Paradox concluded today's PDXCON Remixed announcement show with an unexpected piece of news: Victoria 3 will finally transcend meme status and become an actual game. It's definitely been a long time coming, as many fans of the series will tell you and, earlier this month, we got a look at the upcoming grand strategy game during a press event held by the publisher.
Victoria 3 spans the period of time between 1836 until 1936, focusing on economics, politics, industrialization, as well as the social and revolutionary change of the era, promising a different flavor of grand strategy compared to the developer's other games. Like Europa Universalis 4 and Stellaris, it puts players in charge of one country from over a hundred possible options, just minus cute, fanatically religious space mushrooms.
We were shown an alpha version of Victoria 3, Game Director Martin Anward pointing out that there is still “a lot of work left to do” until the game is ready for release, before he and Lead Game Designer Mikael Andersson touched upon several aspects, starting with the economy.
Each country has its own national market but can also form customs unions alongside other countries. If a member pulls out of a customs union, it will have to rely on its own market. But if its economy mainly fulfills the needs of its former market, trouble may soon follow. Trading efforts can extend overseas, in which case ports can convoys can be used to connect these distant markets.
You'll get to trade multiple types of goods, including furniture, meat, sulfur, or fabrics. While they're bought and sold on a market level, they're used and produced in a country's buildings which, in the broad scheme of things, represent industries, government, and universities.
Most buildings, however, are tied to different industries. One of Prussia's tooling workshops, for example, employed 30,000 of its population, providing jobs and producing tools. Players can expand these buildings as well as different parts of the industry.
Depending on how well the buildings are doing – market dynamics also have a say in this – they can pay their workers higher or lower wages. Different parts of populations access different parts of these revenue streams. Since countries do not make money directly, but rather by providing jobs and taxing them, buildings are also crucial for tax collection.
Victoria 3 continues to use the pop system from the prior games, although not without adding some improvements of its own. Standing for "part of population", one pop includes "a bunch of people of a particular culture and religion, and a certain occupation in a location." One of Prussia's pops, for example, was made up of 2000 North German Protestant capitalists.
The entirety of the world's population is simulated in this manner, leading to "thousands and thousands of different pops across the world," Anward explained.
Different factors can lead the pops to change, which is reflected back on the country. Laws, for example, can turn certain cultures and religions into targets of discrimination. The growth of pops is based on their standard of living which is, in turn, based on wealth that's dependent on wages.
Literacy also plays a role in Victoria 3, determining how qualified pops are for various jobs, as is the radical/loyalty status that shows how much they love their country.
Aside from being vital for your economy, pops are also important to your politics. While election mechanics are in the game, there is no separate party system. Instead, you'll have to look out for the different Interest Groups that make up your country's political web.
Interest Groups and Politics
In the demo, the Prussian capitalists treated the Industrialists as their primary Interest Group. The Junkers were made up of landowners representing the aristocracy, while the Intelligentsia represented people working in Academia. The list goes beyond these three, all of them being neatly listed in the game's Politics menu. While it's easy to paint everyone with a broad brush, pops can actually support more Interest Groups, as the individuals that make them up don't necessarily agree on everything.
Ideologies are an important aspect of Interest Groups in Victoria 3. Prussia's Industrialists happened to favor Individualism, having their own stances on welfare, education, and other topics, and generally favoring private over public funding. In some countries, however, Industrialists may not be Individualists.
Each Interest Group also has a leader whose personal opinion has a lot of weight. Going back to the Prussian Industrialists, they were led by a man who happened to be a Royalist, which would lead those Industrialists to oppose abolishing the monarchy. Since you're dealing with several Interest Groups, you can track the political strength of the pops supporting each one.
While you might be inclined to cater to their demands, you can also motivate them to rise up and overthrow the ruling class. This can be done by knowingly passing laws that they hate. Choosing this path obviously means that you'll have to fight them, but it's worth knowing that other countries may also get involved.
