On the eve of Gamescom, Paradox announced Europa Universalis IV, the newest effort in the nation building strategy game. I’m a longtime series fan, having been nearly killed by my college roommate for playing the original Europa Universalis with full musical accompaniment. Apparently he wasn’t a fan of the 16th century’s greatest hits. There were long nights of expanding Russia into Western Europe, and assuring English dominion over Indonesia. I spent long nights co-oping with a friend as Italian minor nations in EU2, and led Brunswick in German unification in EU3. Having played every expansion, sweated every decision, colonized every corner of the globe, I know I’ve learned only one thing above all:
I want more.
And now, five reasons why you should be excited about Europa Universalis IV:
The Interface and Visuals
Crusader Kings 2 was a huge jump forward for Paradox in terms of visuals. Strategy games have long had this stigma of “ugly but playable,” but the visual improvements in Paradox’s most recent offering gave the game a much wider appeal. Despite the improvements to the maps and unit sprites in EU3’s most recent expansion Divine Wind the entire graphics situation still needed the sort of overhaul that can only be achieved in a new engine. The Europa Universalis IV engine provides wonderful visuals (as you can see from the screenshots) and now reflects seasons, which, in a game where you’re playing through decades, is a very refreshing change. The game is still a year away, but I’m excited to see what other interface improvements Paradox can come up with.
Some of Paradox’s recent releases (Crusader Kings 2 and Victoria II chief among them) have vastly improved the feel of the combat. While previous Paradox efforts had a very board-gamey feel of two forces coming together, comparing odds and rolling a die, newer titles added the concepts of flanks and position to the combat. This allows a certain amount of interactivity with your armies that didn’t happen before. Maybe your force is better off loading up its left wing while marching into battle: go ahead and do it yourself. EU4’s system changes have not yet been announced, but here’s hoping they’re as dramatic as the introduction of regiments was to EU3’s combat.
The Portrayal of the Monarch
EU games have always held an odd standing with the actual monarch of your country. While they did have an effect on what you were capable of, it wasn’t constraining, and the player was still able to behave pretty much however they wanted, whether their leader was a diplomat, militant or a buffoon. EU4, however, promises that the monarch will have a much greater effect on your country’s behavior. Leaders will, instead of consisting of a few values, have actual personality traits (much more akin to CK2’s monarchs, who behaved rather badly). These changes will provide much greater flavor to the experience, allowing the player to manage their leaders as well as their countries.
Emphasis on Multiplayer
In a world with many, many countries, it seems only fitting that you be able to play the game with many, many other players. I’ve had many sessions over LAN with friends, but have been denied so far a cohesive online multiplayer experience. Humans are much more wily opponents than the game AI (when this ceases to be true, I imagine we’ll be spending our time bowing down to our robot overlords and not playing games), and so an overhaul of the multiplayer is welcome. Hot-join, matchmaking, and stand-alone servers are all welcome additions. Any features that allow me to force my friends to cede me half of their territory are good ones.
Any Excuse to Play Europa Universalis is a Good One
Europa Universalis has long been a best in class nation sim. I can talk about upgrades and additions all I want (trade, modding support, improvements to the historicity, and many other changes), but the best thing about EUIV is that it means that more people get to experience this wonderful series. Paradox, with Crusader Kings 2 and Magicka, is getting a lot more attention from the gaming community at large than it used to. Europa Universalis IV is an opportunity for the series to get the recognition is deserves, alongside Civilization and others, as one of the best strategy series ever made.