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Europa Universalis Review
publisher: Strategy First
developer: Paradox Interactive
P200, 64MB RAM, 200MB HDD
|ESRB rating: E
release date: Feb 02, 01 (released)
|» All About Europa Universalis on ActionTrip|
Nikola "Bunny" Zakic
There are many ways to wreck your own life. One of the best ones includes jumping off a high building. Another good way would be to work for a gaming site where they only refer to wages in future tense. If you don't like the first two ideas (you're afraid of heights, and wouldn't really stand the obligation to let your EIC win a multiplayer game once in a while) you still have one final option left. Load up Paradox Entertainment's Europa Universalis and after 96 hours of constant peering into the screen your vital organs are sure to stop responding due to hunger, thirst and exhaustion.
This prescription will only function though, if you are a sim game fan. Sim games are quite notorious for their long lasting campaigns, and lack of sophisticated multimedia. Europa Universalis is sort of an exception as it has pretty good graphics. I mean don't expect 3D graphics with five-digit numbers of polygons per object; it's just a decent 2D game with quaint graphics and animations.
The nations who ruled the world from 1492 to 1792 will have to explore, exploit, expand, and exterminate each other in order to achieve supreme dominance on Earth. This means that the game deals with one of the most turbulent periods in the history of mankind, ravaged by frequent wars whose aftermaths we feel even today.
The game runs in real-time, but you have the option to speed the game up or slow it down, or even pause it. A world map, divided into historically significant regions takes up most of the screen. It contains symbols depicting cities, harbors and troops, and a relatively modest number of options, which make it look like an interactive history atlas. Still, Europa Universalis is a pretty complex game, and the 33 different stat screens only go to prove that. All through ten scenarios (+tutorial) you'll have a chance to play the role of the leader of one of the twenty-two nations, which fought for survival and dominance in this era. The explored and available territory will vary depending on the scenario you pick. Europe will be the center of the turmoil, but that doesn't mean other continents and their nations have been left out. One interesting feature is that the outlook of your map also depends on the nation you choose to lead.
When you take up your royal crown, it'll be loaded with burdens of controlling an entire state. You'll have to organize and command your army and navy, take care of the taxes and the budget, invest in science and deal with trade and diplomacy. These aren't all the things you will be able to do though; you will also have a chance to explore colonize, build, develop and other things that might make you say: "It is good to be the king".
Apart from its obvious good sides, the control sim genre has some limitations. Insisting on detailed representation of all it may incorporate can make playing these games tedious. I might be wrong, but I never encountered a game of this genre where commanding a battle would be solved as well as in any RTS, the building as well as in any Sim-City game.
The compromises this game had to introduce are best visible in manipulating military units. You can muster your forces in form of infantry, cavalry and artillery. There are also two classes of battleships and one transport ship unit. It will be up to you to finance the conscription, determine their leader, and send them to offensive or defensive missions. Of course, you'll have to take care of their morale and supplies. The very battles are non-interactive animations, and you will only be able to determine tactics during sieges.
The multitude of technological achievements will make scientific research almost as important as successful military advance. Unfortunately, technological research is highly expensive and takes a lot of time, and the results are not always visible. The next most important factor would be diplomacy. I think that the diplomatic system presents the main trump of Europa Universalis, as it gives you a feeling that you're actually taking an important part in a living and breathing world. The large number of nations will lead their campaigns and lives regardless of you. During the game you will frequently receive news that a war broke out in some faraway land, or that some countries signed a peace agreement, or that some sick king left his crown to his son; treaties will be signed and broken; alliances will burst... Your enemies will carefully track all your moves and declare war exactly when you have least chance to defend yourself, and if you grow too strong they will start forming alliances against you. Set historical events scripted in the game present a real treat. Unfortunately, even though the game offers a lot of possibilities, the computer opponent will practically always act in accordance with pretty simple scripts it has, so it will soon become rather predictable. This element will therefore show its full potential only in the multiplayer mode.
As I already mentioned, the graphics aren't much, but they are becoming and even pretty detailed in some aspects: You can see weather conditions and climate, and even be able to distinguish different buildings in town. Not much, but likable.
The music score is appropriate for the period in question, and serves its purpose well. The sounds are decent, but there are not many of them anyway. Still, this is another example that this factor is of no importance in the games of this genre.
The AI isn't too smart. The enemies are likely to attack you with relatively weak forces, or attack wrong locations, while leaving their own centers unprotected, but the overall complexity of the game will compensate these flaws and still make the game far from being easy.
The Multiplayer mode supports Internet and LAN, and uses the same maps as the single player mode.
The multitude of scenarios and the length of the game make Europa Universalis a game to play for quite some time. And if I add that you can choose to lead up to eight nations in certain scenarios, and that the gameplay is always different, you'll see that it has immense replay value. The conclusion would be: If you have no suicidal tendencies, you better never play Europa Universalis on your own; always have a friend at your side to turn off your computer when he notices you haven't had any food, water nor sleep for several days.
8.0 Very Good
An involving control sim that successfully simulates the position of a statesman, perfectly balanced complexity which doesn't make playing tedious, promising multiplayer mode;
Poor AI, more room for multimedia improvements.
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