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If You Don’t Use This Feature, We’ll Make You

August 14th, 2008 by Troy Goodfellow · 6 Comments · Paradox, Patches

Paradox just released the 1.3 patch for Europa Universalis: Rome, a game that is still a strong competitor for “Most Disappointing Game” of 2008. The patch adds some British tribes, a couple of new resources, changes to the economy and lots of new events and interface tweaks to get you more involved in your characters’ lives and rivalries.

Design wise, the most curious events are related to the omens. In the game you can ask your High Priest to call upon the gods for a specific blessing. If it works, you get a bonus. If it doesn’t, you get a penalty. Since the success rate is, for some bizarre reason, tied to the worldwide power of your religion, you run a big risk of failure if you’re not playing the Greeks or if you don’t use a later Roman start date.

So, of course, many smart players didn’t even bother with omens. Why would you run the risk of a 25% hit to your trade income, even if you have a two thirds chance of success? But Paradox introduced these omens as the centerpiece of their religious “system”, so what to do? How could they fix it?

How about just have random events that will give you good or bad omens for a random deity? That’s what they did, and it’s really annoying. Things are going swimmingly and then, bang, Mars frowns on you and your troop morale falls. Or all of a sudden your population explodes, which is a good thing.

I have nothing against random events, but I can’t think of many random events that force you to interact with a system that you are purposely ignoring. You can still choose to invoke the gods, but if you don’t they will come after you anyway.

Of course, the new system is more “realistic”, whatever that means. The ancients didn’t always choose which god to pay attention to; as often as not an annoying priest would point out that Jupiter was pissed off. But the event system does nothing to fix the basic problem with the game’s religious aspect – it isn’t very interesting and would be better off either re-written or killed.

And that’s my general feeling about the patch, too. The interface changes are great, since I can now tell what event is doing what to whom, but there are still too many characters to track in too many different places. Forcing me to put a governor in every single province means that their stats generally mean little – you will want your best generals as generals and your high finesse people doing research, so your government is a sea of mediocrity. The AI will still do stupid things; a tiny Gallic nation will start assassinating Roman generals, giving me the casus belli I need to plow straight to the English Channel. The AI is still incompetent as a military planner, breaking up large armies so they can be ferried one component at a time.

At next week’s Games Convention in Leipzig, Paradox will announce its new game. Code named “Project Mayhem”, members of the official forum seem to want a new Victoria. I’d prefer a new Crusader Kings, or a completely original design altogether. I do hope that they have learned some lessons from Rome, however. It’s gotten some very good reviews, but overall it is faring more poorly in critical and fan opinion than their EU based games historically have.


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