Paradox Interactive, creators of Hearts of Iron, Crusader Kings and the Europa Universalis franchise, are eager to build the franchise’s following before the release of Europa Universalis 4 (EU4) on PC. As part of what the company calls the Call to Arms campaign, lead developers of the game hosted a live sneak peek of a full multiplayer match on April 25th, and are offering exclusive DLC at launch for those who sign up for the game early and invite friends. The sneak peek is now available on demand at Paradox Interative’s Twitch.tv channel.
Europa Universalis 4 promises to take the grand-scale empire-building strategy franchise to a deeper level of complexity, as the team has worked hard to incorporate fans’ feedback from previous releases. EU4 is built on an evolved version of the engine used to develop Europa Universalis 3, allowing the team to do much more with the new iteration than they could in previous releases. After watching the sneak peek, I was impressed by the realism and historical accuracy of the new title, and fascinated by the deep complexity of the game’s mechanics.
In EU4, players control a nation of their choosing, with historically accurate strengths and weaknesses giving different nations different advantages, disadvantages and strategic options. The developers chose France and Spain in their live demonstration match, but players can choose from a large number of countries from western Europe to Asia. The goal is expansion and conquest, but there are many ways to win. Players can use diplomacy, political conquest, war, or economic domination to expand their borders, competing against A.I. opponents and other players in real time.
In addition to the grand scale of Europe, Africa, and Asia that await players at the start of a game, North and South America can be fully explored and conquered over time, providing what Paradox Interactive promises to be hundreds of hours of gameplay.
EU4 Sneak Peek
Before playing a multiplayer match in the live sneak peek, the developers took a moment to give a quick overview of the game, showing the numerous interfaces used to control the wide range of game mechanics. Diplomacy, Economy, Government, Technology, National Ideas, Stability, and Expansion each have their own interface and map overlay, and each introduces a new set of meta-game considerations for would-be conquerers. The National Ideas interface presents a particularly interesting aspect of strategy — players can choose from a wide range of ideologies to guide their nations’ development, from expansion, exploration, or aggression. The Government interface proved to be crucial in the match, as one player gained a huge advantage by strategically building the perfect mix of advisors to aid his chosen monarch. The Stability and Expansion mechanics control the pacing of the game — players have to balance the political and military stability of their controlled regions against their rate and method of expansion.
The game’s use of trade routes as a major strategic element adds complexity over other titles in the genre. Players gain large advantages by controlling territories in the path of major trade routes, and can benefit further from diverting the flow of international trade through their borders via conquest or political maneuvering.
The realism and attention to detail in EU4 blew me away, and the developers only scratched the surface in the sneak peek. For example, running into a deficit and borrowing too much money from neighboring countries can increase currency inflation and cause players’ costs to rise, and overextending a territory before you’ve established a solid tax income in your existing conquered regions brings on a host of disadvantages. Sieging neighboring countries can cause other neighbors to preemptively attack, as another example, and the religious leanings of different regions can influence political relations. With all of this attention to detail, fans of deep and realistic strategy games will not be disappointed.
Europa Universalis 4 is set to release in the third quarter of 2013. Check out the official website for more information.