Every true gamer eventually has to branch out from COD, 1st person shooters, and trash-talking 12 year olds online who have entirely too much time on their hands. Well you young whippersnappers, it’s time to branch out.
Sit down, start that plan to build a glorious empire, and sip on some quality scotch while you do it. Make good use of your terrible PC, download Steam if you don’t already have it, and pick up Europa Universalis 4. (EU4) It’s time for you to become a man.
The makers of EU4, Paradox Interactive, have also developed other known gems and renown classics such as the Europa Universalis series, Crusader Kings 2, Hearts Of Iron 2, and have been involved in games like Mount and Blade: Warband, Galactic Civilizations 2, Magicka, Majesty 2, and the list just keeps going. Simply put, these guys know how to make quality games with tremendous replay value.
Now I won’t Mass Effect 3 you. Metacritic users have given EU4 an 8.7 on top of positive 87 ratings of media review scores so you know its good. In fact as one publication has stated, “Europa Universalis IV is the game you graduate to when you’re tired of Civilization.” Yea, they went there and they are quite correct.
After the colossal disappointment that Civilization 5, this statement couldn’t be more accurate. EU4 however pulls no punches in its features. It’s an empire building theme – technically a grand strategy game – that is based on one simple and very inconvenient truth, “In reality, ideas have consequences.”
The same is true in EU4. It’s been kindly lauded as a “Genocide Simulator” by April Williams at Gamemoir when it comes to colonizing the New World. I actually suggest reading the last half of the review as it represents a quality observation of what happens when historical narratives are just too “uncomfortable.” In order to leave you with the proper SJW taste of apprehension in our mouths, bitter as the cud, prepare yourself for some choice quotes as to why you really will enjoy shaping history in your own image.
The Uncomfortable Truth
“I knew going in that I’d playing a game about a topic that, in real life, is horrifying to my (white, privileged) progressive sensibilities. I thought I was prepared for it.”
Apparently she wasn’t. Nothing can apparently prepare you for games that deal with history, except for actually reading said history. Upon interacting with the natives, she came to a dark conclusion.
“The problem with this game is not that you can colonize the New World; the problem is that this game only includes the New World so that it can be colonized.”
Fun fact: Colonization of poorly unprotected or sparsely populated areas has another earlier and more nasty ancient name – conquest. Ouch.
“For a game about creating alternate histories, Europa Universalis IV has some very firm opinions about what should happen to the peoples living in the parts of the world that aren’t Europe. None of them good. I don’t mean to say that it endorses genocide, merely that it doesn’t question it. The game accepts it as natural, inevitable, and unworthy of comment.”
A game based on shaping history must include all the uncomfortable “trends” and realities of what actually happened in history to allow you to create your own. There is a reason the accomplishments of the Aztecs, the Maya, the Cherokee, and the Creek aren’t particularly noteworthy in comparison to the Europeans who took their land and what they did with it later.
No, it’s not because the victors wrote the history book. It’s because the ideas of a culture have consequences and those ideas determine whether that culture will survive when it interacts with other cultures or if it will perish. This might not be fair, but it is simply the reality of history. It’s nasty, dark, and filled with blood and no amount of wishful children’s book and whitewashed Disney characters is going to make politically correct. EU4 will allow you to experience this is in all of its glory – expect you alone will be responsible for the consequences of your decisions.
Reality and Planning
In regards to reality it does and did take a lot of planning. Think Columbus, Genghis Khan, or the schemes of Bismarck. This is a game that takes planning and lots of it. This isn’t like one of the Total War Games. You need to have a reason to war – a casus belli. More then likely you will need allies to back your play, sufficient financial reserves for wartime, and the necessary points to take in the new land and integrate into your empire.
Even then, you have to be careful. Expand too fast and other nations take notice of it. Diplomacy becomes even harder. Did I mention how big of a deal religion is in EU4? You get a lot less tax revenue from a newly acquired Sunni province if your national religion isn’t Islamic. Religion also plays a big part in Royal marriages and helps to either make potential alliances and wars easier or harder.
Planning will take time. In EU4, it literally takes 365 days to go through one year, though luckily you have 5 choices of speed to adjust to your preferences. You’ll need this though as it might take nine months to raise an army, two months to march to a nearby province, and at least a year of sieging to occupy the province. The actual peace treaty itself might not come for a few more years depending on if you still have more war goals to attain. (Better hope you have enough manpower to sustain a longer war—troops just don’t grow on trees.)
Your choice of country will determine just how difficult building your empire will be. It’s safe to say that France is a much easier choice than Navarra is. If you decide for a real challenge try a non western nation—specifically Native American or African. For example as the Iroquois, you will have to Westernize as soon as you possibly can when you are finally exposed to the new colonies established by Western nations near your borders.
If you don’t, you will be crushed in combat, your trade will fall short, and your economy just won’t generate as much ducats to keep you competing with the Western Empires. It will only be a matter of time before you are annexed into a more worthy empire. Even the help of every local tribe in the area won’t be enough and ou will most likely have to pick a colonial ally—French & Indian War anyone?
Additional Features And Final Thoughts
Western ideas in EU4 simply are superior. You must adapt to those ideas or perish. Multiculturalism doesn’t exist in this game -unless half of your empire has a differing dominant culture. As Japan, Manchurian culture ended up becoming acceptable in my empire because I had conquered a substantial amount of China in 200 years and their culture were beginning to have an effect on my own.
You will learn much from this game – not only historical – but your knowledge of geography will finally become more then adequate. This game is a potential time drain in the hundreds of hours. This is quite simply the Skyrim of grand strategy games and that isn’t an analogy I make lightly.
One thing I’ve noticed and started to enjoy is that Paradox continues to make updates and patches to improve the game—many of them being free. Ten dollars average or less DLC packs have also been released that bring new dimensions to the game that greatly increase the richness of the experience.
These aren’t the usual DLCs which maybe give you a few hours of gameplay, but rather refine, integrate, and expand the already existing gameplay and features of EU4. Price wise, steam sales can be a perfect way to grab the DLCs for even cheaper the normal listed price.
In EU4 the course of history is indeed all up to you. Will you against all odds turn Ethiopia into a 18th century Juggernaut? Will you preserve the Byzantine Empire? Or will you turn Bohemia toward colonization and a New World trading power? At some point, I am going to take the time to turn Armenia into the dominant power in the Middle East and take my rightful vengeance against the Turks.
One warning—this game may suck up hundreds of hours of your lives. When you go on Steam and see the recommended posts for EU4 – you’ll notice just how many of those have 100+ hours listed. So make sure to take a break and socialize—fine women await your conquering prowess in the real world. You can always come back.
Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Death threats?