EU4 21 Aug

Although a steady stream of grand strategy titles have consistently sated our desires for playing the game of political machinations and launching grand adventures of imperial conquest, the series that has been one of Paradox’s first pioneering and most notable titles makes its dramatic return in Europa Universalis IV. EU IV features two campaign modes: Single Player and Multiplayer. Both modes provide several preferred historical starting points as well as the ability to customize your own start time.

Many players would be glad to know that the multiplayer received a bit of a stability upgrade by having it supported through Steamworks rather than the old metaservers of previous games. We found it easier to find games than in Paradox’s other titles and experienced little connectivity issues. Support on Steam also provides easy access to mods as well.

Starting from the waning years of the Middle Ages and the beginnings of the Renaissance in the early 15th century, players are able to control any nation in existence during the various time period scenarios offered by the game’s grand single player campaign. As expected, you will need to combine political, economic, and military finesse in order to guide your nation up the hierarchy of power and prestige within the backdrop of world history.

Though historical events and figures play integral roles throughout the campaign, they do not constrain you to a specific direction as it would imply. Rather, players still have a lot of freedom and flexibility in all aspects of decision-making and strategic execution—a core and essential feature of the game.

Characteristic of the grand strategy genre, there are three main aspects of managing a growing and expanding nation: Politics, Economics, and good old fashion War making. All of these parts are equally important to achieving strategic goals both in long and short term. In addition to retaining many aspects of Paradox’s last major title, Crusader Kings II, such as the extensive dynastic and religious political dynamics, EU IV also revamped the usually more uninteresting part of nation-building—economics and trade.

The new trade system featured in the game involves utilizing merchants to influence and steer the general flow of goods and resources to your nation’s trade nodes in order to accumulate economic dominance over other competing trade routes. Players must also balance this soft power with hard power in the form of military power. Although this revamp was a step up from previous games, including the simulation of trade routes in action, we found this new feature somewhat confusing in how to apply the concepts. It would be a nice improvement if the developer added a more in-depth tutorial scenario in explaining on how the new trade system works and could be more integrally applied. Right now, it seems to function in the background than as a means of achieving greater power.

When one hears of a grand strategy game like EU IV or Crusader Kings II, involving a lot of management across multiple facets of nation-building, some players are automatically overwhelmed even before they start up the game. One of the most noticeable improvements to the series and, and really, the genre as a whole is the overall cleaning of the user interface. Given the immense amount of management as well as important information associated with a game such as EU IV, Paradox was actually able to take the most crucial pieces and transpose it to a more user-friendly set of menus without overwhelming you with unnecessary fluff.

Another notable change is the significant reduction in the quantity of menus and windows that appear throughout the game. Usually a frequent distraction during gameplay, EU IV made a concerted effort to really cut down on the random pop-up news bulletins on events going on outside of your immediate region.

Of course, the nagging question surrounding EU IV is whether or not this has a steep learning curve. The fact is, if you know grand strategy games and have played Paradox’s previous games, it shouldn’t take too long to pick up…roughly a few hours of gameplay. For new players though, it may be a bit to take in all of the mechanics at once. However, the tutorial provides a nice introduction to the basics as well as including a beginner’s scenario to show players how the mechanics come together without getting you bogged down with too much specifics.

The overall feel to EU IV is not complete without its extensive orchestrated soundtrack which is nothing short of spectacular and offers a nice musical progression as you play through the different historical ages in the campaign. Aesthetically, this is one of Paradox’s most detailed games to date with a very intricate map of the world as well as varying environments and noticeable changes in seasons depending on each geographical region.

EU IV definitely fused together a lot of what it has experimented with in previous games with other new concepts to form the most up-to-date formula for grand strategy games in the future. The cutting out of extra detail and gratuitous pop up windows is a plus, but at the same time there could be some better strategic use of more detail in other sections of the game. All in all, players will inevitably find themselves quickly sucked into countless hours of addicting gameplay to write their own history as the sheer amount of outcomes are endless, leaving you wanting more.

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Title: Europa Universalis IV
Developer: Paradox Development Studio
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Platform: PC
Release Date: August 13, 2013
Price: $39.99
Rating: 4 out of 5 “Worth Buying/Trying”