LGR – Europa Universalis – PC Game Review

[typing] Well, this is new. I actually hurt my back playing the game for today’s review. I was so engrossed in it that I was hunched over in my computer chair, leaning into the screen, just getting sucked into this game world for hours and hours and hours. That– that was not a good idea, but I did it anyway. What kind of game can make me do this? Well… Yeah… Europa Universalis, developed by Paradox Entertainment AB and published by Vision Park AB in Europe in 2000, and in 2001 by Strategy First in the USA. Faith. Power. Wealth. 1492 to 1792. Yes, this is a game with a major
hard-on for historical accuracy, as you might have guessed from
the very specific years on the cover. Mmm, look at all that text. Appropriate that the box is
like 70% text and 30% graphics because that’s pretty close to
the ratio you get in the game, too. And in case you’re wondering, Paradox Entertainment is indeed the
same as Paradox Interactive nowadays, the company currently most known
for games like Crusader Kings II and the upcoming Cities: Skylines. But their own history goes back much further, with their roots in Target Games AB, founded in 1980, but declared bankruptcy in 1999. Having nothing to do with the
American anti-Walmart retailer, the Sweden-based Target Games developed
and published all sorts of games and products, from fantasy role-playing tabletop stuff to miniatures and figurines to computer games. One of these games was the
odd-to-pronounce Svea Rike– it’s as close as I’m gonna get– released in 1997 for Windows PCs, a strategy game where the goal is
to end up as the King of Sweden, by way of resource management, trade and politics. By the time Paradox Entertainment
rose over the ashes of Target Games, Svea Rike had hit its third iteration and a new game using similar ideas was on the horizon. This was Europa Universalis, which was not only based on the
aesthetic and mechanics of Svea Rike, but the name and rules of a board game from 1993, also called Europa Universalis, by Azure Wish Enterprise. Inside the American release of the computer game here, you get the game on a single CD-ROM, the all-important foldout hotkey reference sheet, a Strategy First catalog that makes me
want to spend far too much money, and one heck of a manual. At times, this reads more like a school textbook than documentation for a computer game, and is overwhelming if you’re one of those that likes to read manuals entirely before playing. But for a daunting game such as this, you have to be dauntLESS, so let the manual be the first clue to brace yourself. Europa Universalis launches
with a paradoxical logo or two, followed by a grandiose introductory cinematic, originally narrated in lovely Swedish. [Swedish narrator] You then get a menu that
just screams STRATEGY GAME, which lets you play in either
single-player or multiplayer mode. Multiplayer is where a game like this can really shine, but that’s only if you can find enough people as willing to lose weeks of their life as you are, so we’ll just be looking at single-player. Here, you’ve got ten scenarios, one tutorial, and any save games you’ve made. The tutorial is an absolute must, and even that can take upwards
of four hours to complete. But if you’re familiar with other
Paradox grand strategy games, or are just INSANE, you can sink your teeth into the meat from the get-go. Nine of these ten scenarios are based on specific moments
and wars in colonial European history, but there’s one called Fantasia that’s a real treat. It allows you to just go crazy and mess with civilizations from around the world in a historical context, but without following history to
the letter like the rest of them. So if you wanna go all Sid Meier and try to wipe out China as the Iroquois, this is your scenario. Once you’ve decided on what to manipulate, you can then choose from a variety of
victory conditions and gameplay options. There are four main ways to win each scenario, from gaining the most points by a certain year to taking over the known world. So combine this with the
various empires you can play as and randomized and historical events, and the number of scenarios effectively
balloons to a much higher number than ten. So, this is Europa Universalis. [gunfire and swords clanging] Oh my god. Okay, let me just make something clear: this is a game that can easily take upwards
of 20 hours to complete a smaller scenario, and that will balloon to 40, 60, 80 hours and beyond for a full 300-year reign. If you’re not the type that loves sinking days of your life into a skirmish over a few territories along the outskirts of Catalonia, you can move RIGHT along. However, if you’re like me and that just appeals to you on a deep, carnal level, and you can’t possibly rest until
every last one of those bastards either bleeds out or bows before you, then, my friend, you are in the right place. So pull up a chair and bring some trail mix. Europa Universalis is a real-time strategy game, but it’s not what you think of
when you think of RTS typically, ala Age of Empires and Command & Conquer. No, this is a grand strategy game, and game built on the very foundations of what personal computer gaming used to mean. Alongside things like military flight sims and computer role-playing games, grand strategy and war games are, in my mind, the pinnacle of the term “computer game.” Grand strategy itself is an offshoot
