by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Not quite India
I was tasked with finding a passage to India, but rather than heading overland as had been the case for centuries, the newly founded Spanish government (we were formally known as Castile) wanted me to sail west, much to my dismay. I had heard that other fleets had been sent out in previous years and had not returned. Had they been swallowed up by the giant sea monsters known to frequent the waters beyond the Azores? Had the seas been too rough, or had they actually made it and decided not to return? No-one would ever know.
To my fortune, the shipwrights had built a new class of ocean faring vessel which seemed much sturdier than what those other explorers had set out in. So at least I had that going for me. In the end though, it did not matter as I never made it to India either I did not get any farther than an unknown island that we later named Bermuda. The Spanish government rewarded myself and my crew well and from what I hear, have set up a colony on the island as well as a few of the other islands subsequently founded to the south.
A new boat
While my explorers took until the early to mid 1500's to land in the New World, I still felt a sense of achievement that I was able to follow history and colonize the New World as the Spanish. It took me a couple of voyages to do so, as the initial voyages floundered and sank before finding land. It was only after I improved the boating technology that I was able to gain the little extra distance required to travel to American shores. My war with Aragon was a hindrance at the time as well, requiring funds and resources that would otherwise had been spent on improving my nations’ cities, technology and trading prowess.
For newcomers to the series, Europa Universalis has been around since early 2000 and it has always been about warfare, diplomacy and trading on a grand scale. The current iteration, Europa Universalis IV is no different as it retains the grand scale board-game feel that fans of the series have come to know and love, in a pseudo real-time strategy game where gamers take control of a single nation and try to conquer the world.
Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line
Starting out is probably the most daunting thing about any of the Paradox strategy games, so it is highly advisable to visit the tutorial first, even if that tutorial is far from perfect. It does give you a brief overview of the basics required to play the game, but once you begin a campaign you realise that it is also woefully inadequate. The screen is so full of information and choices that you may not know where to start. Luckily you will learn more from a few hours of playing and soon become accustomed to the requirements of running your kingdom or empire.
Depending on the scenario selected, gamers can choose from dozens of nations. From the large Ottoman Empire to the small provinces such as Navarre and from established nations of Venice to the New World nationalities of the Native Americans such as the Shawnee. Each nation offers a different challenge from the next. Smaller nations have trouble building a sizable military but should be able to keep their citizens happier, whilst the larger nations will be able to put together larger armies at short notice but may have trouble keeping their population from revolting. I found that although the game allows you play as the New World nations such as the Aztecs, it is far more beneficial to play as one of the European colonists, which is to be expected considering the game is still holds the Europa Universalis moniker.
Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? Morons.
Although the game doesn't come with victory conditions, each nation has some specific missions that they can carry out and gain points for completing. For example, Castile might have the mission goal of annexing Aragon, one of its provinces or colonizing the New World. Besides giving players some sense of direction, these historically themed missions also give bonuses upon completion.
You have the ability to hire Administrative, Diplomatic and Military advisors, each adding to the nations' Monarch Points in their respective categories. The number of points gained will depend on the quality of the advisor selected. Generally, the more expensive the advisor, the more points you'll gain. The Monarch points can then be spent in a number of ways. Firstly, they can be used to discover National ideas, providing bonuses in each of the three categories. Secondly, the points can be used to research technology that enable better military units, improved naval capabilities and a greater range of buildings within your provinces. The Monarch points can also be used for actions such as increasing stability, changing the culture of a province and recruiting military and naval leaders.
Taxes and trade bring funds into your treasury, whilst army and fleet maintenance wil naturally reduce your savings. Your advisors also have a monthly fee, meaning that there is always a decision to make about how to spend your ducats. Besides money, manpower can also be considered a resource. Armies cannot be raised without sufficient manpower and injured armies can only recover if there are sufficient reserves. Your cities will produce more over time, at varying rates depending on modifiers, but this needs to be kept in mind when preparing for war.
Grand scale, great musical score, some functions have been simplified
Still has a quite a steep learning curve for newcomers to the series and the tutorial is woefully inadequate