by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Paradox’s Europa Universalis series is something of an enigma for me. Each new game released plays pretty much the same as its older brethren, merely offering a setting in a different era and minor differences in production lines, units and graphics. In essence, you and I have been playing the same game for the last eight years. If you are a fan of the series (and there are many), don’t burn me at the stake for saying that just yet. Like you, I keep coming back for more. It is not that I don’t like the game; it is just that I find it puzzling that it has captured and held my attention for such a long time.
With the Vae Victis expansion pack, Paradox aims to enhance Europa Universalis: Rome by giving you new ways to interact with the inhabitants of your republic and bringing individual characters to life. The vehicle for many of the new gameplay mechanics is the Senate which is made up of factions that each have their own agenda. In Rome, you were presented with all sorts of issues that you were required to answer but never before have these answers had such an impact as they have in Vae Victis. They influence directly how factions gain or lose strength in the Senate, and the strongest faction dictates the requests and the demands on you as a ruler.
Senators and other characters may be part of a faction and support their wishes, but they also have their own agenda’s. Neglecting these agenda’s can have disastrous results, especially when a character has a high standing within the republic. Removing someone highly regarded from a position of any kind is now a tricky business. If he is loyal to you, the only downside of such an action may be that his loyalty takes a hit. If he is disloyal however, it is more likely that he will feel strong enough to start a civil war. More than once I was confronted with a country split in half and once the ball starts rolling, it is hard to stop. I found it especially perilous removing generals from their command as they not only split your nation apart, but will have control over an army to boot. Surprisingly enough, these considerations also apply to governors. Players can now assign units to governors, which is a dangerous gambit at best. Soldiers grow attached to their appointed leader rather quickly and their loyalty can easily take a turn for the worst.
Dealing with these agenda’s is anything but easy. The ambition of each character can be seen on the general character overview or their detail sheet. Ambitions may range from getting married to becoming the next leader of the Republic. The former can easily be ignored but the latter is a direct threat to your reign. If you don’t want your nation to split in half, you will have to deal with these high-level ambitions in one way or another. Assassination or imprisonment are likely tools for such people, but if they have enough of a following, this may still result in a revolt. More subtle options are available, such as bribing them to buy their loyalty and in some cases it is possible to arrange your rival to lead a small force into enemy territory. Bought loyalty often fades quickly but sometimes it can be worth your while to continue shoving money in the direction of a skilled general or researcher. Appointing them high-level positions may also help to stem their loss of loyalty somewhat.
Besides the new features, a few old features have changed. A change that I especially appreciated was the fact that governors no longer govern just a single province. Instead, they control an entire region. This alleviates the ever-present hunt for skilled governors somewhat which is a good thing. In previous games I got so tired of finding the best governor for each of my provinces that I just gave up and selected the first one available that wasn’t skilled in combat or research.
Now, on to rating the Vae Victis expansion. While I have enjoyed the new features and changed gameplay mechanics, I have to wonder out loud whether these features are worth the purchase. Sure, the $9.99 price tag isn’t high but for that same money you can buy some great games on Xbox Live Arcade or Nintendo’s WiiWare channel. I know that many fans play the Europa games for weeks on end and for this group of players, Vae Victis offers great value for money. Most other gamers will likely feel that Vae Victis’ payload should have been included in the original game.
No Pros and Cons at this time