Laws and Institutions
Victoria 3's Laws come in three broad categories.
- Power Structure - addresses the monarchy/republic, voting, but also religious and cultural acceptance
- Economy - covers who is taxed, how big are the taxes, and government spending
- Human Rights - tackles available fundamental freedoms like the status of women, censorship, and workers' protections
The active laws make up the political framework of the country. As mentioned before, laws can be changed to suit your goals. Payroll Tax, for example, is more regressive, placing the burden on the poor. You can opt to enact a proportional income tax, abolish income tax altogether, or move to a graduated income tax, where the wealthy pay the bigger chunk.
The levels of support of each law are based on the different Interest Groups' opinions. As an example, Industrialists, Junkers, and the Petite Bourgeoisie believe that taxes are for the poor. Anward pointed out that they represent "the ones that are holding the reins of the politics," and not necessarily the people of your country.
Changing a law requires at least some support from your government. Doing so, however, can make various Interest Groups happy or anger them to the point where they may even call for civil war.
Institutions in Victoria 3 are “definitely not politically neutral topics, but reflect your Bureaucracy and what the government is doing for the people." The Public Schools law enables the Education Institution, allowing you to invest in it, increasing your pops' literacy. Educated pops are also more politically active.
The Conscription Office, then lets you conscript regular soldiers in times of war, while Law Enforcement grants access to a local police force run by the aristocracy. The person at the helm of these Institutions will also see certain interest groups be empowered as the importance of others diminishes.
Towards the mid-game or end-game, more and more of your capital is sunk into enabling Institutions whose effects are generally positive on your people. Each level costs Bureaucracy points. Institutions can also be downgraded when the situation demands it, like in the case of war, when conscription may be a higher priority than education. This, however, takes some time, so you'll have to plan around it.
Bureaucratic Power, Authority, Influence
Bureaucractic power is, as expected, provided by Bureaucracy buildings that employ bureaucrats which generate the resource if paid and provided with enough paper. As your population grows, you have more people to manage, resulting in a larger need for Bureaucracy.
Authority, on the other hand, is obtained by enacting regressive laws that give a lot of power to the head of the state. It essentially represents your head of state's ability to rule the country by edict. As or if the country liberalizes, authority tends to decline, and you'll have to rely more on Bureaucracy.
Influence then represents your ability to interact with other countries. It essentially allows you to perform diplomatic actions and create pacts with other countries, major powers getting more Influence than minor powers
All three are not pooled currencies, more closely representing your capacity to do things. You're generating an amount while continually spending a portion of it on stuff like customs unions. Similarly, you'll want to make sure the currencies don't drop to 0 or below. If, for example, Bureaucracy ever reaches below that threshold, a lot of the tax money goes to waste.
Diplomatic Actions and Plays
Diplomacy is a major part of Victoria 3, two important concepts being Diplomatic Actions and Diplomatic Plays. The former has to do with the relations and agreements between two countries, as well as their stance towards each other.
Prussia and Russia were on the way to becoming chums in the demo, having established cordial relations between their governments. Prussia was not perceived as a threat, as it wasn't hell-bent on expanding borders, which encouraged a friendly attitude from the other side's government.
This paved the way towards various actions like improving or damaging relations, forming alliances, proposing trade agreements, or forming custom unions. These actions cost Influence, the exact amount depending on country rank, as dealing with great powers is more expensive.
Diplomatic Plays are more conflict-oriented. In Victoria 3, they want to emphasize the role of diplomacy and how it can get you things without necessarily resorting to armed conflict. In Anward's words, it's a form of "diplomatic bullying."
Prussia wanted to take Holmstein from Denmark, which led it to trigger a Transfer Subject Diplomatic Play. Although the goal is to avoid it, it's worth noting that these actions can still lead to war.
