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Europa Universalis IV Review (PC)

Paradox Development Studio has the perfect recipe for grand strategy games. With March of the Eagles, Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis they have something to cater for every historical strategy gamers taste. The latest instalment, Europa Universalis IV, is the Entree.

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The first thing that faithful Paradox players will notice are the graphical improvements. It’s a massive improvement over EU III of course(it was released in 2007), but even an improvement over the much more recent March of the Eagles. The map has more detail in the terrain mode, and also reacts to the seasons. The interface is clean and detailed, though the text can be quite small in some information panels. This has resulted in the “Big Text Graphics” mod being one of the most popular in the steam workshop. Of course, as with all the best strategy games, there are a great wealth of mods already available for Europa Universalis IV.

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Playing Europa Universalis IV is all about balance and trade offs. The technology system is quite different if you are used to Crusader Kings II, which is pretty autonomous. Your nation produces three types of points, Administrative, Diplomatic and Military. The amount of points in each category that you earn in a month relies on a variety of factors, and these points can be spent on unlocking technology or used to help with the running of your nation. You need to spend the Administrative points to unlock the option to select a technology tree, and each tree will focus one of the three areas, so you can really specialise your nation. Being a jack of all trades is quite expensive and won’t happen until later game, so it is best to decide how you want to run your nation early and stick with it.

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How you run your nation will also be dependant on which nation you chose to play as. There is a massive amount of choice on who to play as. From the European superpowers of Spain, France and England, to the Native American tribes, Mongolian Hordes, or Japanese dynasties, there really is a nation for every play style. Playing as Spain, Portugal or England will allow you to take advantage of the colonial system to found new lands in the west or middle east. There are a variety of technologies to assist you with expansion, and the system as a whole works really well as a game mechanic.

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Want to expand but more locally? Best to play as one of the, military strong nations such as the Ottomans. Expanding by military force is quite different, and again very well-balanced. While you don’t need a casus belli to declare war, you get a massive stability hit for not having one. Taking provinces off of other nations is best done little by little also. Claiming more than is your right will see you hit with overextension penalties. Converting these provinces to cores will remove the penalty, but as a base value this will take three years to complete. See my beginners guide for some suggestions on how to deal with overextension.

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The final play style you might consider is with a trade nation such as Venice. The trade system is rather in-depth and a bit intimidating to new users. There are several trade nodes around the map and provinces are assigned to a specific trade node. You will automatically collect from the trade node assigned to your capital, but for all others you have the choice of either collecting or transferring power from them. The idea would be to bring as much trade power towards your capital node or wherever you would collect the most from your trade power. You can always play a bit with the trade system, or you can completely focus on it to grow a vast fortune for your nation.

The trade system is just one of many changes between Europa Universalis III and IV. In fact, the changes document is forty four pages long. OK, it’s fleshed out a little with pictures, but that’s some amount of changes. It’s not all additions though. Some things, like Spies for example, have been removed from the game as they have been made obsolete by other additions. Some ideas from Europa Universalis II have even made it back into the game for this iteration, after having been left out in the previous game. And being a studio of many games, even Crusader Kings II has had it’s influence, with Europa Universalis IV opinion system being an extension of that found in CKII.

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The main difference between Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis is that in EU you play as a nation as opposed to a family/dynasty. As such, you don’t get the same sense of involvement, and there are no emotional strings pulled when your nation’s leader passes. The running of your nation is just that, diplomatic every day decisions. Marriages are purely for strategic reasons, and you don’t need to wait to find the perfect bride as “Royal Marriage” is always a diplomatic option with nations of the same faith.

Paradox Development Studios games are like flavours of Ice Cream. Most people like ice cream, but not everyone likes the same flavours. My favourite is strawberry ice cream, though I do like chocolate ice cream, and I’ll usually pass on Mint Choc chip. For me, Europa Universalis IV is chocolate ice cream. I’d rather be playing Crusader Kings II with it’s in depth family politics, but Europa Universalis IV still has plenty to offer with it’s much improved military system, completely overhauled trade and technology systems, and the sheer scale available in the game.

4 colonies colonized out of 5

Europa Universalis IV Review (PC), 4.0 out of 5 based on 4 ratings

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