Gone are the days when Paradox’s internal team – now known as Paradox Development Studios – could only really work on one project at a time. Bread-winners they may not be, that’s not to say they aren’t a larger and more skilled group than before, and the fact that Europa Universalis IV is in the work won’t stop them from working on other things as well. March of the Eagles is one such project – a sort of Napoleonic Hearts of Iron, we talked to Johan Andersson to find out more about it:
Strategy Informer: So, just for the record then – is March of the Eagles the official re-launch of the Napoleon’s Campaigns II project that the former Paradox France studio was working on?
Johan Andersson: Well, you could say that, but we don’t really want to talk about that one too much. The only thing it has in common really is that it has the same setting. We kept a bit of the map and some research, but most of it is brand new.
Strategy Informer: If you break down March of the Eagles, what are we looking at here? A Napoleonic Hearts of Iron?
Johan Andersson: Yeah… imagine EU and Hearts of Iron having a hot night and 9 months later, this is the result. And then the game goes to the same kindergarten class of Sengoku.
Strategy Informer: Run through some of the ways these games have influenced March of the Eagles?
Johan Andersson: We’ve taken some stuff, and we’ve changed it to be unique. I would say that the combat system has a lot in common with the one used in Crusader Kings II – there’s flanks, centres, different tactics depending on units etc… and you get all of this detail of the tactical options available to you. We also focus a lot on details – like in Hearts of Iron where we had detailed military units with specific positions, etc… we do the same in March of the Eagles. We have everything from regulars, to garrison artillery, horse artillery, field artillery… they all have different uses and stats, and you can build your armies how you want.
It’s not like Hearts of Iron in the sense that you have fronts and marching about etc… but you have corps, and there are a lot of provinces – nearly 2800, but you don’t have frontlines, you just have a lot of units marching in parallel, trying to find the enemy troops. You could evade combat if you wanted, or use a ‘forced march’, so you don’t necessarily fight an enemy army if you’re in the same province.
Strategy Informer: You’ve mentioned that EU is a pretty dominant influence – any reason for that?
Johan Andersson: I mentioned EU – that is because this is the end of the EU time-period, so we have an economy system that feels a little bit like EU, the diplomacy is quite similar as well in terms of options etc… and also the other game I mentioned, Sengoku, has also left its mark through the ‘goals’ system. Most of our games are very open (apart from maybe Hearts of Iron), but in Sengoku, you had the overall ‘goal’ of uniting Japan. In March of the Eagles, you also have ‘goals’ but it’s not as simple as winning a war, because people were making and breaking alliances all the time, switching teams and so on, so we created this system of ‘Domination’, where you have to become the dominant land and naval power in Europe, but there’s several ways of making this happen.
Strategy Informer: Can you play as everyone – principalities, nations etc… - who was around during this time period? Or just a key few?
Johan Andersson: You can play as everyone… obviously we don’t have many of the German city-states etc… but we have as many minor powers and entity as we can. However, there are only eight countries that can really ‘win’ on their own. It’s like in Hearts of Iron, you can play as Brazil or whoever, but you can only really win if you’re part of the Axis, Allies or Comintern. In this era, you have eight countries that can win the game on their own, and they all have different ways of winning.
Strategy Informer: You mention some of the ways in which EU has influenced this game… is March of the Eagles going to ‘test-run’ any of the new features you’re putting into EU IV? Almost like what Sengoku and Crusader Kings II?
Johan Andersson: Not really… it’s very different, because we had the design document written (for March of the Eagles) long before we started on EU IV. Coalitions, actually, which we talked about during the EU IV interview, are something that EU IV has stolen from March of the Eagles so…
Strategy Informer: What about multiplayer? Will you try and get some of those improvements ready for this game?
Johan Andersson: They’re not going to be finished by the time this game is released, so probably no… but we have stuff like improved chat and internal stability for multiplayer ready. This game is actually pretty fun to play in multiplayer though, because of the set goals. Say you’re playing as Britain, and you want to become dominant, but you have to have 7 out of 12 different objectives completed, which could mean you’d have to fight France… but if you were allied with France, then perhaps you could look elsewhere, like Netherlands or Scandinavia or Spain, so you could gain dominance that way. It’s never really ‘set’ who your enemy is… although England and France do actually have to fight it out eventually because the goals are set up so that one has to knock out the other one to win.
Strategy Informer: Coming back to the military system again, will you have Hearts of Iron’s command hierarchy? How will that area work?
Johan Andersson: No. We dabbled with that but it felt just… wrong. It wasn’t that fun to play. It was more fun to just group your army stacks and move them around close to each other. Every Army or Corps consists of a bunch of Brigades, and these brigades can be assigned to the right or left flank, the centre, or the reserves. There can be up to four leaders for each army, one for each section, and when they are fighting, all of the brigades, abilities traits etc… come into play. Whenever you start getting weak in one area, the general in charge of reserves slowly commits troop as needed. What’s fun here is that you can also set ‘preferred’ tactics for each section, like delaying on the right flank, full-on assault on the centre, etc…
Strategy Informer: Can you customise the Brigades? Are there units lower than a Brigade?
Johan Andersson: No the Brigades are a fixed unit type, but you can have as many brigades as you want in an army, the only limit really being supply limits of the local area.
Strategy Informer: How is Naval Combat going to pan out?
Johan Andersson: We’re currently testing a few things there – it’s kind of like a hybrid EU-style right now, but we’re trying out a few things there so I can’t really say right now.
Strategy Informer: When is the release window for this game?
Johan Andersson: My GM’s date is early January, I don’t know what the publishing guys have decided, but I’m guessing it will be Q1.
Strategy Informer: Much like Hearts of Iron I imagine this game is going to be relatively shorter to play through than EU or CKII?
Johan Andersson: It’s going to be much quicker than the other games… you could feasibly win it over a few evenings, and if you are an expert who’s played it a lot, you could even win in one sitting. It’s a really different paced game. The replay value is in trying other major powers, or trying different tactics… I don’t expect anyone to win during their first play-through, mind.
Strategy Informer: What about DLC? You didn’t release much DLC for Sengoku, for example.
Johan Andersson: This one should be easier to make DLC for as we can just create sprite packs and everything, which Hearts of Iron proved that there was a demand for.
There you go then – a hybrid game that takes the best bits from a lot of PDS’ key franchises, and puts it into a very interesting and very volatile period. We’re certainly looking forward to this one, and we hope to have hands-on impressions for you soon.