Europa Universalis III

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Europa Universalis III review
Sergio Brinkhuis


A wonderfully intricate strategy game that plays better than it looks

Balancing relationships

That is not to say that the game is easy and lacks challenge. Quite the opposite. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it seems that war is partly declared based on your military strength. If you are occupied by a bigger adversary that has decimated most of your army, it often feels that other countries want to pick up the spoils and declare war on you as well. Suddenly you find yourself fighting a war on multiple fronts with much of your army still very engaged at the original front. And with your allies fairly disloyal, don't count on anyone covering your back. Combine all that with near-constant revolts throughout your entire empire, and you know that you will have your hands full.

The only way to take an enemy out of the equasion is by taking him out completely. But... when you do that, the rest of the world gets angry. Before you know it you will be hated by the entire world, making it hard to make friends. Sending them gifts will improve your relationships but having your friendship maxxed-out is in no way a guarantee that they will not attack. In fact, it is more than likely that you will have given them enough cash to create the war machine that is being sent against you. The balance between taking out bothersome neighbours and maintaining friendly relationships with others is probably the hardest task you will have as a ruler.

Achieving a new technology level gets to be quite difficult at the later stages but almost always feels rewarding. Government, Naval, Production, Trade and Land technologies are all important in their own right. Yet Land Technology is the one you cannot leave without funding. As mentioned, it provides new units but also increases your efficiency on the battlefield. A small army with a high tech level can take out a horde at level 1. Morale also plays a big role; I have seen many battles against larger armies won due to high morale or battles in the opposite situation lost because my men simply ran off the battlefield. Frustrating but realistic.

Terra Stupidida

Europa Universalis has an incredible amount of depth that -for lack of any better description- is easy to learn but difficult to master. One frustrating quirk that I have not mentioned yet, is worse than all the ones mentioned above. What truly drives me insane is the Terra Incognita concept. When you start the game, much of the world has yet to be discovered by your country and large white massess cover the planet as a result. The worst decision that the developers could have made was to designate some areas as 'Permanent Terra Incognita'. These parts will always be white on your map and cannot be traversed. This means that your empire may have a big blotch of white smack in the middle of it, eating away at your patience because you want to control *everything*. Worse still, you can get attacked from neighbouring provinces that you can't see yet. This automatically pushes you into a defensive mode, making it almost impossible to come out on top when a white-covered neighbour declares war. I would be able to handle this were the Terra Incognita to disappear after one or two years. Yet I have had a neighbour attacking me for 80 years before I could suddenly see his vast empire. By then I was so angry that.. well... his empire wasn't very vast for much longer.

But even despite the Terra Incognita and the not always very bright AI, the game keeps luring me back in. To me it is the Volkswagen Beetle of games: It looks like it was designed 50 years ago, it drives like it was designed 50 years ago, it sounds like it was designed 50 years ago but damn it is fun to drive!


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