Europa Universalis IV
Years ago, a gaming friend of mine who knew I loved strategy games suggested that I give Paradox Interactive’s Crusader Kings II a try. Since Crusader Kings II is the game that coined the nomenclature “grand strategy” back in 2012, I was intrigued as to what all that entailed.
I dove into Crusader Kings II with the mindset that it would be similar to other strategy games that I’d played in the past, both turn-based and real-time strategy, as well as plenty of 4X fare. Everything from the Civilization and Total War franchises to what I consider the timeless works of art in Master of Orion II and Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings.
Crusader Kings II threw that all out of the window. With a mix of political intrigue, soft power approaches to conflicts, highly advanced diplomacy mechanics, and overall unrelenting complexity, I can now admit that it all scared me away. It was just too much all at once and I also didn’t want to come off as some sort of witless oaf in front of my friend.
Fast forward to 2017, and along came an intriguing little strategy gem called Stellaris. Being an unabashed science fiction geek and lover of space strategy games, Stellaris promised to be an open-ended star empire-simulator of sorts.
Stellaris allowed you to be able to design your own races and go on to determine their futures in massive, procedurally generated universes. Then I saw that it was developed by Paradox Interactive and immediately became a bit more hesitant to engage.
Long story short, after changing my frame of mind (and being a bit more mature to boot) I took the plunge into Stellaris anyway and it’s turned out to be the most enjoyable space strategy game I’ve ever experienced. It was not only more accessible, but the built-in emergent storytelling elements contained within its granular systems was highly addictive. It also got me interested in what grand strategy was.
So, I looked around and found out that another one of Paradox Interactive’s titles, was by all accounts, the pinnacle of grand strategy games. That game was known as Europa Universalis IV, which came out back in 2013.
Grand strategy is a subgenre of strategy whereas you lead a faction over different eras, and the systems at play are usually more in-depth than the latter. In Europa Universalis IV, that means that you take command of virtually any country in the world from the fifteenth century all the way to the Age of Reason (nineteenth century).
This time around I would not be deterred. After getting my hands on all of the wide-ranging DLC that have been come out for Europa Universalis IV, post-release, I steeled my resolve, pushed the experience with Crusader Kings II out of my mind, and once again took the plunge.
If you took the time to read any of the reviews on Europa Universalis IV’s Steam page, you’ll see that many of the folks posting them have hours of playtime listed in the thousands…not hundreds…thousands. That’s because the game has so much nuance and complexity that it’s said you have to invest at least a few hundred hours of play time into it before you can even grasp the basics.
Having now dumped an embarrassingly large amount of hours into Europa Universalis IV myself, I can agree with that notion, completely. It’s the perfect sort of sandbox, “what if” -type of game. You are solely responsible for determining what sort of alt-history you will create for your chosen nation.
Care to form a powerful Confederation of Native American tribes and invade Europe? How about developing a Berber trade empire that spans from China to Northern Europe? You can do it all and much, much more.
Here is a brief list of what I consider the most crucial DLC for Europa Universalis IV so far (not in order of importance:
- Third Rome reworks Orthodox Christianity and expands Russian government types.
- Rule Britannia fleshes out the British Isles including adding more factions to Ireland and Scotland.
- Common Sense adds vassal interactions, theocracy, and parliament.
- Cossacks develops diplomatic feedback and native policies.
- Mandate of Heaven introduces golden ages, edicts, overall making the Ming more stable.
- El Dorado adds automatic naval exploration (which is a big quality of life enhancement as well as much more in-depth South American tribes.
- Mare Nostrum adds naval raiding, trade leagues, and the ability to hire your troops out.
- Wealth of Nations introduces trade companies, naval missions, and inland trade.
- Golden Century also provides naval raiding and trade companies, but adds in pirates, and expands the mission trees of the Maghreb nations of North Africa.
Simply put, Europa Universalis IV has not only dismissed my reluctance to try another Paradox historical title, it has become my favorite all-time strategy game; and that’s a big thing coming from a guy who has played 100 + strategy titles. Just be forewarned that if you dive into this alt-history sandbox, you may get caught in a sinkhole that sucks you away from your significant other, sleep, and real life in general.
Europa Universalis IV features some pretty nice looking graphics that make its strategy gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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