Everything sounds better in Latin
Europa Universalis IV is another strategy entry into Paradox’s stellar line up of such titles as Crusader Kings and Victoria. There’s a reason we rate these games so highly, they’re simply excellent at what they do. In terms of depth, historical detail, strategic options and sheer personality there’s very little that even comes close. Historically Civilisation has always been much more accessible but that might have changed thanks to the fourth entry in the Europa Universalis series.
Starting in the 15th Century, you get to take over the reins (or reign) of any European Country that lasted more than a couple of years. Over the next few hundred years you’ll manage their diplomacy, their military, their trade, and most interestingly, their colonization of a new world. While you are occasionally railroaded in certain directions (take on England and you’re immediately thrown into the 100 years war and Scotland is an ever present pain that needs to be sorted out) the breath of choice is impressive. Once we’d sorted out France (and by sorting out I mean winning a few token battles and then surrendering all of our French land) I opted to push ahead of Spain in colonizing the new world. It’s an expensive and time consuming endeavour, but once your colonies are established you can quickly create an incredible amount of money by owning the trade routes coming from the Americas. Setting up an impressive navy to deter anyone else from having a go, Europa Universalis makes it easy to rewrite the history books or have a go at facing real challenges faced in one of the most interesting periods in human history.
Everything about the game is much more accessible than previous Paradox Strategy games without losing any of the depth. There’s still a wealth of information and data to check on, but thanks to an excellent set of tutorials and contextual tooltips that change depending on what’s going on with your country everything is easier to achieve. If you want to be competitive you’ll need to pay attention to every little resource, graph and combination of claims and traditions, but if you simply want to enjoy yourself put it down to easy and let the tooltips guide you. Making large scale decisions is simple, it’s just the execution where difficulties can arise.
One of the most interesting resources is tradition. Over time the people in your nation get used to certain things. In a Monarchy they might get used to the King, if you have an army they’ll get used to be in the army. This makes them better at doing their jobs because you have stability (another kind of resource) and it makes sense as the men and women have their lives set up around certain things. Having a large standing army is actually good even if you’re not using it too much because at least the men are being trained. Dismiss all your troops and they’ll go home and train up in other professions, lowering your military tradition and weakening your nation. Armies are expensive, but like in 300, there’s a big difference between an army of soldiers and an army of peasants.
Games do take a huge amount of time, partially because there’s no real ‘end’. You set yourself missions, and once you complete them you move on. You can be annexed to the point where you no longer own any land, but that rarely happens as wars are expensive so once you are no longer a threat you’ll usually be allowed to control some small parcel of land. That means you play for as long as you want which can be dangerous. There’s always an element of ‘just one more turn’ even though the game isn’t turn based. You just always want to vassalise the next county or arrange one more wedding.
In relation to the other Paradox games, it’s really down to which time period you think you’ll enjoy. There the industry of Victoria and the complex population management, the interpersonal and highly entertaining soap opera that is Crusader Kings, or the exciting exploration and accessibility of Europa Universalis. They’re all fantastic games in their own right, and thanks to tool that Paradox have created, it’s easy to switch between them, even importing saves from Crusader Kings II.
Graphically it might not look like much in screenshots, and there’s much less of the visual flair that titles like Civ V can boast of, but it’s all about being clear and informative, with an ‘olden days’ style texture to everything ensuring the game doesn’t look too clinical.The amount of detail in little events and the text that comes with every event more than makes up for the lack of differentiation between different units or buildings. This is a game that is partly brought alive by your imagination, rather than the cinematic masterpiece that games like Total War treat us to.
If you’re at all interesting in history, you owe it to yourself to play these games, if you’re not you might want to check them out anyway, they’re just that good.