Review: ‘Europa Universalis IV’ (PC): May the Sun Never Set Upon Your Empire

Review: ‘Europa Universalis IV’ (PC): May the Sun Never Set Upon Your Empire

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I am the King of Ireland. The year, 1444. The Middle Ages were good to my people; after the unification of the realm, our influence spread into Scotland, Wales, and even a bit of northern Spain—that last part we got as concessions after a successful Crusade. England threatens our domain, but our brothers in Scotland will stand with us against the English crown. After all, the current Scottish king and I are cousins and England often antagonizes France to the south and Norway a ways east. I aspire to unify all of Britannia, to create an Irish Empire to rival the larger powers of the mainland. Maybe one day my people will sail across the Atlantic and find a route to Asia; maybe one day we’ll dominate European trade, rivaling the likes of Venice and Genoa. We will be admired by our friends, feared by our enemies, and respected by all. That is my dream.

In Europa Univeralis IV, the latest grand strategy game by Paradox Interactive, you truly can become master and commander of your country’s destiny. Though the game does much to improve upon its predecessor’s mechanics, the most revolutionary aspect of EU4 is the use of a save game converter (available for free to those who pre-purchased the game, or as a separate DLC for $10) to continue your campaign from Crusader Kings II from the mid-15th century to the early 19th.

If you have The Old Gods DLC, you can effectively play a game that’s about 1000 years long. Because of how things might play out in CK2, EU4 has virtually limitless replayability as no start conditions need to be the same. Fans of the game know that the beauty of these games is that though it takes historical settings into account, you’re still given the power to rewrite the books chronicling your country’s existence. Who knows? Maybe you’re shrewd enough to bring a new Enlightenment to the numerous Native American tribes before Europe discovers the North American shores. The choice is yours.

Speaking of The Old Gods, if you reform any of the pagan religions back in CK2, they make a comeback as world religions in EU4 with their own unique national decisions and options. It’d be interesting to see a European map dominated by Norse or Romuva countries or seeing Zoroastrianism alive and well in this era.

As far as appearance goes, EU4 is polished and easy on the eyes, with an informative UI that doesn’t get in the way of you surveying your lands. Units seem to slide in real time, like chess pieces on a board, rather than just teleporting from one province to another like in previous games. I can’t tell you how many times I get distracted watching ships go about their business, along their trade routes, moving troops and cargo hither and yon.

The UI also makes the game a lot easier to learn, offering descriptions of all your available options and explanations for why they may or may not work, in the case of diplomacy. For example, Ireland might seek a larger neighbor that rivals England for military support, but for some reason, France won’t form an alliance with the smaller island. If you hover over the option, it’ll say exactly why this is: maybe France doesn’t want to form an alliance because Ireland’s currently at war with Leon to the south that claims their Crusade-era concessions, or because Ireland just changed its state religion to Protestantism, much to the chagrin of the Catholic French King. Knowing why countries feel the way they do about your own helps to resolve disputes and gives you more diplomatic options in dealing with foreign powers.

You can also build units and buildings more easily, as a construction menu is now available. Simply choose the building, unit, or ship you wish to create and click on the province you want it to be created in and bam, you’re done. No need to remember where you have temples built already.

In essence, the UI guides you through every aspect of the game, keeping you from being bogged down with too much information or, in some cases, not enough. This keeps the game from being dumbed down, but also allows new players to pick it up a lot easier and to learn the concepts without feeling overwhelmed. Clearly, Paradox is getting good at this.

If EU4 is good at one thing, though, it’s good at teaching you that everything has a price, and every door you open, you close another (or several). Technology, for example, is no longer governed by how much money your country invests in specific pools, but by how fast you can accumulate Administration, Diplomacy, or Military points.

Depending on a number of factors, such as your advisers’ and national leader’s skills, is how many of these points you accumulate in a month’s time. With that, you can spend them on new buildings (in addition to a gold cost), new technology, leveling up national ideas that further augment your country, boosting your national stability, quelling rebel movements, among other things. It’s up to you to balance all of your resources: manpower, gold, prestige, and the three advisory pools.

Some people—self included—might be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options and things to do in EU4 but the game now allows you to choose between three options as “national missions.” If you’re a Catholic nation, you might have an mission to better your relationship with the Papacy or to insure that all of your provinces are faithful to Catholicism. Perhaps as a nation with a lot of coastline, you’ll get a mission to build a better navy.

These, along with national ideas that act as specializations for your nation, will help carve a path through the world in the style you choose. Favor military or economic dominance or be a global power intent on discovering every corner of the world. Power and prestige are ripe for the picking, you just have to reach out and grab it.

I have no gripes with this game and I look forward to how it grows, especially given that it has Steam Workshop support, allowing players to easily create and download mods to further customize their experience. Paradox has done a great job making a sandbox where you truly make the rules and take control over your own destiny. The only worry I have is what they will offer for DLC as Paradox has a track record of nonsensical packages, charging money for updated or varied units that they could’ve easily included in a patch. Still, if it’s one thing they’ve done well, it’s make an awesome  strategy game. I honestly wonder though if it’ll beat my current CK2 record of 215 hours played. Time will tell.

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Anthony Magestro

Anthony "Tony" Magestro--or known on the field of battle as Metzge--is an avid writer, gamer, and entrepreneur. When he's not writing, gaming, or entrepreneuring, he enjoys cooking, trippy movies, and trying to be awesome to varying degrees of success. Feel free to check out his LinkedIn page, especially if you need freelance help with content writing or digital marketing. Or just like to network, that's fine too.