When I started playing Paradox Entertainment’s latest bun out of the fecund vagina of the Europa Universalis franchise, I thought “hey, this is a slightly prettier, more refined spin on what obviously is the same 400-odd years of history between when Henry the Fifth exported English steel to continental France, and when Napoleon exported French steel to the rest of continental Europe, as the previous three Europa Universalis games” – and that is still what I think. Thanks for reading.
If you are still with me, Europa Universalis 4 (hereafter to be referred to as EU4) is a historical “simulator” (in the same way as playing Railroad Tycoon would teach you how to be Rupert Murdoch) where you get to immerse yourself in the nuances of world politics in a world emerging from feudal government, or just partake in European nations beating the snot out of each other and the rest of the planet. It’s educational, in that we tend to think of modern nations having just popped into existence like Louis the Fourteenth one day emerged from bed and farted out the modern borders of France, but the game uses the minutiae of myriad borders, cultures and religions as tools in its gameplay palette to spray a multi-coloured canvas of complex interactions, and Euopeans beating the snot out of one another and everyone else on the planet. It’s not that non-European countries aren’t also trying to beat the snot out of everyone else, it’s just they suck at it.
In essence it’s the same game as the previous three EUs – I mean, the Earth of which we are aware (quiet you multi-dimensional theorising physics hippies) has only had the same 400-odd years of history covering that period, so it sets some pretty clear limits as to what they can alter with each new version. As far as this game goes compared to the past ones – is it better? Yeah sure. Is it worse? Yeah sure.
In the absence of highs and lows that is my life, it’s a meh plus. All I can say is, if you are into the whole historical strategic wargame on a grand scale thing, then this is your bag, though if you didn’t know that about Paradox games as a whole already you are either an Amish wolf boy, pretty young or not of this genre. This is a very genre-specific choice, and can seem opaque even to people who are as keen as mustard about whether the Holy Roman Empire is governed from Hamburg or Vienna.
Anyway, enough drivelly opinion. When you fire it up it goes like this – you pick a country (pick a little country if you want hard, and a powerful country if you want easier) and then start utilising diplomacy and manipulating all your various settings to steer that country one way or the other. All nations are somewhat dependent on the competence of their ruler (especially for scientific development) and the stability of the nation tends to rest on successful generational transference of power, so you spend time trying to look after that while only shagging princesses from countries you want to have good relationships with. In EU4, there is a much expanded tech system to play with so once you can go exploring you start inseminating the rest of the world with, well, white people. If this game were published by a North American Indian tribe, it would be called “oh no, here come those White Bastards all over again”, and then they would add a gambling feature and cross-market it with one of their casinos. Hyuk, Hyuk Hyuk.
One feature I personally felt they had really gotten right with this version was the system to manage rebellion. In some of the older EU games, it felt horribly arbitrary. In this one, you have to manage it carefully, or things tend to go to hell very quickly. However, it’s still something you can manage, rather than “oh guess what, even though it’s not reactive to anything you have done you are having a major civil war again, surprise and welcome to rage-town population YOU” as in previous games, and yet I like that national internal security is something you have to really pay attention to.
I also just wanted to mention a mod pack for the game I absolutely love. It’s called Moon Universalis and is a free mod downloadable on Steam at the time of me typing this. Just a word of notice, it downloaded as a zip file that I had to locate in the EU4 mod directory and unpack to the same directory. Then once I’d closed and reopened both Steam and EU4 it appeared as a mod in the EU4 start-up window and I got to select it.
EU4 and most of the rest of the Paradox history games have small but devoted communities that tend to produce some really awesome content. As often as not, this content is better than Paradox’s own game expansions. Moon Universalis (though some are calling it Luna Universalis, and obviousely it’s set on the moon) is just something a player has come up with that, if you are way into the Paradox games already, and the atmospherics (spooooooky moon music and moon greys everywhere) grab you, then it is definitely worth checking out. Clearly I am fanboying on this mod at the moment and next week I’ll probably be all “yeah, but the random events were used as a major arbitrary game feature and the dude who wrote it could barely write in English (I’m just pretending it’s Moonglish)”, but currently I’m enjoying this more than anything else I’ve played in the last couple of months… and it’s FREE; golly gosh gee-wiz crikey.
Anyway, EU4 – buy it if it’s on special on Steam and get a kick out of complex historical tactical country management, otherwise go shoot some zombies in the pudum.