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| Europa Universalis III: Review and Hands-on (9 comments )|
by: indigo196 (258) | Posted in cluster FiringSquad Editors Challenge Round 1 Prelim 2
Posted 76 months ago ( edited 76 months ago ) in category Game Reviews
Europa Universalis III: Review and Hands-on
|» MEDIA (10)|
choose your country
The Grognards come out to play
I have played strategy games from the days of boards, counters and chits. Chits were used before they had all manner of dice for the task; yeah that is old school. As I got older, got married, graduated college, and got a job it became impossible to play these games due to time and space restrictions. Lucky for me computers became increasingly less expensive and I was able to continue my hobby in digital format. In the beginning most of these games did little more than duplicate the board game experience. Today there are a few games that push the genre in ways that could never be matched in the board game format; EU3 is one of those games.
What is it?
The game is a real-time strategy game that allows the user to speed up, slow down or pause the action. In the words of Paradox Interactive EU3 is a “grand strategy game set during the Renaissance and Reformation periods”. You can pick a starting point between 1453 and 1789. The game will generate a historically accurate world for the starting date you choose. While I have played a long list of other computer strategy games nothing prepared me for the depth of EU3, but that should not scare players who are new to the franchise.
How does it work?
For those of you who are new to the EU series, let me provide a summary of how the game works. The first thing you must do is select your starting date. I selected 1453 as I wanted to experience the full depth of the game. You then must select a country. When you click on a country you will be shown a rating from zero to five stars for its military, economy, and diplomacy. The difficulty of playing that country is shown on a sliding scale that has a pacifier for easy and skull for hard. Just below the difficulty rating is a section that will show if your country is currently at war or allied with any countries. I wanted a country in the middle of difficulty scale so I chose Austria. With the choices made it is time to hit the “play” button. From here you must manage your military, economy and diplomacy.
Advisors; baby step one!
The first step for starting your country should be to ensure that you have filled your advisor slots. Advisors are semi-historical figures that add to your country in various ways. They can add to the number of merchants, colonists, diplomats, missionaries, or spies. They can also add to your economy by adding to your government, production, trade, naval, land, or stability values. If you plan on being a colonial power I would plan on getting a strong naval, trade and government advisors to start the game and shift to naval, colonists and missionaries when you start founding colonies. With Austria I wanted to focus on government, trade and land (army). The initial advisors were a five star production advisor, a three star government advisor and a 3 star diplomatic advisor and there were no decent trade or army reformers (land) available so I stuck with my starting advisors.
Economy; baby step two!
The second step is to set your economy sliders. The sliders are government, production, trade, naval, land, stability, and treasury. Your choice is how much of your monthly income to spend on each area.
• Government -- gradually makes province improvements available, unlocks new forms of government, achieving different levels of government allow you to choose national ideas
• Production – gradually makes province improvements available and increases production which boosts your monthly income
• Trade – gradually makes province improvements available and increases the efficiency of your merchants in competing with merchants of other nations
• Naval – gradually increase the combat and operational abilities of your ships in addition to unlocking new ships designs and province improvements
• Land – gradually increase the combat and operational abilities of your ground forces in addition to unlocking new unit types and province improvements
• Stability – after a measured amount of investment will increase your national stability which reduces the likelihood of revolts
• Treasury – money that goes to your bank account which can be spent in various ways
I wanted to improve my government, production, trade, and land forces so I reduced the amount of spending for naval, stability and treasury. Stability is crucial though to avoid revolts so do not ignore this category if you dip below a rating of one.
Military; baby step three!
There is actually not a step here if you are starting from the 1453 mark, but later in the game you will be able to change the preferred type of infantry, cavalry and artillery. In my playing so far there appears to be little value to infantry, though it does get progressively better in its offensive and defensive capabilities, the speed of cavalry renders it a poor choice for at least the first hundred years. Despite its combat values going up it always seems to lose to cavalry. You must strike a careful balance between having a sufficient force to deal with your enemies and the expenditure for maintaining that force. If war does come to your borders you can recruit units of 1000 men until your manpower pool is exhausted or you can hire mercenaries. Recruited troops usually cost less but take a great deal of time to build while mercenary troops are available immediately. Austria starts with a decent military and I had no reason to start building more units.
