Platforms: PC, Mac
Release Date: 13/08/13
Europa Universalis IV Review – Ostentatious Gallantry Awaits
Unlike Crusader Kings II, which is laser focused on managing a single character in the treacherous world of medieval politics, Europa Universalis IV puts you in the seat of an entire nation; guiding it through an era of aggressive expansion and exploitation. Also unlike the former, Europa Universalis IV isn’t dragged down by opaque mechanics and it seems that Paradox Interactive has learned its lessons to deliver a game that is deep, addictive, and easy to get into.
My only real experience with these types of games is with aforementioned Crusader Kings II. While the two games are similar in presentation and mechanically at times, Europa Universalis IV has a much more broad scope and is ultimately a deeper game. Having played Crusader Kings II before certainly helped my transition, mostly when it came to navigating the UI which is a step up in polish and usability in Europa Universalis IV and is one of the game’s greatest strengths. Paradox have laid bare many parts of the game using the interface. If you want to know more about something, all you have to do is hover your cursor over something and more than likely the game will explain the nitty gritty details of the math happening behind the scenes in a helpful paragraph. There’s also a handy hint feature where you can hit the H button which then turns certain UI elements blue so you can click on them and get even more information on how any given thing works. The presentation of the UI perfectly reflects the times that the game is set in with its gilded borders and heraldic finishing. While this may seem like a small thing, it adds to the overall polish of the game and makes it that much more interesting to look at. That being said, some things could stand to be not buried as deeply as they are in certain menus and the default text size is slightly hard to read.
I have zero experience with the previous titles in the series, but from my research the two newest features to the game appear to be monarch points and a revamped trade system. Monarch points accumulate as time passes and come in three flavors: administrative, diplomatic, and military power. They are a vitally important resource and are used for a variety of things. Military power for example, may be used to temporarily treat the peasantry harshly in a county you own to lower the chances of a revolt. You have to manage these points very carefully since they are also contribute to the rate at which new technology is researched and national ideas are unlocked; both of which are very important as to how the nation you are playing ultimately develops and achieves whatever goals you set for it. I don’t know how it was in past Europa Universalis games, but the addition of monarch points to the formula can only be a good thing.
The newly revamped trade system is at first one of the most opaque and seemingly unwieldy parts of the game mostly due to information overload. But, as you learn it, it becomes one of the stronger systems that Europa Universalis IV presents to players. Essentially, there are trade regions scattered through the world, in these regions are focal points of trade called nodes. Nodes are fed by trade routes which you can see in the handy trade layover in the various map modes the game offers. You can only straight up collect money from nodes that are within the trade region you have occupied land in. That doesn’t mean that the other nodes are useless to you, you can send merchants to steer trade towards a node you own increasing your take at the end of a lane. It’s incredibly satisfying to manipulate this system synchronizing your merchants and fleets to help dominate Terra’s gold laden veins.
I could honestly keep writing for pages about Europa Universalis IV’s other mechanics such as the combat system, prestige, stability, rivals, colonization, advisers, and so many others. They’re all a mile deep, but they’re never truly opaque that you can’t get a handle on them without investing a little brain power. Perhaps the best example for all of Europa Universalis IV’s harmonious systems of abstraction is the combat. On the outset, you might engage with the combat system at its face value: just managing the size of your armies and executing simple tactics such as baiting and the like. But, there’s also leaders to hire and attach to armies, ideal army compositions that wax and wane in power as the game progresses, technological advances, morale, terrain width, and a handful of other things that actually affect the outcome of a battle. You can get heavily invested in all of these facets of the combat, some of them, or only the bare bones and still have varying degrees of success and rewarding game play. The entire game can be approached in this manner; you can play the entire game in broad strokes or with O.C.D. like micromanagement and everywhere in between and still have a fulfilling time.
There a few tiny things that keep the game from perfection, mostly relating to performance and straight up bugs. At higher game speeds the game can chug and hitch up, especially when a new month begins in the game. While this game is mainly played through menus and asks nothing of the player in terms of reflexes, it can be slightly distracting and grating at times. I have yet to personally experience it but I have read reports of save game bugs that outright delete your saves. In a game where you could spend fifty hours building your empire it is something to keep and mind and make backups until some issues get ironed out. On the flip side of this, people seem to be in agreement that this is the most polished and relatively bug-free Paradox release out of the gate yet.
Other than these couple things, I’m struggling to find any real problems with the game. I’m not an expert at the game by any stretch of the imagination, but I haven’t had any problems with balance or the like. Europa Universalis IV is a near perfect game, and if you take the five or so hours to just sit down and dive in, you’ll learn the mechanics and see the magic that Europa Universalis IV contains in its varied systems. That magic will have you coming back again and again for years.
- Great look and authentic feel
- Incredibly deep systems that are easy to learn and have the depth to stay fresh for a long time to come
- Steamworks integration that allows for easy installation of mods that further increases replayability and customization
- AI that will go for the jugular
- The music is great but there’s not enough of it
- Some launch bugs that can be extremely annoying but will hopefully be ironed out