Review: Suzerain for Nintendo Switch
By: L. Sahara McGirt (DarthSagaSwag)
Publisher: Fellow Traveller
Developer: Torpor Games
Available on: Nintendo Switch, PC - Steam, GOG, Humble, Epic Games Store
Have you ever wanted to be president? Suzerain is a visual novel with a political narrative that might make you rethink that desire. In Suzerain, players engage in a narrative where they rise to lead the fictional country of Sordland, and it turns out, being president is hard.
The game opens up with limited customization of the main protagonist, Anton Rayne. Players make some decisions regarding his background and rise to power and some limited options for how he looks. The opening decisions lay the foundation for how you might be planning to play Anton and how others respond to him from the beginning. However, this part doesn't seem to have major impacts, as the later decisions playing through the narrative are what matters.
As Anton Rayne, all of the major decisions lie in your hands. You can choose to be a dictator, a diplomat, or an outright liar, making promises only to go back on them. Every decision you make will have consequences, and Suzerain keeps you on the knife's edge as you make each major political decision. Additionally, Suzerain has a non-optional auto-save feature that keeps players from going back to manual saves to unmake any decisions with unfavorable consequences. Every decision you make must be lived with. Choose wisely.
The narrative of Suzerain is the main draw. Every decision is difficult; even if what you are choosing to do will be for the good of the people, there will be someone who opposes your choices. Political advisors will give you a rundown of what's going on and what they think should be done. The narrative often has debates unfold between your cabinet members, and what you decide will often determine your relationships with your advisors going forward. Suzerain does well at keeping you buzzing with stress as you make each decision because at any point if you anger the right set of people enough, they could very well assassinate you, or many people could die. It's truly life or death in Suzerain.
The mix of political briefings, newspapers headlines, and conversations with family and advisors make Suzerain feel alive. Everyone around Anton has an opinion on what he is doing, and everyone is affected by his decisions. Anton's family especially ground the game's decision as they show their fears and resentment or support for what he decides.
The game holds the kind of political intrigue that TV shows like Game of Thrones or Scandal hold. The country of Sordland is constantly under threat, both from inside and out. Other countries near Sordland have their own goals, and diplomacy with them often has consequences as other countries they're at odds with turn on you. Often, you have to decide who you want your enemies to be as you meet with other presidents and decide whether or not to align with them. Their allyship can also be the difference in how Sordland is doing economically and on the world stage as they either back you up or fight you.
One of the more interesting features of Suzerain that I encountered was in speechmaking. As Anton makes his speeches, players pick each line. The wording of each line will determine how people respond. Anton can either uplift and inspire or sober and anger his audience. This turns a simple speech into navigating a diplomatic landmine.
Other features of Suzerain include menus and codexes, which inform players of how their country is doing. The budget is tracked with a simplified + or - number to show whether your budget is going over or under what you can maintain, and the economy shows as a colored-in meter. The rest of the menus are beneficial for exploring, as they inform you of the political situation surrounding your Anton.
Overall, Suzerain is a gripping political narrative deserving at least a few playthroughs to see how your decisions play out. While many visual novels and decision-making narrative games have consequences for player choices, none have quite the scale of impact that choices in Suzerain give you. I give the game a 9 out of 10, minus a point for some clear political biases I felt that persisted throughout Suzerain. It's a great game for the Nintendo Switch, and for $17.99, worth the purchase.
The code for Suzerain was requested and approved through Terminals.io for the purposes of reviewing.