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Europa Universalis III Again

March 18th, 2007 by Troy Goodfellow · 3 Comments · Gameshark, History, Paradox

Europa Universalis III is a good game. It isn’t the transcendant glory that its immediate predecessor was. It isn’t as deep as Hearts of Iron II and it’s not nearly as much fun as Crusader Kings. But it does have more going for it than the numerous complaints on the official forum would have you believe.

Not that these complaints aren’t legit. The “slave” resource doesn’t adjust to demand in the New World. Europe becomes dominated by large powers at a ridiculously rapid rate. As I noted in my CGM review, the turfing of historical events and monarchs means that every European power plays somewhat the same, with remarkably little local color in even the generic events. The AI controlled powers often waver between low and abysmal stability. No auto-pause on events or auto-merchants makes for a little more watchfulness than even this sort of game typically requires.

And yet it moves.

In his review at Game Shark, Tom Chick draws a distinction between the hardcore audience of the EU series and those strategy fans who have been intimidated by the history.

The most notable thing about Europa Universalis III is that it pretty much told its hardcore fans to keep playing Europa Universalis II, because they’re doing something dramatically different this time. And this is where average non-hardcore guys, guys like you and me, finally have an opportunity to get on board with these epic strategy games.

The first casualty, and a cause of much consternation among the die-hard fanbase, are hard-coded historical events. Instead of anticipating the scripted dissolution of the Ottoman empire, for instance, you’ll have to deal with the possibility of history not playing it by the books. And that assumes you know the books.

The irony of Tom Chick not thinking he’s a hardcore guy aside, he suggests that the new openness of the game makes this closer to a sandbox game than the other EU games. It is, he says, “different enough to piss of the grognards, friendly enough to lure in the rest of us”.

I think this is wishful thinking to some extent. EU3 is much more approachable than the first two, but still intimidating. The documentation is not nearly as thorough, complete or accurate as that which came with HoI2, and, if Paradox’s past is any indication, will become increasingly irrelevant with every patch. It’s worth remembering, as well, that the other two EU games weren’t mostly intimidating because of the history, which is gone, but because of the detail, which is still there. If you were scared off by the difficulty of raising money or managing exploration, colonization, conquest and diplomacy in real time, EU3’s removal of historical events is not necessarily going to make it easier.

In fact, most of the hardcore EU players were initially interested in the idea of removing hard-coded historical events, mostly because many had fantasies of some sort of dynamic quasi-historical event matrix that would do more than generate border disputes, peasant revolts and colonial rushes.

But Chick’s larger point about this being an EU for the rest of the world holds. In my opinion this is mostly because the detail that could be so intimidating is now more transparent. All strategy games boil down to math at one point or another, but by choosing to make the math more explicit, Paradox never leaves you guessing about what is going wrong. This is especially true in the battles, where the various factors are mapped out quite nicely. (Cavalry is grossly overpowered throughout the game, by the way.) There are four or five different map modes that keep all the important general information at your fingertips.

I think the interface is better than Chick does, mostly because so many Paradox interfaces are terrible. Sure, they could use a proper UI designer, but the customizable list menu, the sound cues, the drop down reminders of debt, revolt and domestic policy adjustments are light years ahead of what they’ve had before. I mostly miss the utility of the right-click for building and colonization.

In spite of its quality, I haven’t been playing a lot of Europa Universalis III, just like I haven’t played a lot of Medieval 2. Part of it is that I played both Rome: Total War and Europa Universalis II almost ad nauseum. Once installed, neither left my hard drive. The thrill is gone from both series to some extent, even in spite of the improvements made in their most recent iterations. EU3 is almost as radical a makeover as Civ IV was, both graphically and design-wise, and I may go back to it if I hear good reports about the upcoming patch.


3 Comments so far ↓

  • Kalle

    I haven’t played much EU3 either. It’s still installed, but after two campaigns I just don’t have that much interest left in it. It’s not that it has much to do withoverexposure to EU2 though, I’d say EU3 is lacking in quality. There are improvements but other parts of the interface are even worse than EU2 and it all comes of as a half-measure. The graphics arguably look worse in 3d than they ever did in 2d, and practically every game throws the same challenges at you no matter the nation (well, European nation).

    I’m not regretting my purchase but I didn’t get nearly as much enjoyment out of it as I thought. Hopefully they’ll do it better with their next game.

  • Natus

    Wow is me! I own EU2, HoI:Doomsday and Crusader Kings. All installed and ready to go, but I’ve only poked around with the first two. These should be games that I devour, yet for some reason I can’t get into them yet. Too much RTS in my blood?

  • Kalle

    It took me five aborted attempts before I finally got into Doomsday, it was definitely not love at first sight. EU2 on the other hand… that game had me swooning from the very first date.