Europa Universalis IV – PC
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Paradox Development Studio
Release Date: Aug 13, 2013
Genre: Simulation, Strategy
Reviewed by Charles Boucher

Review Score: 4 of 5

Paradox has been on a steady upswing for the last few years, and Europa Universalis IV continues that trend. The latest in their series of renaissance grand strategy games, Europa Universalis IV takes bold leaps forward in making the game far, far more accessible without sacrificing its complexity and depth. From warfare to internal affairs, diplomacy to technology, every part of Europa Universalis III has been improved in the new version, the only hiccups coming where revised systems scrape against old expectations.

You step into the shoes of a leader of a renaissance nation, from Austria to Bhutan. It’s Paradox grand strategy, so there’s no real victory condition, even if the game keeps score. Instead, it’s just up to you to guide your nation to whatever heights you shoot for. The ruler, though, is the core of the game. The quality of your leader determines how many points you get towards national actions, ranging from advancing your technologies to specializing your nation with ideas, as well as dealing with internal issues. These are the major bottleneck and pacing mechanism. Going to war might prevent you from expanding via colonization, while making your realm more stable will slow down the pace at which you advance your government.

What’s better, all of this is pretty clear. As opposed to older Paradox games, where problems were all solvable, but the solutions might be obfuscated, now there’s an emphasis on making it so that all the information you need is at your fingertips. When a rebellion is brewing in one of your provinces, you can click on the alert, check for rebel groups, then click ‘Handle It’ to see how you can keep the rebels in their place. When you want to make an alliance, you can see the exact factors that make other nations likely to accept or reject, weighted with numbers. Compared to previous games in the series, it manages to make everything far clearer, without sacrificing any of the game’s depth.

The new systems all manage to add some depth as well. Religion adds a wrinkle to sets of nations, with Catholics competing for control of the Papacy, and Muslims having a slider that moves them between a secular, scientific nation and a religious, warlike nation. Sadly, few of the other religions seem to have as much interesting gameplay effect as the others, but this seems like fertile ground for future DLC.

Meanwhile, the trade system adds a whole new ground for competition and warfare between nations. The world’s been broken up into trade regions, where money is generated by their provincial resources, and flows towards Europe. Controlling territory in nodes helps you push the money home or collect it, and wars can be fought over trade power, and sea lanes controlled to help increase it. There are a few issues, like being unable to establish new trade routes, that limits expansion options (For instance, Japan has no reason, trade-wise, to go to the Philippines, and Spain has no reason to go to North America instead of South America), but by and large, it works very well for providing income and driving conflict.

Presentation-wise, the game’s graphics are functional. They won’t blow anyone away, but you can tell where things are on the map, and generally have a solid idea of what’s going on, though I did have a hard time distinguishing provincial borders and rivers sometimes. The music and sound effects aren’t really worth keeping on.

I didn’t get the chance to try multiplayer, but now that it’s going through Steamworks, I’ve heard that it’s much more functional than it used to be. Players looking to drag a dozen friends into a game as the great powers of the world should have a good time, this time around.

Europa Universalis IV has its flaws, but they’re few and far between, and I can easily see them being fixed in later patches and downloadable content. For now, it’s still an incredibly solid release, and a must-have for fans of grand strategy, and an excellent onramp for players new to the series looking for a way to get into the global renaissance strategy of Europa Universalis IV.