Religion; baby step four!
EU3 allows you to set your tolerance for several religions and if you choose you can convert that state religion of your country. The religions detailed in the game are Catholic, Protestant, Reformed, Orthodox, Shiite, Sunni, Eastern, and Pagan. In addition to this some countries can vie for control of The Holy See and The Holy Roman Empire. To gain control of The Holy See the cardinals have to elect your nation and you have the option of spending money from your treasury to gain their favor. The Holy Roman Empire elects a ruler from among its member states with eight countries having elector status. Your normal diplomatic relationship with each of these countries determines who they will vote for. If your country holds either or both positions you get some substantial benefits. If you are a Shiite or Sunni country you will see Catholic, Protestant, Reformed and Orthodox as simply Christian. If you are not Shiite or Sunni you will see those two religions as simply Muslim. Later in the game when you conquer countries you may want to send missionaries to convert the populace to your state religion. Provinces that have different religions will produce less than those that match your countries religion. You also have the limited ability to change your countries religion.
Government; baby step five!
As your country progresses you will have an option to change your form of government, but be warned some of the changes have dramatic negative effects on your countries stability. You can also change your domestic policies using sliders.
• Aristocracy vs. Plutocracy
• Centralization vs. Decentralization
• Innovative vs. Narrow-minded
• Mercantilism vs. Free Trade
• Offensive vs. Defensive
• Land vs. Naval
• Quality vs. Quantity
• Serfdom vs. Free Subjects
Each of these sliders has subtle effects that grow as you get closer to one type. You are limited to making changes slowly. Over a specific period of time you will receive the ability to move one slider one increment; additionally there are special events that can move sliders as well. As Austria I elected to move my “Innovative vs. Narrow-minded” slider one click towards Innovative.
Enough baby steps; get ready to run!
You are now ready to toddle around in the world of EUIII. Congratulations!! I must warn you to avoid sharp objects and high stairs though. Before you start time moving forward there is just one more thing to do; send your diplomats and merchants!
Diplomats, Merchants, Colonists, Missionaries, and Spies; ready!
Diplomacy is an integral part of EUIII and should not be considered as an afterthought. The basic concepts are relations rating and “bad boy” rating. Relation ratings range from 200 to -200 with the highest indicating that you have a good relationship with that country. The level of these relationships will determine how other countries react to your actions; which in turn can raise or lower their ratings. You can give gifts or propose royal marriages to improve relationships. Attacking a country without a casus belli will generally lower your ratings with all countries. Your countries “bad boy” rating can have a severe impact on your country. Other countries will refuse to trade with you or if you have an extremely bad reputation you may end up with several countries declaring war on you. You gain bad boy points by demanding provinces as a tribute or annexing countries as part of the peace agreement. In EUIII you can produce casus belli through several different diplomatic actions such as claiming the throne of another country, proclaiming a guarantee, or sending a warning. Make your alliances carefully because your partners will expect you to back them when they go to war. The last thing you need as a small growing country is to be dragged in to a war with much more powerful country; while you can choose to not honor the alliance it may be best to avoid such alliances in the first place. You must have an available diplomat in order to initiate any diplomatic action. You also consume diplomats when you make admirals or generals. As a rule of thumb I never like to consume my last diplomat while at war because I cannot initiate a peace proposal. Forming alliances later in the game is often close to impossible when you initiate the process because of all the intertwined relationship ratings. It is wise to send your diplomats out to form alliances before you start time running.
Trade is vital to a healthy economy early in the game. There are several centers of trade (CoT) that countries can send merchants too. Sending a merchant costs money, but if they are successful you will gain a portion of the trade present at the CoT. At the start of the game several CoTs have free slots and your merchants will not have to compete for a slot so it is wise to send them immediately. As the game progresses your merchants ability to gain and retain slots will be determined by your countries trade level, “bad boy” points and embargos. If your country owns a CoT it can be a very powerful tool as you will gain tax revenue and deny other countries the ability to trade there. As Austria I was able to gain five slots in Venezia but lost them as my trade level quickly fell behind countries that focused on trade. As my country grew the loss became less and less significant.
