Let me start this review off by saying that the hardest part of writing it was trying to stop playing the game long enough to actually write about it. It’s that kind of game. It’s a game where you sit down at the end of the day to play for a bit then suddenly, all at once and without warning, it’s tomorrow. Right now I’m telling myself that my screenshots could be better, that I may have forgotten the name of a key game element, or that I should play more of the multiplayer so that I can discuss that part of the game in more detail.
This is all an excuse so that I can play for one more night. You see, I want to know if things had been different. For instance, could Ireland have become one of the world’s dominate naval powers, push the English off their land, and storm London 300 hundred years before Queen Victoria was ever born?
Europa Universalis IV is a game that allows the player to take control of any civilization that existed from November the 11th 1444 until the early Victorian period and steer the fate of that country going forward from there. You have an absolutely incredible amount of flexibility in how your country is shaped.
Where many other games focus on war, diplomacy, or trade, EUIV does all of that, most impressively it does it all without any one element feeling less viable or over powered. You may send ambassadors or fling insults, forge claims to neighboring lands, arrange marriages, crush you enemies, collect intelligence, bribe cardinals, dominate trade routes, and colonize the new world all at the same time.
The tradeoff here is that Paradox Interactive had to sacrifice accessibility for complexity. You will need to learn to play the game. There is an in game tutorial and a very helpful tip window that allows you to bring up summaries of game features and related topics by clicking on relevant parts of the screen.
However, I implore you to read the manual because I’m over 40 hours deep into EUIV and there are parts of the game that I still barely understand. The amount of menus and submenus is going to overwhelm some people. If you find yourself feeling defeated, just ask yourself one question, how badly do you want to make history your bitch?
The thing that helped me to finally be able to navigate the interface was the realization that that the game divided everything into administrative, diplomatic, or military actions. You receive points in each of these categories to perform certain actions and in response to certain random events, or you have to save them up to cash them in to unlock new technologies and eventually ideas that allow you to kind of customize your technological growth.
However, even actions that don’t require points are generally located near other actions of the same kind, so generally you just find the menu that allows you to interact with the map that you want to interact with. Then, ask yourself if this is an administrative, diplomatic, or military action and then find the sub menu that allows for those kinds of actions.
It’s not entirely foolproof, but it works more often than not. Another important thing to remember is that the game allows you to not only hold the reins of history but to control the flow of time itself. You can adjust the speed that time progresses with to push of a button. If you need to you can even stop it entirely. No actions will take place while time is frozen, but you can still navigate menus and make selections. Don’t forget to take advantage of this if you are feeling overburdened or not sure how to make your next move.
Another thing to remember is that EU IV is not specifically a game about world conquest. It’s possible, but it isn’t easy. It isn’t going to happen the first time you sit down and play the game. At the start of any game you can select a mission which represents a goal you might want to achieve going forward.
The list changes as the game progresses based on how your situation changes as you play, so it’s best to start here and simply focus on protecting yourself and developing technology. Missions make the game feel like it moves forward at quicker pace, and provide structure to the chaos.
For example, if you’re France and you want to end The 100 Year, it is best to focus on improving relationships with your allies, or building your manpower before you attempt it. However determined your friends are to help you or how many men you can call to battle have nothing to do with how well your army can perform in battle, yet each of these things need to be considered.
While that’s happening, you need to make sure the English don’t block your trade routes and your people believe in your actions and don’t start revolting. All this is going to take a while because they didn’t call The 100 Year war a hundred year war for nothing, and it didn’t go on for as long as it did just because it never occurred to anyone to try to stop it.
Europa Universalis IV is quite the improvement over III. The audio and visuals still manage to impress me after playing for almost 30 hours, and in this kind of game these are the things that tend to get stale first. However, watching the season change and birds migrate still hasn’t gotten old, I still find myself zooming in during battles to get a closer look at the action, and music still hasn’t been muted and replaced by my radio. The graphical and audio fidelity isn’t exactly the point here, but it’s nice to see that it has seen improvement.
I also liked that Paradox continues their tradition of support for player mods and player run servers. Player run servers in particular have sort of started going the way of Constantinople, so it’s really fantastic to see a company that isn’t willing to devalue their players experience to increase value of their own bank account. The fact that Paradox went as far as to allow the ease of use that comes with Steam Workshop and given the amount of DLC they have on offer for their games is testament to just how much of a class act they are.
What’s more is that Paradox takes the extra effort to allow you to import your save files from their other historical simulation games. At the time of this writing it is possible to import your Crusader Kings II save into EU IV and begin your rise from the dark ages with the dark ages just as you left it in CKII. I’m sure a save importer from Europa Universalis IV to Victoria II in forthcoming. This kind of support is unparalleled in the game industry today and deserves the highest order of praise.
Europa Universalis IV is simply a joy to play. As both a historical simulation and as a strategy game, it does everything I want it to do better than I expected it to. It is the best game in its genre that I have yet to play in almost 30 years of playing video games. The level of complexity and freedom of play style is exceptional. If you want to play a strategy game, you simply can’t do any better than this.
Europa Universalis IV was reviewed on PC using a digital copy provided by Paradox Interactive. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 10
- Freedom of playstyle
- Mod support
- Player run servers
- I got nothing. If you’re looking for a grand-scale strategy game, this is the game you want.