probably need a lot more political capital every turn just to stay afloat.
I’m not entirely sure about that, though. Granted, there were some issues that required adjustment in implemented policies, but for most of them, I found that all I needed to do was to make smart choices, even if they weren’t popular, stick to my guns and ride out the storm.
My point here is that, while the beginning of it all felt really tense, like you were actually turning around a country with many issues, it kept getting easier, despite some troubling random events at inopportune times.
At least to me, it seemed like many policies and laws are way too cheap, considering how much they influence everything and everyone in a country. And the current system doesn’t lend itself well to higher political costs. I think I also understand why that is (my guess would be that you’re supposed to get a lot done in one or two terms), but with the endgame being another issue for me, I think you get where I’m coming from and that I, at least, am looking for something that offers more longevity.

- The endgame:
Having mentioned that I pretty much passed a lot of turns without looking too closely after only two full terms in office, I feel that it is important to address this point, which I kinda already have.
As I mentioned, I’m looking for more longevity. Granted, not everybody shares this wish with me. The majority of players may very well be content with limiting their runs to a maximum of two successive terms and experience just the game they want to, and I am happy for them.
Still, given the options you are offered, ranging from struggling to maintain the status quo to transforming your country of choice into an authoritarian police state, I feel that it is strange that you cannot outright get rid of elections and declare yourself king/dictator (which probably wouldn’t go down too well with the international community but, hey, I effectively was just that cause my approval hardly ever dropped below 90% anymore). But even if you did: What next? Save up enough money until you had enough money in your vaults to buy your neighbors? Can’t do that, sadly enough (well, you can save the money but you can’t buy the USA from China). Start a war? Can’t do that either.
I think you can see where I’m going with this: Once, and if, you have reached a certain point, a certain balance, all you can do is wait for random events that make further adjustments necessary; but if your country is stable enough, you don’t even have to react to those because it will all fix itself.
What I would really hope for is maybe a little more, another layer of politics around your country that you can mess with once you have dealt with your domestic political issues, or just certain options that become available once you have been in office long enough - in short: Options, scenarios and content that makes games without time limits viable and fun for at least a few terms more.

- Foreign politics:
Which, speaking of “another layer”, brings me to the foreign politics.
With everything else in the game looking pristine already, I am a little disappointed by how basic the foreign politics is. In a globalized world, where each of the countries that are already in the game are members of various organizations, have troops in different parts of the world, meddle with other country’s policies and with each other, it is fairly weird that the influence on your country of choice is limited to tourism, foreign relations, the global economy and a few random events and policy prompts.
I cannot even being to imagine how much work it would take to turn this into something more complex and interesting; I am, however, convinced that it would be 100% worth it. Things like wars or armed conflicts about resources (which become ever more likely, even between Western countries, in an age that sees a rapid decline in Earth’s crude oil, coal and gas reserves), border disputes and international discussions regarding policies and treaties are, at least in my opinion, too important and realistic to pass up. Domestic politics do not happen in bubble, especially not in Western countries. Decisions regarding “security” (read: total surveillance) laws and the reactions of the population are bound to influence other countries. A breakdown in one country’s economy will have a domino effect. If extremist groups become active in one country, expect the international community to react.

As I said, this is the one aspect of the game that I see as an outright weakness. It may very well be that features are planned for this and I simply didn’t pay any attention, but there aren’t, I frankly can’t understand why.

I guess that’s about it.
I hope that you take this as it was intended: Honest feedback with the intention of helping with weaknesses of an otherwise fantastic game. If any of what I wrote comes across as offensive or ignorant, I apologize for that.

Since this thread is already here, I’ll just add my own feedback.

The only thing that has really jumped out at me so far is that debt doesn’t seem to be a major factor. I never felt like there were any negative implications to just piling on the debt. I’m currently 21,000 Billion in debt and still winning elections with no trouble. It feels to me that having run the country into the ground financially, I should have been ousted from office 3 or 4 election victories ago.

I think your points around political capital are at least a bit because the game is based more on the UK style parliamentary democracy than the US model. There’s much less gridlock in a parliamentary system because the legislature is always on the same side as the executive. Obama has had so much trouble getting things passed (particularly more controversial things) because of the Republican congress that’s opposing him. The current situation with the shutdown is a very good example of this. The shutdown would never happen in the UK because failing to pass a budget would almost certainly trigger a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister and we’d have a general election. This is because to not pass a budget would mean the Prime Minister was being significantly opposed by their own government and had completely lost control of their party.

As such, you tend to see the governments in the UK can make fairly significant changes a bit easier than in the US (at least when Congress/the Senate/the executive don’t all match). This, I think, is then exaggerated a little more so that the game is more interesting and more interactive, so you’ve not just mashing the next turn button until you can actually do something.

This is true. I am the designer, and I’m British, so my general understanding of politics slants that way anyway, but remember that first and foremost this is a game, and a game where you are gridlocked and unable to carry out decisions is absolutely no fun at all. I accept that the game needs more longevity, and its possible that political capital is too abundant. Over time, this capital does dry up slightly, you get more at the start (unless you turn off 'political honeymoon).
The problem with foreign policy is it has to be deliberately vague so it makes any sense in the context of all the different countries. Foreign policy for the US is VERY different to that for Canada or Australia.