Campaign Story review

Campaign Story is a new political-themed Facebook game from FiveOneNine Games. Casting players in the role of an up-and-coming political candidate, the game’s aim is to climb the political ladder from local nobody to President.

Upon starting the game for the first time, players are able to design their candidate by picking from a small number of predefined appearances, naming them, choosing a campaign slogan, selecting a logo and picking a political bias. There is no indication of whether or not the latter option affects gameplay significantly at this stage, and a lack of a “Back” button to correct mistakes is a huge oversight — so the game doesn’t get off to a great start.

Following this, the player is led through a short tutorial where they are introduced to the basic gameplay. Essentially, the player’s political campaign revolves around using various staff members to complete tasks around the area — the press officer can be used to manipulate news stories in the player’s favor, for example, while canvassers can be assigned to areas to increase support for the player’s candidate. Most tasks take a period of real time to complete, though the game’s hard currency of “gold” can be used to complete them immediately.

A huge bug in the tutorial potentially stymies progress altogether, unfortunately. The player is told to send their canvasser off to raise support in areas of hostile or undecided voters, then told to hurry their action. After closing the campaign map, the player is then told to click on their canvasser to collect the popularity points they earned — however, as the player is reading this objective, the canvasser is walking out of the door to go and take on the task that he has, in fact, already completed. It then becomes impossible to proceed any further, and reloading the game at this stage requires the player to start again from the beginning. This bug may be bypassed if the player clicks on the canvasser before they walk out of the door, but the fact it is present at all makes the game almost unplayable. It happened three times during testing, so it is an easily reproducible issue that should have been caught in playtesting.

This issue is symptomatic of the lack of polish that blights most of Campaign Story’s experience. Text is often cut off in menu screens; character speech bubbles often hang off the side of the screen, making them unreadable; and character animations are poor, often displaying issues with “priority” on screen — characters that are “further away” sometimes appear in front of the characters who should be in front of them, for example. The fact that the symbols for soft and hard currency are the opposite way around to in most other Facebook games is also unnecessarily confusing — convention dictates that coins are usually used to represent soft currency while “bank notes” or “cash” are used to represent hard currency, but Campaign Story inexplicably chooses to invert these expectations.

Despite these issues, there’s an interesting game struggling to get out underneath. The gameplay makes interesting use of moral choices, whereby the player may use their press officer to either promote their own candidate or sling mud at their opponent — the former option takes longer but increases popularity more, while the latter option is good for a “quick fix” or if only small gains are needed to take victory in a region. Alongside this, the game could potentially form a good basis for an educational title, helping young people to understand exactly what goes into a political campaign besides just the candidate themselves.