The Europa Universalis franchise was the first Paradox series that I ever played, so I have eagerly awaited Europa Universalis IV. The hype around the launch (and the fact that the game was released on my birthday) with their Call to Arms event (sadly I did not win a trip to Paradox Studios to play the game with Johan and the other developers) only intensified my anticipation. After playing this game for nearly every spare free minute for the past three weeks I can honestly say that this anticipation was not unfounded. In EUIV Paradox has left the things alone that work well, and the changes that were made are fantastic.
An historical epic
If you are new to the series, Europa Universalis IV is a game that covers the time frame from 1444 all the way to 1820. Just like every other Paradox grand strategy title, you can choose to play as any country that existed at the time that you select to start the game. This game is a strategy lover’s dream—and the visuals and music are just as fantastic. Just looking at the country select menu to start the game gives you an idea of what you’re in store for.
One of the major differences between EUIV and EUIII is the new points system. In past games your monarch (or equivalent if your country is not a monarchy) had skill ratings in administration, diplomacy and military that were added directly to your technology research in that respective category. In EUIV your ruler still has these ratings but they are used differently. Now those ratings add to a pool of points in each category. You can then use those points to do things like researching a new technology, building buildings, increasing your national stability, making a recently conquered territory a core province for your nation, quell rebels, recruit generals, explorers, etc. Almost everything you do requires some number of points in one of the three categories. The more difficult the task, the more points it takes. You can only have a max of 999 of each type of point so you should definitely spend them. The most expensive thing I’ve found so far is researching a new technology which should cost in the neighborhood of 500-600 points depending on bonuses and such. Besides your monarch adding points you can also gain or lose points by random events, or by hiring advisors. You get one advisor for each type and the more powerful the advisor the more expensive they are in both initial cost and monthly salary.
In past Europa Universalis games there were sliders that you used to control how much you put into research in each of the technology types, national stability and your actual treasury. The slider system has gone away in EUIV and now your income is only based on your income (trade or otherwise) minus your expenses. Your expenses are things like your advisor’s salaries, army and navy maintenance. I actually think disconnecting technology and stability from your economy is a great improvement and it makes the system much simpler and easier to comprehend.
Ideas and Missions
In EUIII you had national ideas that you selected one at a time based on your technology level. In EUIV this has been condensed into Idea Groups and you can progress in those groups by spending your monarch points. You can only have as many Idea Groups active as your technology level allows. Each Idea Group uses a different type of point to unlock further ideas in that group. The Offensive Idea Group requires Military Points, the Exploration Idea Group requires Diplomatic Points and the Economic Ideas require Administrative Points, for example.
In addition to Idea Groups you also have national ideas. These are unlocked for every third idea that you buy. These national ideas are unique for the 47 greatest nations (complete list here) and for any other minor nations they get national ideas based on what their culture or religion is at the start of the game.
You will also start with three national missions to chose from. These can range from making one of your controlled provinces a core of your nation, changing the religion of a province to your state religion, taking a province from a neighbor, or increasing your national stability. Once you complete a given mission you will get a reward for completion. If you want to cancel a mission you think you can no longer complete you can do so, but at the cost of not being able to select another new mission for some time.
Trade is the second major change to the game from previous EU versions. In previous games there were Centers of Trade that were tied to a specific province (and you could create new ones) where all the trade income flowed through. In EUIV there is a set route of trade that flows through “Trade Nodes”. These nodes are in major places of trade, but they are not tied to a specific province, but instead each province belongs to a specific node region. The more provinces you control in a specific node the more trade power you have in that node (and the more money you can collect in that node.) Your merchants do one of two things, they can either set up shop in a node and try to collect gold from that node, or they can try to steer any trade in that node in a specific direction. For instance trade in Caribbean Trade node can either go towards the Chesapeake Bay, Sevilla, or Bordeaux trade nodes. If you are playing as Castille/Spain and you have a presence in the Caribbean you would obviously want to steer the trade towards Sevilla. One reason for sending trade on rather than collecting it outright is that you can collect trade from the node that your capital is in without using a merchant. One new thing with EUIV is that you can now also use light ships to “patrol” a trade node and that will increase your trade power in that node. In this way your military units can actually increase your income. Of course being light ships, you’ll want to protect them with bigger ships or risk pirates (or other nations) trying to capture those ships.
