Developer: Game Trek
Release Date: April 15, 2021
Disclaimer: I played significantly less than an hour of this title.
I usually do okay with most strategy games. Sure, I might set the difficulty options extra low to start out, but once I get the hang of it, I can usually ease my way up a tick or two until I’m playing at least close to the default difficultly. However, there’s something about the learning curve of grand strategy games that just kills any desire I might have to play them. I was hoping an indie grand strategy title might be a little easier to wrap my brain around, but unfortunately, I think I’m going to have to put Secret Government on the shelf next to the Crusader Kings games, where I’d really really like to, but I just cannot.
Honestly, I’m more than a little mad about this one. The concept is fantastic – you control a secret society who meddles in the affairs of the world to shape the future to their liking. Everything must be done without anyone knowing who is behind it. I was really into the whole introduction, especially the gorgeous art. I found myself looking forward to the tutorial!
First problem is there are only two scenarios in the game, and then a sandbox mode. I don’t know how long each scenario ideally takes to play, but I think most people would agree, if a game isn’t going to go full sandbox, two scenarios just isn’t sufficient. This was the first time I found myself concerned that the game might not have been quite ready yet, but was instead yanked from the oven prematurely.
The tutorial – and I feel like that’s a generous term – did nothing to assuage my fears. It basically reiterated the general concept, and then sent me out to sink or swim. I sank.
The amount of information at your fingertips in Secret Government is immense, the problem is finding it. I spent some time clicking around and hoping for the best, and some time trying to read everything on screen and make some sort of sense of it. I was pleasantly surprised when I received a message that I completed a step of one of my goals, and then realized I only very vaguely even knew what my goals were. I had no idea where to find that information, so I kept clicking randomly with the game clock paused until stumbling upon the correct button. Now I had my goals, but I still had no idea how to implement them.
Soon after that, I realized I was just staring blankly at the screen. It was like some secret society had infiltrated my head and removed my brain. I’m not sure if Secret Government is actually withholding critical intelligence from the player, or I’m just not adept enough at this genre to make a fair go of it with what little I knew. I suppose it’s not a surprising turn of events, given my lack of success with this genre in the past, but it was a bit of a disappointment nonetheless.
I hope mediocre reviews of their first major title don’t discourage Game Trek from giving it another go, because they’ve clearly got some good ideas. SteamDB estimates that Secret Government has sold between 4,600 and 12,700 copies on Steam, and it started appearing in bundles in the fourth quarter of 2021. Reviews have been mixed, with many detractors citing the user interface and tutorial as impediments to playing the game. It is ranked 7109 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.