of your mainstream strategy fare, involving political and military
conflict simulation at the scale of an entire nation-state’s resources. That is, you’re not controlling individuals
or placing structures wherever you want, but instead are coordinating a nation’s infrastructure, economy and population on a grand scale. Europa Universalis takes elements
of war games, real-time strategy and kingdom management sims and mixes them all up into a creamy soup of history-soaked goodness. There is no one single goal of the game, and you probably won’t even
be playing the same way twice due to the various starting and victory conditions. but depending on the scenario and your own desires, you’ll be managing anything
from a vast empire to a small nation and expanding it as you see fit. Largely, this will happen through
trade, diplomacy and war, though which of those receives
the most attention is up to you. On the right-hand three-quarters
of the screen, you’ve got the map, which shows any territories you own or have ties with, as well as those of your allies,
enemies and neutral parties. This is also where you’ll be exploring
the known world for the time period, since until you do, it remains terra incognita, all covered up and unable to be interacted with. So producing and moving around
troops, traders and colonists is vital to your expansion, as is sharing maps with allies, if you build up a strong enough relationship. All of THAT stuff happens on
the left-hand part of the screen, which contains all sorts of context-sensitive information for what you’re doing over on the map, as well as stats for things like battles, cities, and your empire at large. Along the bottom, you’ve got a message log which keeps track of all notable events and is most useful if you disable those
messages popping up all the time. And finally, along the top is the status bar for your resources, population,
political stability and the current date. If you’re familiar with Sid Meier’s Civilization, there’s definitely a similar vibe going on here, but the game plays very differently, especially with its real-time gameplay, as opposed to turn-based. In fact, it could be overwhelming
to have so much going on at once, and you’ll be pausing, speeding up and slowing down the passage of time constantly. This and the map navigation are
two of my chief complaints, actually. I just think they could be handled better, and indeed in later games, they are. But yeah, this first game is still incredibly playable, and feels like a distinct entity
compared to the Civilizations and the even the Crusader Kings out there. You know back when I reviewed King Arthur’s Court, and rambled on about how much I enjoy
these types of territorial conquest things? Yeah, so this is all of that taken to another plane of existence entirely. It’s wonderful. The joys of slowly taking over Asia, or Western Europe, or just Ireland, by use of force, trade, shrewd politics,
or even arranged marriages, is just endlessly satisfying. I quite like the restrictions placed on the
gameplay due to the time period, too, since it forces a very specific set
of things that can and will happen. Now this is right when the
Americas were being colonized and world powers were shifting, and there were all sorts of
amazing new resources to trade and new technologies being invented
that were changing the face of war. The gameplay may be overwhelming at times, but once you get used to its quirks, the experience is a comforting one, and keeps me glued to the screen
for an embarrassing number of hours. Sometimes, a guy just wants
to be the next Genghis Khan and wreck the entirety of Asia. Other times, you want to nestle into your island nation and embrace xenophobia. And if that gets boring,
why not convert over to Paganism and rile up the nearby Christian pope? Or claim the throne of Milan by way of some obscure ancestry
that can’t be proven – or disproven – and start a feud that lasts hundreds of years. Ahh, I love this! And the fact that the dynamics of how you want to play and how you’re forced to play will change so much depending on your chosen empire
and financial situation, well, that’s all kinds of impressive. And it shows just how much effort went
into making each scenario so replayable and making the various empires within them unique. What is comes down to is Europa
Universalis is a historical sandbox that is as deep as it is wide, and I never get enough of it. Amazingly, the series only got deeper over the years, and recent editions of the game are
almost mind-bogglingly complex in the most awesome ways. But I still find the original to be a solid title all on its own, and is kind of refreshing to go back to an EU game that isn’t quite as much of a
monster in terms of complexity. After all, for the most part,
the history here hasn’t changed, only the methods to explore that history. So in that way, games like this are completely timeless. And if you enjoyed this look back
at Europa Universe-Awesome, then you might enjoy some of my other videos, as well those that are set to arrive in the future. New videos are here every Monday and Friday, so subscribing to the channel is beneficial if you like that kind of thing
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