One of the foci for the major powers of the time period was colonization of newly discovered lands in the Americas, the coasts of Africa and the Far East. Colonization is a good way to get additional income, but the process is pretty slow to start. First you have to worry about your colonial range. This range is based on your technology level. In order to get North America from Europe initially, you’ll have to island hop from the Azores, Cape Verde or the Canarias. If you do not start as Castille or Portugal you’ll have to either take these islands by force or gain fleet basing rights. Once you increase your technology enough you are able to reach the Americas from mainland Europe, though. If you get too far from known ports your ships will suffer huge attrition penalties and eventually be lost if they don’t make it back to port. To claim a colony, you have to have a colonist available and then you can send them to a province in range to try to start a colony. A new colony starts with 10 population to begin with, and will gain roughly 100 per year. If your colonist stays in the province, they have a chance each month of bringing in additional population. Once a colony gets to 1000 population you can start construction on buildings in the province. Each province also has natives that live in the province. These natives have a specific population as well as an aggressiveness rating. The more aggressive they are the more likely they are to attack and kill your colonists. You can send in military units to protect the colonists and can spend military monarch points to attack to natives. One advantage of leaving the natives alone is that once your colony reaches 1000 settlers any native population left is added to the population of the province. You get one colonist for the first Exploration Idea, one for the sixth Exploration Idea, one for the first Expansion idea. Also Castile, Russia and Norway all get a bonus colonist from their unique national ideas. As you can see you don’t get many colonists so initially colonization takes quite some time as its a rather slow process until you gain more bonuses to speed up the influx of colonists.
Religion and religious reform was also another major focus of nations of the time. From finishing the Reconquista in Spain and driving out the Moors, to the split from the Catholic Church by the Church of England, religious conversion and reformation played a huge part in the politics of the day. You get a number of missionaries that can be used to try to convert provinces you control from their base religion to your state religion. Most of Europe starts Catholic and you can either chose to continue to be a part of that or lead your nation down the path of reformation. If you want to remain Catholic influencing the cardinals (and hopefully having a cardinal you control eventually be elected pope) is a huge factor in your game. You will have events that can either increase or decrease your Papal influence. Obviously having good relations with the Papal states is a good start. If you control the cardinal who becomes pope you get a myriad of bonuses that will help your nation. These include stability and production bonuses, increased missionaries, and ability to have casus beli to declare war on infidels. If you do not want to be a part of the Catholic church you can try to lead your nation to a Protestant or Orthodox reform. Of course you could play as the Ottomans or other Islamic nations and fight against the spread of the Christian religions. Your nation will have a religious unity rating as well as a tolerance for other religions. These ratings can be increased or decreased with events.
Multiplayer is now fully integrated into Steam and you can even hot join games in progress (with approval of the game creator). I have not played too much multiplayer with this game yet, but I did hop into a few games and play around with other people. It’s definitely a much different game when there are other humans controlling your neighbors rather than the AI. I have never really even played multiplayer Paradox games, but the ease in which this is possible now definitely will make me much more likely to play with others.
In conclusion I think that Europa Universalis IV is by far the best game in the series and I can easily see myself sinking hundreds of hours into this game. The replayability is a hallmark of Paradox games and this one is no different. It takes a bit of getting used to the complexity however the new hints and tips screen that pops up is greatly useful for getting more information on what is happening in the game if you get lost. Europa Universalis IV is out now and is available on Steam. There are Steam achievements as well, however to be eligible for those achievements you have to play in Ironman mode, which is a cool new option that saves the game in the cloud and only saves the game upon exiting the game. Since you only get one save game per nation you cannot go back to an earlier save and reload if a battle goes wrong or someone declares war on you when you are unprepared. I have never played this way in past games but I think it’s a great addition that really makes you think about your decisions as you have to live with them (good or bad) or start completely over. If you are a fan of strategy games or of the Renaissance era then definitely go and pick this game up. You will not be disappointed. You can buy the game anywhere you find PC games but they all activate on Steam. In my opinion, Europa Universalis IV is easily the best strategy game of 2013. Now if you’ll excuse me I have more natives to convert to the one true faith so I’ll be going now. See you in the Age of Exploration!