By Michael WORKMAN
If you spent the majority of your time in history class catching up on sleep, you’re in luck! Paradox Development Studio has rolled out a game that deals with four centuries of human history. Well, truth be told, it’s up to the player how history unfolds in the game, so it’s not the best game to learn about history; however, it shows how difficult it was to rule and maintain a nation. Get ready to explore, conquer, and reap the rewards in “Europa Universalis IV.”
“Europa Universalis IV” has several starting time periods to choose from. The earliest is the year 1444, the early stages of the Age of Exploration, all the way to the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1821. As what county can you play, you ask? Any country that was in existence at that time period. You can not only play as Spain or England, which start out as pretty good choices for beginners, but players could also choose to play as Ming dynasty China, Congo tribes in Africa, or the Aztec Empire. Granted, playing as anything other than a western European power will be a challenge, but many people have already produced strategy guides to beat European powers.
On my second playthrough, I managed to colonize the Americas as Japan from the west coast! Again, this game can take a radically different approach to how history plays out, so you probable shouldn’t cite it as a credible source for a school paper. As fun as it can be, it’s also one of the most difficult games to master I’ve come across.
Let’s be perfectly clear right off the bat: This game is massive. Nearly the entire world is featured with the exception of the Earth’s poles and uninhabited areas like great deserts and tundras. But everything that hasn’t yet been discovered is shrouded in thick clouds until players send out their intrepid explores (or conquistadors) to reveal more of the map.
Another big aspect of the game is the monstrously steep learning curve on the mechanics of the game. I still have no clue exactly how trade and economics work in this game. I just send my armies to conquer and colonize more land and I get more money, right? Wrong! This game has a complicated economic system that rewards war mongering expansionists with overexertion penalties like an angry population and a collapsed economy. It’s a very delicate balancing act that can feel constraining, but having a stable government that’s not in horrible debt is fun, especially if you play your cards right a get an economic boom.
Warfare has been thankfully revamped from Paradox’s last game “Crusader Kings II” where players had to rely on medieval vassals and lords to supply troops. Nations now have standing armies that won’t turn on you because a duke hates your guts. Instead, you have professional soldiers that sit around until you kick off a war. That should be easy, right? Wrong again! The game won’t let you just attack other nations without a “casus belli” or legitimate cause for war. If a player wants to take over their neighbors, they need to check if they have a valid casus belli. This could range from they have land that you have a claim on or they recently diplomatically insulted you or they have a different religion than your own and you can start a holy war. The easiest way is to send your diplomat to that country and fabricate a false claim on a piece of land. Next thing you know, you’re sipping wine while standing on the rubble of a city you outright lied about owning. At least this game accurately depicts how nations were complete jerks to each other.
It’s fun and educational! There are some sticky moral issues you might come across while playing this game. Did I mention colonizing Africa means you are gaining wealth from the slave trade? If you toss morals out the window then you should be very wealthy indeed, just don’t expect the natives to welcome you with open arms when you ask them if they want to be absorbed into your empire.
“Europa Universalis IV” is one of the best games I’ve played dealing with the Age of Exploration. However, it is also one of the most difficult games to pick up, even for people who are familiar with the grand strategy games genre. The tutorial will most likely answer a few basic questions, but the rest is left to the player to figure out how things work.
For those who like a challenge, this game will test patience and micromanagement skills.
I give “Europa Universalis IV” for the PC, a 4 out of 5.