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Europa Universalis III

Score: 89%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Paradox Interactive
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 32
Genre: Strategy/ Turn-Based Strategy/ Simulation

Graphics & Sound:

Europa Universalis III is brought to us by long time strategy guru Paradox Interactive and delivers a wealth of gameplay that aims to please diehard fans, and perhaps make a few new ones in the process. EU:III employs exploration, trade, warfare and diplomacy to craft your adventures and empire, from 1453-1789. Are you ready for this immense historical challenge?

Graphically, this title isnít one to bowl you over with flashy effects and high-end requirements. Instead, like most true-to-from strategy games, you will spend most of your time staring at various menus, map screens and data displays. Lots of text, lots of graphs, and basically, just lots and lots of reading. Still, there is a certain sleekness to how it is all put together. 3D menus and other map interface options are brightly lit, with various pictoral representations of leaders, generals and the like. Little touches like mountainous terrain, rivers criss-crossing massive continents, and the ability to zoom into various town and cities and view your buildings, round out the visual highlights of this latest edition.

Moving onto the sound department, a pretty solid orchestral score highlights much of the game, and provides a quality backdrop to the epic struggles that you face, and even the mundane tasks of taxation and the like. More specifically, the music heats up when you enter the fray, and resumes its placid tune while engaging in less barbaric pursuits. Lastly, the sound effects are pretty minimalist, but they get the job done. Overall, the visuals and sounds do not detract from the core value of this title: the gameplay!


Gameplay:

Well nowÖ where does one beginÖ? A myriad choices present themselves from the start. After you immerse yourself in the handy tutorial, you can choose to lead one of around 300 nations through history. And you arenít locked into a certain starting date either - any time between 1453 and 1789 you can begin your quest for glory, or jump to specific moments like the American Revolution and play out the drama with our Founding Fathers. At the outset of each era or nation, the game gives you a nice summary and outline of various relations from your military, economy and so forth. The amount of detail is pretty staggering.

Besides spending a wealth of time managing your own little slice of the world, the intelligent A.I. will counter many of your own moves, and those of your neighbors, not unlike in the actual period years ago. Donít fret too much if all this seems too much, as you get up to 3 advisors critiquing your moves, giving suggestions on the next best course of action and so on. I canít tell you how many times I was a bit lost and fell back on my team of sages to lead the way. Much of what you do also depends on researching the right line of technology, government and so forth. Monarchies can transition into Democracies and so forth, in an ever-evolving and changing landscape - 17 governmental types in all. To add some flavor to your nation, you can employ around 30 different foci such as exploration, religious pursuits (crusades, missions) and much more. One of the more important areas might just be religion, something that also mimics factual history. Falling out of favor with the ruling clergy, such as excommunication by the Catholic Church, is never a good thing; so make sure you keep those in power behind you.

My review copy even included a few specific locales to test out the many nuances of the game. One of the notable ones was the Ming Empire setting, where your back was against the wall, facing a tough A.I. opponent with many military and economic advantages. However, you have a bona fide army yourself, complete with a vast cavalry force and strategic positions throughout the map. You could also follow your initial assault up with infantry to finally seal the day - but what do you do exactly? These kind of questions abound at every turn in Europa Universalis III.

Combat itself is presented fairly clearly as well, with the various modifiers like terrain, leadership abilities and more affecting deployment and actions. There is even an interesting caveat to this latest installment of EU- the military tradition. This feature enables you to gain valuable experience in waging war, and the more you fight, the better you get, although it does go down over time. An impressive arrangement of units are at your disposal as well: infantry, cavalry, archers, ships, and more, with elite units like the Scottish Highlanders or the French Gendarme noble horsemen. Forces will automatically replenish themselves based on allocation of support, so some of the micromanagement is taken care of right there. If you are a sneaky bastage like myself, you may even employ the use of the newly added spies, who can cause an insurrection or two, assassinate a high level official and so forth. And last but not least, up to 32 players can duke it out in some colossal multiplayer sessions, via LAN or via their in-game browser.


Difficulty:

Gamers who havenít faced the likes of EU may be pretty overwhelmed at the onset. Thankfully, there is a nice tutorial that explains the basics of the gameplay, on how to manage your economy, fight wars, balance political decisions and more. Without this handy feature, I myself would be lost stillÖ

You have to realize... this isnít a simple RTS involving a few world management details, like say the Total War series. Rather, this is an all-encompassing historical process, built from the ground up from a hardcore group of game developers intent on catering to a group of equally hardcore strategy buffs. But fear not, if you have a modicum of intellect and enjoy history, politics or the military, then you should eventually overcome the steep learning curve.


Game Mechanics:

The menus in Europa Universalis III are pretty dang smooth to navigate, quite a surprise from my initial assumptions. I feared a futile effort in sorting through countless bubbles and text boxes, only to quit in frustration. Occasionally, you may feel a tad overloaded with info, but just take a few deep breaths, consult your advisor or game manual, and everything should be alright in the end. As far as the camera goes, being able to zoom into various levels of conflict and cityscapes was also quite effortless.

Overall, Europa Universalis III is another standout edition in this already classic franchise, and one game that is sure to solidify the PC as the place for strategy enthusiasts to dwell for a long time to come. It combines an epic historical scope, with a silky smooth interface and enough solid presentation values to earn high marks from this reviewer. There is an online demo for those curious about how meaty this title really is, but for those whom the strategy bug has already bitten, go ahead and grab this sucker right now.


-Tybo, GameVortex Communications
AKA Tyler Whitney

Minimum System Requirements:



1.9 GHz or better, 512 MB of RAM, Windows 2000 or XP, DirectX 9.0c, 128 MB of VRAM, 1 GB HD space
 

Test System:



Windows XP, Intel P4 3.2 Ghz, 1GB of RAM, ATI Radeon X800 XL 256MB

Sony PlayStation 3 Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII Nintendo Wii Metal Slug Anthology

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated