Onwards and Upwards: An Introduction and Europa Universalis III
Hey there ladies and gents, guys and girls etc etc.
I’m not really one for long winded introductions, so I will keep this one short. Welcome to Cale’s Corner! My little corner of the web where I get to blog about goings on in the games industry, recommend my favourite games and provide you with reviews on Indie and Free to Play titles. Why am I only covering Indie games and FtP’s you ask? For two main reasons; I don’t have the disposable income or time to buy and play AAA games and they are covered at a much higher quality than I can provide by other sources. So, if you are like me and don’t have much cash or time to devote to gaming but still want to have a great quality, inexpensive gaming experience every so often, hopefully you will find these reviews informative and enjoyable! Now, on to the main event!
Europa Universalis III
Paradox Interactive have always been somewhat of a dab hand when it comes to developing amazing strategy games, bringing out titles like Victoria, Hearts of Iron and Crusader Kings. However, with the latest installment of the Europa Univesalis trilogy, they struck RTS gold. The single player mode begins in 1543 (or 1399 with expansions), just after the collapse of Constantinople. The screen is filled with a map of the world with over 250 historical countries to choose from, allowing you to play as pretty much whoever you want. Each country has a difficulty level assigned to it which reflects the historical state of the country at the period of time you choose to play in, which can be up to 1793 (1822 with expansions). This is helpful since the tutorials provided are not overly detailed and thus you may wish to play an easier nation until you get the hang of the game mechanics.
The game mechanics are where it all gets a bit complicated, there are so many options to simulate ruling your own kingdom that it can all seem a bit overwhelming to a beginner. Instead of being a turn based RTS like Civilization V or Total War, you play through each and every day at the same time as the rest of the world. You can speed up or slow down the rate at which time passes and pause the game to make those tough decisions that require some thought. You control the policies of your nation, making decisions which can effect the way your entire realm is governed. You have to recruit advisors which give you certain bonuses depending on their field of expertise. You can adjust cultural sliders to determine the focus of your nation; Do you focus more on your Navy? Do you focus on quality armies or sheer numbers to dominate the field? Is your government centralised or decentralised? As I said, many options. Even so, having all of that choice makes you feel powerful and really adds to the immersiveness of the game.
Once you have the mechanics figured, the game becomes open to so many possibilities. The original version of the game has the AI controlled states sticking fairly well to their historical paths unless you influence them, allowing you to get a real sense of changing the course of history with the nation that you chose to play. In later expansions the AI does what it thinks is the smartest course of action, which will often change depending on the player, creating a fresh experience every time you play, as if the choice of 250 countries wasn’t enough! To broaden the horizons even more, the game has no set goals like you might find in other RTS games such as the Total War series. You can play for as long as you like within the period and set your own goals. Each nation has a set of national decisions and objectives which provide you with a flexible framework, but nothing is forcing you to complete them should you not wish to.
There are three main aspects to the game; War, Diplomacy and Economy. Each require a lot of forethought and planning to get right and I often found that I would save regularly in case I needed to reload after making a terrible decision. Wars are expensive since you have to pay for troops and their upkeep, they also upset your nation, which will become war weary if a conflict drags on for too long or is going badly. They too have a lot of decisions attached to them with regards to when the right time to strike is, who you will strike against, which provinces will get you to your ultimate goal faster, how to broach a peace treaty when you have what you need and so on. Diplomacy is important if you wish to survive. Without the right allies, you could be dragged into wars you can’t win and face annihilation as a result. Equally, with no allies you could be ganged up on by larger nations and be destroyed. Being friendly with just the right people is the key to success in this game. Lastly, the economy of your nation must be constantly monitored and adjusted to make sure you can afford to grow and go to war unhindered. Utilising trade to your advantage and setting appropriate levels of taxation are a good way to start, but be careful not to set tax too high or you might have a revolt on your hands.
The game does possess some flaws to be noted. As I mentioned earlier, the tutorials are not very detailed which may leave you a little lost and confused. There are a few graphical issues in the original game where borders look sketchy, as though scribbled in with pencil. This is straightened out in later expansions however and does little to detract from your experience overall. Finally, if you were hoping for Total War style epic battles you are going to be a little disappointed. The battles are essentially just watching numbers decrease on screen while metallic clinking and other sounds of battle play in the background. While I don’t find it particularly bothersome, you have no effect on the outcome of a battle besides how you compose your army, who you choose to lead it and any bonuses you give to your forces, which may turn people off to the conflict aspect of the game. On the other hand, being able to order multiple units at once and seeing large numbers tick off on your screen has a suitably epic and authentic feel to the process of leading a nation in wartime, even without visualisations. There are also some text based errors within the history of your nation that accumulates as you play, as well as some notifications that betray code and scripting that has not been covered up properly. I should stress that this in no way effects the game play but it just makes it feel messy and unpolished.
I could write so much more about this game, but it would go on for too long. I would definitely recommend this game to those interested in playing Historical RTS games with a lot of freedom of action. I would also recommend buying the complete edition of the game since it comes with two of the four expansions, allowing you to get a feel for the game before deciding if you want to sink more money to it and add even more dynamic game play to an already complex game.
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Thanks for reading and see you next time.