Running an entire country may seem overwhelming at first, but if Bush Jr. can do it, it can’t be that hard. With the fourth installment of the Europa Universalis series, released in 2013, allowing you to do exactly that – running a country all of your own – the sheer wealth of options will seem insurmountable, but once you’re actually in the game, it’s not nearly as bad as it first sounds.
Paradox Interactive’s Crusader Kings and Hearts of Iron cover the time span before 1444, and after 1821 respectively, while Europa Universalis covers the intervening period to allow the player to lead and conquer throughout the world as it enters the volatile period immediately after the fall of the Byzantine empire.
The period of time that EU4 covers in particular, 1444 to 1821, is riddled with historical events that changed the territorial outlook of the world, providing a remarkably detailed backdrop for the game to explore. Europa Universalis IV gives the player the choice to step into the shoes of any country which existed at the time, and rise to fame, regardless of whether that choice is to be a powerhouse like France, or weaker and tougher choices like Norway or an American tribe.
In EU4, the individual countries are nearly as varied as they are in reality, differing in many ways such as the initial strategic value of their starting positions, which is expressed in their placement closer to, or further away from, the important trade cities. Resource yields spread over the territories are of great importance as well, as is the very size of your country.
As the game first begins, you may want to spend a fair bit of time getting to know the bits and pieces of the country you chose. Some countries will need to be restored to a point of former glory, while others it may be more fitting to write out new pages for the history books. A history carved out with blood, gunpowder, and copious amounts of revisionism! This is my kind of game.
One of the first things you may notice is that, up near the top of the screen, there’s a rather unique resource tab for this kind of game, which, in a seemingly coincidental happenstance of fate, displays the resources you have available. It’s almost like it’s intentional, somehow.
Now, for the resources that are displayed, the vast bulk of such that you’ll use are considered to be Monarch points, which are broken up into three main resources to spend, namely your diplomatic, military and administration points, which you use to cover a vast amount of upgrades and changes in the game. Besides using them to advance through technology levels, all three of the above mentioned have their own specific use:
If you conquered new territories during your war, they do not belong to you straight away. You have to spend Administrative points, in order for each province to become a rightful part of your realm, depending on how valuable it is. If you do not have enough points to do this, this province will try to rebel against you, and either become independent or return to its previous owner. Essentially, if you don’t have the logistics to manage the province, then you can’t just shove a random peasant on the throne and hope for the best – you actually have to put some organization into running the place.
Now, when you have finally beaten the enemy army, and you are willing to take your spoils of war, you must spend Diplomatic points for each thing you wish to claim from your Victory. Also, if you have conquered territories which were an original part of another country, you can use these points to convert their culture and assimilate the people into your own. If you chose not to do so, you might suffer both production and revolt penalties. In a similar vein of thought to administrative points, the diplomatic points represent using one of your diplomats to negotiate the fine print details of a treaty where the previous, or current, government lists what they’ll let you have if you promise to stop smacking them around. As such, you do still need a diplomat available, but it doesn’t take up the diplomat’s time. It’s amazing how fast people agree to things when held at gunpoint.
And finally, your Military Points, one used for recruiting generals or stomping down rebels before they can form their armies and spawn to bother you. These are important for advancing your military technology, more then other Tech trees, because you always want to keep your units up to par with anybody else on the map. As such, sweeping troops through an area before they coordinate into an organized resistance is helpful, almost as helpful as not sending sharp, pointy sticks against rifles – even three or four tech levels of difference can be a big difference.
Knowing how to use these points, throughout the game, is one of the key points that differs a newbie from the master. If you can keep your tech up to par with other players, manage to suppress the rebels and generally keep peace inside your own country, then you are on the right path for your plans of world domination.
Among the things that you need to fuel these domination plans, other than a black leather suit and a whip, is your “Manpower” resource. This is quite straightforward, you can recruit a certain amount of able bodied man and women into your army, and then have the manpower to reinforce them after each battle. Your battalions will always automatically reinforce themselves, as long as your manpower is not depleted.
Manpower is a bit unique in that it’s a resource that regenerates a portion each month to a maximum value and then caps out, but as Wars usually are, your casualties are far greater then the amount of people you can recruit, so its good to take a few years and rest between wars, recuperate and then go at it again.