Exploration is another potential road to meeting your countries goals. With the introduction of national ideas to the EU series you must take the “New World” national idea before you can set off to explore. In addition to adopting the “New World” idea you must recruit explorers to make it possible to uncover uncharted waters and conquistadors to explore uncharted lands. Recruiting these special leader types consumes one colonist. You do not need explorers or conquistadors to colonize because occasionally the explorations of other countries will become known to you. As Austria I founded my first colonies on the island that today contains Haiti and the Dominican Republic after the knowledge of their existence became known to me. Once you know of un-occupied provinces you simply click on the province and if you have enough money you can send a colonist. The province display will show you the number of natives, their ferocity and aggressiveness, and the chance of your colonists to establish a colony. If you are successful in starting a colony it will become an actual province after the population reaches 1000. This population growth can happen through normal growth or by sending more colonists.
The world has known many wars due to differences in religion and EUIII replicates these complicated issues of religion. Provinces that are not the same religion as your state religion will produce fewer taxes and have a greater chance for revolts, but you can use a missionary at a great cost to attempt to convert the province. The process of conversion can sometime take more than six years so it is a painful process. If you take on the role of “defender of the faith” you can also attack any countries that have a different religion without a casus belli and not suffer the usual -2 to stability.
Undermining your enemies without going to war was a reality that the world has long known and EUIII allows you to take the same steps. You can send spies to perform various underhanded and sneaky tasks. To do this you must have an available spy and the necessary money for the task. To send a spy you simply click on a province and then the spy button and are presented with a list of possible tasks including the cost and chance of success. Once you select a mission you will be shown a pop-up again showing the chance for success and of your spy being caught; at this point you have one last chance to back out of the mission. The missions can still result in a success but have the spy caught which can produce negative results for your relations rating with that country. Unlike in the Total War series your spy is consumed regardless of success or failure.
User Interface, Graphics, and Gameplay; set!
EUIII is now using a 3D engine which in many subtle ways improves the presentation of the game. There are no swaying trees or blades of grass, but there are ripples on the water complete with reflections. The terrain maps have are much more appealing than the old style maps in the 2D version. The best part is that these subtle changes did nothing to diminish the excellent interface that Paradox is famous for. The complexity of the game is made manageable by what is the best interface of any strategy game I have ever played. The UI is customizable and friendly to use. The UI can handle events in many different ways ranging from a display in a rolling text box to a large pop-up in the middle of the screen. EUIII allows you to easily change the presentation style. Information about your country, its provinces and its troops are all easily accessible and presented in an appealing manner.
Fantastic Gameplay. The game covers a very interesting period of time in the formation of Europe as we know it today. It exposes very complex dynamics in an easy to digest manner that results in a game that may have you forgetting to eat. The level of detail makes this one of the best strategy games to ever see a computer screen.
Music. The wide variety and style of music makes playing the game for extended periods of time a pleasing experience and will not cause your wife or parents to demand that you lower the volume.
Interface. It was perfect with EUII and remains perfect in EUIII. The ability to customize event notifications and access critical information easily is an example other game creators should take note of.
New Game Features. The addition of advisors, national ideas and added economy settings continue to flesh out an already fantastic game.
Wife, Parents and friends. This game is so addictive that you may find the people around you an unwanted distraction. Speaking of that I need to get back to Austria now...
Final Thoughts; Go!
Some may make an argument that this is nothing more than a minor upgrade to EUII and should be priced like an expansion pack, but the fact remains that the graphic upgrade and additional gameplay options make it worth the price of a full game.
My final score:
|9 User Comment(s) • 6 root comment(s)|
| Kiyoshi.SFK (2) Feb 21, 2007 - 08:28 pm|
|Tis a good article, having read the article I find it to be quite helpful since I have been looking for a new game to play. The game it self sounds great and I have already placed my order for it on bestbuy. Cheers!|
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