Reviews - Updated on April 6, 2022

The genre of historical global strategies has long been firmly occupied by Paradox Interactive projects. A worthy choice: from Antiquity to the middle of the last century, from purely military strategies to games where the personal qualities of the characters come first. Thanks to the Swedish company, fans of changing the course of history can find something to their liking, not limited to one era.

It is difficult to compete with Paradox, which is probably why there are almost no such video games now. Of course, there are exceptions: a fresh example is the Secret Government strategy released in early access from domestic developers from GameTrek and 1C Entertainment. The name is intriguing – the theme of a secret government that controls the destinies of the world will probably be relevant at all times, and playing the head of such an organization is the best suited for the chosen genre.

Confirmed

The first thing you will remember when launching Secret Government is the same global strategies from Paradox Interactive. On the main screen, there is again a map of Europe with small figures of characters and armies, and a strip with resources displayed on top. In the same way, there are many modes for displaying the terrain, including a political map, a map of religions and the most common map of the area, separate windows for the development of characters and factions – a complete feeling that we have a clone of Europa Universalis.

The similarity is not limited to the appearance and interface alone. As we know, in almost all Paradox strategies, the player does not control a specific character (with the exception of the Crusader Kings series), but takes the reins of government of the whole country into his own hands, personifying all the power, – it turns out to be a kind of gray cardinal who does not have a clearly defined personality in gaming world.

The main idea of ​​the authors of Secret Government is to go even further. We run the Brotherhood – a secret organization that is not strictly tied to a particular country, nation or religion. If you look at the map from the point of view of the relationship of the countries located on it, then the player seems to be in the position of an ordinary observer. But this impression is deceptive – it is in our power to decide the fate of the whole world, and not of a single country.

Secret Government game preview

Each task has two ways to complete it.

This will have to be done with the help of ingenious intrigues, sabotage, bribery, persuasion and dozens of other actions, among which there will be no platitudes like “Declare war on a neighbor”. No, such radical actions can only be pushed and directed, but it will not work to give direct orders – members of the Brotherhood cannot afford such a luxury. True, it did not go without a specific opponent – it was the enemy Brotherhood, leading its own game and not embarrassed, on occasion, to put spokes in our wheels.

Before us is the strategy of indirect control in its highest manifestation – the concept of Secret Government is very interesting, but, as often happens, the original idea is broken by the complexity of implementation.

How to rule the world without attracting the attention of orderlies

The Brotherhood, as befits any self-respecting secret organization, has a clear hierarchy: at the bottom are the neophytes, a little higher is the backbone of the secret society – the servants, and the leadership is carried out by the titled Brothers, represented by the six most experienced and skilled members of the organization.

Each Brother, despite all the aura of mystery, is still a person, with his own characteristics, among which are citizenship (it will be easier for him to act in his native country), loyalty (affects whether he renounces the ideas of the organization in some cases) and, finally, health (Brothers are mortal, so a replacement should always be kept at hand). In addition, the characters have such important characteristics as experience and conspiracy.

Secret Government game preview

Brothers from a rival organization do not pose any particular danger, and besides, they are quite easy to recruit to their side.

If everything is clear with the first, then it is worth talking about conspiracy separately. It is on her that the successful completion of tasks depends, the process of completing which gradually reduces conspiracy. The smaller it is, the higher the chance that our agent will be exposed and sent to prison. You shouldn’t cut tasks for the same Brothers without stopping – it’s better to let them rest and restore such a valuable resource.

Externally, managing your subordinates looks quite simple – we have figures on the map that can be dragged from one country to another, and the choice of occupation for a particular character is carried out using the radial menu.

This, in fact, is almost the entire gameplay – with the help of the actions of each individual Brother, try to change the situation on the map as a whole. It’s simple: choose the right task, get acquainted with the requirements and consequences, wait the required number of days – get the desired effect upon successful completion or get ready to deal with the consequences of failure.

Secret Government game preview

Beautiful, stylish, but in terms of functionality – you can’t imagine worse.

The number of possible actions is impressive: there are several dozen of them, and each can have far-reaching consequences. There are tasks related to the Brotherhood (recruit a neophyte or found a Lodge) or aimed at foreign / domestic policy: change the balance of parties in the government, stage a palace coup or revolution, extract some money from the treasury for the Brotherhood – this is not a list of all options, but only a few examples of how a state can be governed by indirect control.

The possibilities are indeed very interesting. Do you want to arrange a war of conquest in order to strengthen the position of a particular country or even capture all the lands of the enemy? We send a couple of brothers to the territory of the future victim, infiltrate the authorities and begin to engage in a variety of sabotage – from banal theft to incitement to riots. And in the aggressor country, on the contrary, we drill the army, help military leaders with the development of an offensive plan and increase militaristic sentiments in society. There remains a mere trifle: an incident on the border or a diplomatic insult (of course, which happened not without our participation), and here it is, a war that will definitely end in victory – and you won’t have time to notice.

Unfortunately, this invisibility is not at all a consequence of the swiftness of the action, but the legacy of the game’s biggest problem – the terrible interface.

Secret Government game preview

The map, despite the many filters and display modes, looks too gray.

stumbling block

It feels like the Secret Government UI artists are working separately from the game designers. Outwardly, everything is quite nice – both the style of Europe and the very secrecy of secret societies like Masonic lodges are felt, but using all this is inconvenient both purely mechanically and in terms of gameplay.

Small icons, identical portraits of characters, a faded map, buttons that seem to be specially located at the maximum distance from each other, uninformative tips – in this contrast, you begin to respect Paradox designers even more, whose strategies are also often criticized for an overloaded interface. And if such technical blunders can still be endured (and in the future – to wait for their correction), then deeper interface problems, already of a logical plan, can cross out all the desire to play.

Take the same war: you can find out that it started only by chance, hearing the noise of battles – the repeated ringing of sabers. By the time you notice the notification icon at the top, by the time you hover over it to see who is fighting whom, the war may already be over. Yes, there are army figures on the map, but they appear and disappear randomly and do not carry any useful information. Just a few days pass, and now peace has already been concluded, and the borders of the two countries have changed in one way or another. A complete conquest, on the other hand, turns into another bug – the defeated state disappears from the list, but remains on the map.

Secret Government game preview

Summary information about the economy of a single country.

It is not easier with domestic politics: its elaboration inspires respect and terrifies at the same time. Each country has political parties, estates, an extensive economic system focused on the production and trade of resources, legislation … But how inconvenient it all is to manage! Why is there management, the usual study and observation of changes – a real test. Long trips through different windows and menus, during which the necessary numbers and data fly out of my head, the constant return to the map to the figures of the Brothers to distribute orders – what kind of convenience can we talk about here? Yes, it may be more atmospheric and realistic, but it is precisely because of this approach that the game has huge problems with the visibility of processes – and this is the main aspect of gameplay in the genre of indirect control strategies.

Terrible optimization and a huge number of errors and some childish flaws such as the inability to load an arbitrary save (only the current game with a single “save” is always active) finish off all attempts to get at least some pleasure from the game. The map does not “freeze” every few seconds only in pause mode, and snippets of code and variable names instead of their values ​​are a common thing.

Various map display modes will help you assess the situation in the world.

***

Developers from GameTrek need to perform a real feat to bring their creation to a playable form. It will be a shame if they fail – the concept of Secret Government is interesting, and the ideas underlying the gameplay can give many exciting hours to every fan of historical strategies. Reworking the interface and overcoming bugs in time for the announced deadline (the release is scheduled for this year) is a difficult task, but doable. Let’s wish them good luck – the more competitors Paradox grand strategies have, the better for everyone.

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