Sunday, 19 August 2012

Review: EU3 Chronicles

Europa Universalis 3(EU3) is the latest installment of Paradox Interactive's flagship grand strategy series. Spanning world history from 1399 to 1821, EU 3's gameplay covers the Middle Ages to the Georgian Era. EU3 offers players a choice of over 300 separate nation states, from across the world, to lead during the game's timespan. Will your nation suffer or flourish under your patronage?

Nation select screen, with advised starting nations
Before starting, players choose a historical period and a nation to play; further game options must also be set before the game begins. Game difficulty is generally based on the starting nation's strength during the time period a player has chosen; some states are historically strong and others aren't. A nation's strength can be measure by wealth, military, size, trade options, political and geographical advantage. Players can tweak their game experience (easy, medium, difficult) by the nation they pick.

The game takes place on a scaled world map featuring seas, rivers and mountains. Nations are split up into provinces and each province may be industrialised by its owner. Knowledge of the world map and provincial features is vital for a successful campaign. Invading and occupying enemy provinces, from sea or land, is often the fastest and most satisfying way to end a war. A fog-of-war clouds the map over neutral and hostile territory, useful for hiding standing armies.

Over the course of the game, your nation will, hopefully, become stronger, richer and much larger; even world domination is achievable with the smallest of nations. It is up to the player to set their own national goals or follow in-game mini-missions. The player has a range of tools available to grow their nation: conquest via direct war and annexation; diplomatic hegemony via vassal states; or inheritance through royal marriage. Making money through trade, tariffs, taxes and production allows players to develop their nations and invest in technological progress.

It isn't always smooth sailing through the Dark Ages and beyond. Hostile neighbors, the Holy See(the Pope), the Holy Roman Empire(HRE), trade embargoes, wars, alliances, spies, discovering the new world, the reformation/counter-reformation, holy wars, revolutions and much more will test your nation's mettle. Fortunately, other nations are also affected by strife, making them easier targets for conquest or diplomatic influence. A game mechanic called "infamy" is the cost for aggressive expansion, too much infamy and your nation will tear itself apart.

EU3's historical setting and absorbing challenge often leads players into learning or reading about historical events, historical figure heads, national unification, the reformation, geography and much much more; I believe this is EU3's greatest value, which is also shared with Paradox Interactive's other series(HoI, Victoria, etc). If you don't like something with EU3, you can always mod it in or out; EU3 is one of the most moddable games available. Modding guides and tips are available online and at the Paradox Interactive forum.

Make no mistake, mastering EU3 takes a decent amount of time. Knowledge of history and geography helps, and increases enjoyment of the game. New players may get frustrated, but choosing a suitably strong starting country allows new players to test the ropes without much hardship. Intermediate and expert players often end up playing the most difficult or complex nations in a given era. EU3 starts nations in historical context, but players and the AI inevitable turn their game into an ahistorical "what if" scenario. Japanese invasion of Europe in the 1500s - go for it.

Players, who are time-poor, might find it difficult to fully immerse themselves into the game. Gamers who are looking for instant gratification will not find it with EU3. If you are a history buff, if you like learning and don't mind taking time to master a game, than EU3 is the game for you. EU3 is a benchmark for grand strategy games and is often a gamers first foray into the genre.

Multiplayer is available over internet or LAN, and it's very fun with friends or relatives.

EU3: Chronicles is available online at Amazon, Steam or the Paradox Interactive website.

-Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.

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