A new menu then popped up, initially having just three participants in the Diplomatic Play:
- Prussia, claiming Holstein's transfer to itself
- Denmark, responding with a request to liberate Pomerania alongside War Reparations
- Holstein, joining Denmark as its subject
Initially, Prussia's higher battalion count put it in a better position. You can add additional war goals to a Diplomatic Play, at the cost of incurring extra threats. The twist comes in the fact that other countries can also participate in Diplomatic Plays, potentially complicating matters. In this case, Britain represented a wildcard, while Austria was Prussia's rival.
You can offer different concessions to other participants in order to sway them to your side or at least to keep them from joining your opponents. Britain had colonial holdings near to Denmark's. Anward offered it Danish Togo, in case war erupted, drawing it to Prussia's side. The hope was that two major powers would hopefully be enough to convince Denmark to accept their terms.
Disaster struck when Austria joined Denmark, being promised Silesia. Bavaria followed not long after, asking for the Rhineland. You can let Diplomatic Plays run their course or back down at the cost of giving into your target's demands. Prussia backing down saw Pomerania liberated. Aside from the loss of territory, this also hit its former owner's economy, gave it fewer soldiers to field, and stole a chunk of its Prestige.
Prestige comes from different sources, including economic development, the size of the country, the strength of its military and navy, but also funding the arts, technology, and various social matters. It determines "where you're standing in the global pecking order." Prussia was a Great Power, which comes with various benefits. Lose too much Prestige and you get downgraded, which makes those benefits disappear.
The three country ranks aim to provide gameplay that focuses on different aspects in Victoria 3. Minor powers might be more focused on growing their economy. They might represent a force locally, but not so continentally or globally. Major powers engage in a lot of economic play themselves, but also have colonial holdings. Spread out, they might have more political gameplay and a bigger diplomatic weight in their region.
Great powers then favor macroscopic decisions, having more tools at their disposal. They engage in international diplomacy, decide which conflicts to get into, and have a say in shaping the world itself. The Great power ranking provides Influence, as previously mentioned, and, if lost, can lead to the potential cancelation of pacts or dissolution of customs unions, rippling into the economy. The team has set a goal to make playing on all these levels enjoyable.
Technology and Other Tidbits
Being set in the 19th century, Victoria 3 reflects the great technological changes of the era, splitting its technology tree into three categories:
- Production - covers inventions, things that make your industries better or change them, such as gaining the ability to manufacture silk instead of using just natural silk
- Military - covers both army and navy inventions, including actual physical objects like the shell gun, but also doctrines like the Line Doctrine
- Society - covers the big ideas of the era like centralization, law enforcement, egalitarianism, central banking, and human rights
All of them present challenges to which you'll have to adapt. You focus on researching one technology at a time, relying on your country's intellectual class. Technologies can also spread from other countries, and you can have one new technology spreading in each category.
Even if you try to steer away from anarchy or socialism, this can bring an ideology you don't want to your doorstep. Tech spread can, however, be limited through censorship and other buffers that protect against encroaching ideas.
As we were getting close to the end of the presentation, Martin Anward acknowledged how much fans asked for the game as well as the fact that Victoria 3 is "a bit of a different PDS grand strategy game." He described it as "more of a management game" focused on managing and tweaking your society.
Plans are also in place for some form of an easier mode. The team wants to explore making the surrounding world more friendly, rather than just giving the player bonuses they get used to and inevitably lose when moving to higher difficulties. Although it's not a final decision, Paradox doesn't want Victoria 3 to cater just to the series' hardcore audience, looking to bring in new players interested in this type of management game.
Although it will only launch with one start date, it's not excluded for more to be added post-release. To avoid making its comparatively shorter time period go by too quickly, a day comes with multiple ticks.
Missions and focus trees are not currently planned, but colonization will be a part of the game and have its own mechanics. Victoria 3 does not currently have a release date, but is definitely coming to PC, via Steam, Microsoft Game Pass, and the Paradox Store.
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