March of Europa
I have a large, glass cabinet in my office. In it are boxes… or should I say little box shaped works of art that contain old fashioned floppy disks (uh huh) and CDs of some of the best games that have helped shape PC gaming to what it is today. Among them, you will find every Wing Commander game ever made, Baldur’s Gate, Transport Tycoon and Alpha Centauri – just to name a few. In the midst of these giants of old, sits an unassuming black box with big yellow letters on its side that read “Europa Universalis”. When I bought that game 12 years ago, I could not have guessed that it would become a template for almost 20 games and an inordinate amount of expansions. And Paradox shows no signs of slowing down: March of the Eagles – the title on review here today – is only one of two ‘Europa’ games slated for release this year.
As the title suggests, March of the Eagles is about the rise of France under leadership of Napoleon. The time period is one that speaks to the imagination as Europe knew several superpowers of which France was only just coming into its own. Napoleon had a grand vision for France and Prussia, Great Britain, Austria and Russia were more than a little suspicious of his motives. With tensions mounting, war would prove to be inevitable and in March of the Eagles you take control of one of Europe’s nations to strive for power.
It’s a map
Paradox’s grand strategy games fully play out on a campaign map. Sometimes you are playing in Europe, sometimes in Japan, but that core element never changes. You select the nation you would like to play, the map zooms in and you’re on your way to achieve greatness. In the case of March of the Eagles, greatness means changing history. Your goal is to become the dominant power both on land and at sea and you have 15 years to get there with war as your only available option.
The ‘Europa’ games have always struggled with their user interface. It is not the actual handling of the tasks at hand but the sheer amount of information that is made available to the player that can be overwhelming to new players. Veterans of these games would argue that it adds a level of depth not seen in any other strategy title and I’m inclined to agree. March of the Eagles cleans up a lot of the usual clutter. It features a solidly thought out hint system in which exclamation marks are shown with every possible bit of information on the screen. Click them to reveal the accompanying description and push the ‘disable hint’ button on that window to make the exclamation mark go away. The result is that you get the information when you are ready for it, rather than having it force-feed to you at the very start.
The desire to streamline the interface does have its drawbacks though. Europe’s many provinces can be upgraded with Forts, Ports, Supply Depot’s and more. The window where this is done is dry and unimaginative as it doesn’t make it beyond showing a name of the upgrade along with the cost involved. It is just a barren, very short list.
To be fair, I doubt you will be spending a lot of time doing any upgrading at all. When a basic Fort costs 2500 ducats, the equivalent of 2 years of net income starting as France, it doesn’t seem like a worthwhile expenditure for a game that is supposed to last 15 years. It is almost as if the developers have tried to steer you away from building those until you have conquered a quarter of the map and have enough income to build these… when you no longer need them.
Great work was done on fine-tuning the interface.
Apart from the interface, there’s little to no innovation.