Europa Universalis III Review

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Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Paradox Interactive

Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium 4 1.9 GHz, 512 MB RAM, 128 MB DirectX 9.0c compatible video card, 1 GB HD space, internet connection for multiplayer, Windows XP or more recent operating system

It's one thing to study history – it's an entirely different thing to make it. Europa Universalis III won't get your name inscribed in the encyclopedia, but it will allow you to rewrite world history from 1453 to 1789. This latest game in the Europa Universalis series offers more options than previous games, while still allowing players to run any nation and pursue paths from diplomacy and exploration to war.

Kyle Ackerman

Europa Universalis III is the pinnacle of its genre, bringing the strategic and diplomatic play of Paradox's earlier games (such as Europa Universalis and Crusader Kings) to new heights – but without going the extra mile to bring new gamers into the franchise. Folks familiar with the series will greet Europa Universalis III like an old friend ... who's returned with a rocket ship, a lifetime supply of candy, and the coordinates of a pleasure planet. But novices will find the series as impenetrable as ever.

In that way, Europa Universalis III is reminiscent of Dominions 3: The Awakening. Both have emerged as the game of choice for a fanatic (but niche) audience, and are challenging to learn. As in Dominions 3 there there are improved tutorials. Unfortunately, Europa Universalis III's tutorials amount to a slideshow of game functions. The crumb trail is enough to get veterans back into the swing of things and introduce the game's new features. It will not, however, teach a newbie much beyond the user interface. Real knowledge can only be gained through trial and error. Lots of errors.

Despite the hurdles to new players, nearly everything about Europa Universalis III is vastly better than previous installments of the series. Most of all, the user interface is now not only usable, it conveniently provides easy access to information. The game needs more hotkeys (preferably configurable hotkeys), but as long as you have room to mouse, it works just fine. As in previous games, the flow of time can be sped up, slowed or paused (so you'll have time to use the mouse). More importantly, most of the basic information you could want is in one of the corners of the screen, and everything else (short of the manual) can be called up as part of the Ledger that offers an under-the-hood perspective on the world.

The look of Europa Universalis III has changed entirely from its predecessors, as well. While not as pretty as maps of the past, the world is now 3D, allowing players to zoom out to a global-strategic level, or zoom in to see improvements in construction and sieges that are underway. The 3D map offers a lot more information than past installments, and does so more intuitively.

As veterans know, Europa Universalis III is not a military strategy game. Certainly, war is a speedy (and often costly) path to victory, but diplomacy is the watchword of the hour. Not only must players manage relationships with all of their neighbors, they must deal with the maneuverings of the Papacy and the machinations of the Holy Roman Empire.

The robust diplomacy model makes advantageous marriages simple, and declaring war difficult to do while maintaining your people's trust. There are over 250 countries spanning more than 1700 land and sea provinces. Some nations occupy only a single space, while others are vast empires. Including all of the sliders to manage policy, possible advisors and build choices in every province, there is a lot to keep would-be-monarchs occupied.

Sadly, there are some technical issues that drag down the game's overall score. The game did cause repeatable installation problems on one machine (corrupting drivers) and suffered occasional crashes on multiple machines. The autosave function renders these little more than a nuisance, but a nuisance nonetheless.

Despite these problems, the game features excellent music and incredibly deep play. Events in Europa Universalis III make more sense than in previous installments, and it's incredibly fun to expand beyond Europe and colonize the rest of the world (or rudely subjugate the indigenous cultures). Finally, while the computer poses a significant threat, it's possible to jump in and play multiplayer games of Europa Universalis III to ensure you have challenging foes or reliable allies, making this an exciting opportunity for gamers with the urge to dabble in sixteenth century politics.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on January 20, 2007 8:20 AM.

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