Paradox has been the soul of historical computer strategy gaming and with Europa Universalis 3 it proves to remain so for years to come
To those of you who aren’t familiar with Europa Universalis, this is a grand strategy game that allows you to control any country in the world that existed between the fall of Constantinople in 1453 to the French Revolution in 1789. You are responsible for government policies, controlling religion, colonization and expansion.
To those of you who ARE familiar with EU, I have one thing to say… Oh yeah!
If a cardinal doesn’t see things your way, just throw some cash at him
So what color will you dominate the world with?
The monolithic historical simulator from Paradox gets a makeover with lessons learned from Victoria, Crusader Kings and Hearts of Iron. The most noticeable improvement from EU2 is the 3D graphics and polished interface. The graphics don’t do as much for the look of the game as much as it simplifies the look of the map. Gone is that “boardgame” feel of EU2 as land, cities and armies have more of an organic feel to them rather then just being markers.
A great new improvement is national ideas. By specializing your country in certain aspects of warfare, trade, exploration and colonization or religion, you can get your goals accomplished easier. What is interesting is you will see some nations choose some very ahistorical ideas. In other words, imagine Poland recruiting conquistadors to colonize Central America. (Would they even be called “conquistadors?”)
The AI in EU3 is considerably harder and smarter. If you post an army at a neighbor’s border, don’t be surprised if he does the same. Beyond warfare, allies will betray you, rivals will rush to colonize the best provinces, and nations will band together to stop your expansion.
Overall, EU3 just plays differently than its predecessor. Random events aren’t as “random” as before and every choice you make effects the decisions you will make in the future. This makes the game play along more natural storylines.
The retail version comes with a beautiful 145 page manual that describes pretty much all you need to know to play a game. The tutorials will help you navigate the interface but the majority of learning comes from playing the game itself.
At the end you get a rundown of all the things your monarchs have accomplished
Let’s see... who to conquer first
Sound and particularly the in-game music are both top-notch and unobtrusive.
There are a few minor flaws to this game. One of the better known is that a fleet needs to NOT be in a port for an army to board it, a holdover from when EU was a boardgame. Multiple armies are difficult to select. Slider bars (army and advisor lists for example) never stay put. There is no way to autosend merchants. Some alliances you propose, even to countries with which you have perfect relations and who would obviously benefit from an alliance, are “impossible” to ally with. The Holy Roman Empire never lasts very long as its members beat each other up and even weirder someone who isn’t even a member sometimes will be elected Emperor.
And, yeah, there are more flaws than this. But strategy gamers know better then to let small annoyances like these ruin a rich and fulfilling experience like what EU3 offers. None of these problems prevent you from playing the game as the developers intended. And as a wise friend of mine has said, games like EU3 may have their limitations but it is a better use of time to work with or around them then to complain about their existence. The good side to the bugs is Paradox is well known for listening to its customers and releasing bug fixes and improvements for all of its games well after the initial release.
Some strategy fans may bemoan the lack of any tactical battle but in a game like EU3 it is not necessary. I agree it is fun to watch your army reduce the enemy to a pile of corpses littering the battlefield but it is more important to keep the scope of the game in perspective. EU3 is a grand strategy game and its nature means your attention should not be diverted from government policy and the big picture. And there are plenty of other games out there that allow you to litter battlefields with corpses.
This doesn’t mean you have no control over warfare. The real tactics you employ comes from timing. Weather, morale, terrain, the type and quality of your troops, the quality of your generals, and a little luck all factors in to success or defeat on the battlefield. My small army of Modena routinely beat up on the army of Venice. Although my army was outnumbered, they were well trained and well lead. And I tried not to send them to fight battles they couldn’t win. On top of that there is the political choreography required to justify the fighting. Players who wage war without a reason to do so will find the world against them, or their realm crumbling from within. And sometimes, charm and a large treasury can be a more devastating weapon than cannons.
You don’t need a degree in history to play EU3 but some knowledge is necessary to understanding what certain things like the Reformation or the Holy Roman Empire were. Also, knowing a little of the history behind the game lets you appreciate some of the wild historical rewrites you will see while playing the game. Scotland can conquer England. The Greeks can take their land back from the Ottoman Empire. Poland can colonize the new world. Paradox seems to have done painstaking research on the condition of the world throughout this era with wonderful, if oftentimes silly, results.
Some gamers may find Eu3 to be difficult to get into and I can see where they are coming from. It takes a healthy dose of patience to accomplish your goals and with the vastly improved AI, there is a good chance of failure.
Those English better watch out, this is alternative history!
Is your empire a bit overstretched? Have a sale!
The greatest thing about EU3 is its sheer value to a strategy gamer. With 250 individual countries to play, about 1,700 provinces to conquer and the ability to start your game on any day within a range of over 300 years, the replayability of this game is astronomical. There are even scenarios such as the Eighty Years war with suggested countries to play. Beyond the standard game, EU3 is completely customizable and modders will be able to tweak the game into whatever they desire by adding nations, removing annoying events or generally tweaking gameplay. There is even a multiplayer option. ‘Nuff said.
Paradox has been the soul of historical computer strategy gaming and with Europa Universalis 3 it proves to remain so for years to come. You can do anything you want with this game, the limits being only your time and imagination. If any of you budding warmongers, strategy fiends or history buffs out there are looking for complete control, world domination and a great wargaming experience, look no further.
Top Game Moment:
TOP GAME MOMENT
Uniting all of Italy as Modena, a two-province Italian city-state. And then colonizing Hawaii to celebrate.