Now, if you have ever encountered a history book, you very well know how important Prestige was to the kings and queens of the world, and as such it is a rather interesting feature in EU4. Whatever you do as a ruler, affects the prestige of your country, and through that it impacts almost everything, from the morale of your armies – to trade and relations with other countries. If you are a hostile ruler, who wins many battles, your prestige will quite fast cap at 100, and stay there as long as you are active. But, if you do like to be a peaceful ruler, one who does not fight in wars, and simply keeps to himself, your prestige will be a lot lower, eventually landing at the neutral 0. If you are a hostile ruler who does not win their many battles, your prestige will quite fast cap at -100, so it may not be wise to pick a fight with Russia in the winter, said everyone who ever tried in hindsight, historically speaking. As a stat, your prestige can go below 100, and, regardless of where on the scale it is, it will always shift towards 0, as long as you do not directly affect it with your actions.
Besides all these, you are affected by another three important assets – namely Stability, Legitimacy, and Gold. Stability and Legitimacy are mostly affected by random events in the game. For example, the death of your ruler will destabilize your country, while an heir with a weak claim would lead to said heir having rather low starting legitimacy. These two, stability and legitimacy, are as important as other resources in the game, but are a lot less volatile, and will not change as often as others.
Gold, on the other hand, is most of all related to upkeep and building construction. You will often find yourself hoarding gold before a big war so you can pay for your troops maintenance, or struggle to make ends meet after you have been devastated by the conquering hordes. If you find yourself short of cash, it is possible to take loans, though these will grow in interest the longer you take to pay them back.
Europa Universalis IV is not a game to which an experienced RTS player of games like Starcraft or CnC Generals, can sit down and simply dominate straight away. It’s not your micro or macromanagement that determines are you a successful ruler, but your own cunning and diplomacy skill. Your ability to plan head, read the actions of other players, and know which of your allies are the ones who you can trust and rely on. Over time, you’ll come to learn these things – you will use trade, military forces, gold and empty promises – and eventually, you will crush anyone who stands in your way!
There will, however, be unexpected challenges – EU4 will often throw you a curve ball, either by killing off your ruler or plummeting your kingdom into a civil war and devastation. You will be both betrayed and surprised by the actions of those around you, because in Europa Universalis, looking out for number one is what matters down the line. Even if you form the mighty Russia, you will still need to keep those around you in check, else you might suffer the death of one thousand cuts as you’re picked apart by the dozens of smaller countries that surround you.
Europa Universalis IV is riddled with DLC, yet most of them are mainly cosmetic, and aren’t a must to have in order to play it. Furthermore, Paradox went a step above most in the industry in being surprisingly fair, allowing all players in a multiplayer game to enjoy any DLC the hosting player has purchased.
Overall, in this authors opinion, Europa Universalis IV is a must-have for each and every RTS fan; while it won’t give you the fast paced intensity of Starcraft combat, it will most likely have you sweating as alliances form around you, leaving you with just empty promises and no proof of who you may trust. And, as with most RTS games, the replay value is immense and can easily give you a few hundred hours of game time.
Europa Universalis IV is available on Steam for $39.99 or you can buy the Extreme Edition for $44.99
System requirements for Windows:
Recommended System requirements: Operating system: XP/Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8 Processor: Intel® Pentium® IV 2.4 GHz or AMD 3500+ Memory: 2 GB RAM Hard disk space: 2 GB HD Space Graphics: NVIDIA® GeForce 8800 or ATI Radeon® X1900, 1024mb video memory required. Sound Card: Direct X-compatible soundcard DirectX®: 9.0c Controller support: 3-button mouse, keyboard and speakers Special multiplayer requirements: Internet Connection or LAN for multiplayer Multiplayer: Up to 32 other players in multiplayer mode
Minimum System requirements: Operating system: XP/Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8 Processor: Intel® Pentium® IV 2.4 GHz eller AMD 3500+ Memory: 2 GB RAM Hard disk space: 2 GB HD Space Video: NVIDIA® GeForce 8800 or ATI Radeon® X1900, 512mb video memory required. Sound: Direct X- compatible soundcard DirectX®: 9.0c Controller support: 3-button mouse, keyboard and speakers Special multiplayer requirements: Internet Connection or LAN for multiplayer Multiplayer: Up to 32 other players in multiplayer mode