Rogue State Revolution Preview

“Com 2 Basenji” my government’s travel agents say online. “Basenji very nice, we haev big cities and monuments and no secret bases.” I still don’t have many tourists.

Rogue State Revolution is a pretty unique game that sees you stepping into the shoes of a dubiously elected President of a not real Middle Eastern Republic that may or may not actually be a republic, depending on how you act. As President of Basenji (or “Presenji” as I am going to call it), you can hire ministers, direct the economy, order around troops, engage in diplomacy… there’s a lot going on here in what you could think is a small package. It’s still early on, but I’m really liking what I’m seeing so far.

First off: RSR is not a wargame. There’s a bit of pushing troops around on the map, but it is not a very deep system and is, so far, the blandest part of the game. I don’t think this will be the case always, as this is a an early preview and there are parts of the game that are blocked off due to still being in development. Right now, we have a pretty simple rock-paper-scissors system between tanks, helicopters, and AA units, along with infantry thrown into the mix. Combat is pretty straightforward “attack and you both lose health”, but there isn’t much thinking that goes into tactics other than overwhelming enemy forces with numbers. This can be difficult to do, as your frequent opponent will be rebels who resent your leadership, they pop up anywhere in Basenji, covered by fog of war in the desert. It can be fun hunting them down and destroying them, but the hunt is more satisfying than the kill in this case. However, bringing us to Basenji in general…

Basenji is a procedurally generated state, each time you play, a different mix on the country will appear. I’ve booted up a few Basenjis myself, and as Presenji I’ve found different sets of challenges in each Basenji, but there are a few common themes. Basenji comprises five districts, each with a varying amount of cities, villages, and people, who can have an array of values. Making these people not hate you enough to throw you out is the first goal of the game, and that can be hard to do, as every policy you enact will piss someone off. On top of that, there is a region with an ethnic minority group that you will need to attend to, lest they decide to ignite a wide-scale rebellion.

To stave off the likely defenestration of the Presenji, there are several steps you must take. The first step will always be to grow your terrible economy, to ensure you have the funds to pay for things that will help you survive. Next, start supply chains of your industry so you can produce and export goods to continue to grow your economy. Finally, use these funds and put them back into the economy or… hire more soldiers to put down any revolt. It’s basically up to the player, what kind of Presenji they want to be.

The way actions are given to the player on a given turn (in one-month increments) is through ministers. Ministers are the most important cog in the machine of Basenji, as each minister will let you take an action a month. These actions are the core of the game, covering things like building roads, building other economic buildings, adjusting the budget, taking diplomatic actions… a lot is covered by these actions. The difficult thing about your ministers is that they are all modeled as people, and have their own positive traits and shortcomings that you have to keep an eye on. And of course, they may ask you for favors or grant you missions, which the Presenji would be wise to complete, as ministers with high loyalty are more likely to stick around and give you bonuses… while low loyalty ministers may actively sabotage you. Nasty stuff.

The individual ministries of the ministers are also an important place to keep an eye on, as these are what build out the policies and characteristics of Basenji. You will task a minister to research certain policies, which sometimes unlock passive traits that toggle on, such as minimum wage giving people higher happiness but draining money from your treasury each month. Other times, these policies will unlock buildings, which is what is currently letting me build a secret base to house my [REDACTED BASENJI PROJECT, PRESENJI EYES ONLY].

So far, the game has some rough edges, and to be frank, I was somewhat apprehensive when I saw the subject material that it may be tone-deaf. However, I’m pleased to say that the writing for the game has been very good so far, and pretty tongue-in-cheek. Supplemented by some FMV scenes, you get a good sense of the witty character of the game, as well as tutorial missions showing off how to operate as Presenji. All-in-all, I’ve found myself pleasantly surprised by RSR, and there are some rough edges, particularly with the military aspects, but I have faith that RSR can grow into a regional superpower in this niche.

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