There is a world map on the wall to my right, and large flags adorn two of the three others. The U.S. Declaration of Independence joins a history-laden bookshelf along the fourth. There is a globe on my desk and there are four historical atlases on either side of my TV. I listen to Classical Baroque compositions, constantly. I have a thing for history, and it isn’t hard to tell. Because of this, Paradox Interactive happens to produce some of my favorite games, among them Europa Universalis III.
Think back to the world in the fifteenth century, if you can. The fall of Constantinople, the discovery of the New World, the Hundred Years’ War, the Reconquista. The Europa Universalis series tosses you headlong into this period of time. Choose any nation, any at all, from any time in history from the end of the 14th century right past Napoleon. Want to play an obscure island in the Indian Ocean during the mid 16th century? Go right ahead! Want to go on a pan-European rampage as the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century? Well good luck! Maybe you’ll succeed where history failed. The choice you have in dates in incredible. Not only can you choose the nation and the year, but the month, and even the day. You can take hold of France the very instant it becomes a revolutionary republic, or head off the American Revolution as Britain by starting a few weeks prior. You can even become a daimyo in a Japanese civil war if it so suits your fancy.
Even more beauty comes in the array of possibilities. You can set it so that for your entire time playing as, say, England, you will see all of the historical monarchs of the time come to power exactly as they did historically. Further, all of the famous explorers of history will reach the countries that they did, but beyond that you tell them what to do. You could also set it so that chaos theory reigns supreme, and each new monarch is given randomized abilities and a name not unlike those you would expect of an English monarch. I do recall once having Queen Elizabeth II coming to the throne in the early 16th century, and Augustus I coming to later rule the Empire of Great Britain.
Once in the game, there is so much you can do. A map of the world is laid out, broken into hundreds of provinces, each with their own value, trade goods, culture, religion, population, name, capital, owner, and some have centers of trade. Your nation is composed of a group of these, and from them you can raise an army or construct improvements. A series of national control screens appear when you click on your nation’s flag. First there is the overview, with your leader, bonuses, diplomatic relations, prestige, and type of government. There is a page of sliders that control national policy in areas such as centralization to freedom of trade and serfdom. There is a page of national ideas that focus national interests in specific fields, such as the quest for the new world or reduction of inflation. There is the economy page, where your income is broken down by trade, taxes, tariffs, tribute, and production. Then there are the costs, with interest from loans, army and navy upkeep, and the amount of money invested into research. The research bars have a variety of levels with different bonuses; from the types of soldiers you can recruit to whether or not you can effectively blockade enemy ports. It goes on and on in complexity, which can be an incredible thing if you love it as much as I.
To truly appreciate this game you must play it. It can be incredibly immersive at times, when you feel anger at the betrayal of an ally, or glee when a nation decides to incorporate itself into your own. Europa Universalis III is a shining example of what historical strategy was meant to be, refined in its two expansions to near perfection. Now if only I could formulate a way to take out the gigantic Austrian Empire…