Paradox Interactive were kind enough at GamesCom 2012 to give us the opportunity to see a very early build version of their recently announced grand strategy sequel, Europa Universalis IV. The Europa Universalis series is a flagship title amongst Paradox’s internally developed games and has seen four previous incarnations (including Europa Universalis: Rome) plus a wealth of expansions and added content, so fans of the series will no doubt welcome the announcement of a new substantive sequel.
Given that the build we saw was in such an early stage of development, the opportunity to go in-depth on many of the game’s mechanics was not available. We therefore focused on some of the significant changes planned for this sequel that will make it different from previous incarnations of the series.
One of the biggest changes that will be introduced in Europa Universalis IV is the way the rulers of each of the grand powers will affect the gameplay: Monarch’s will be given ‘power’ ratings in the three different fields of influence of administrative, diplomatic and militaristic.
Any important actions taken in play have an associated power cost, so rapid expansion would reduce a monarch’s administration rating and forging treaties or alliances would have an associated cost in diplomatic power. This limits the player’s ability to exploit one individual path to victory at the expense of another and requires them to take into consideration the strengths of their monarch in how they plan their strategy.
While power will regenerate over time after being spent, to allow further actions to be undertaken, certain factors will be tied into a monarch’s maximum power rating in a field. Alliances are a prime example, with the maximum number of simultaneous alliances being tied to the faction leader’s overall diplomatic power rating.
Players should not feel strangled by the power ratings of their monarch however, and should a particular area be lacking to the detriment of player strategy a number of advisors can be employed to effectively boost the nation’s ability in any area. An administrative advisor, for example, could be hired as an advisor to effectively raise the level of administration power available to the monarch.
Not only will the power system require players to adjust their national strategy based on their monarch’s strengths, it will also require dynamic changes in strategy should a player’s monarch be replaced. A militaristic monarch may have used their power to develop large army and navy resources, but should that monarch die and be succeeded by a leader who is militarily weak they will not be able to use the combined might of the nation to its full potential. It may be wise then to reduce the size of the military and use this new monarch’s diplomatic flair to secure peace with some old enemies.
Another area which has received significant attention for this upcoming title is the trade system, which has been substantially expanded upon. A number of fixed trade routes exist throughout the theater of play and, in a nutshell, it is the player’s job to ensure that as much of the trade money as possible flows through the trade routes that pass through their territories.
In order to achieve this the player must send envoys away on missions who will be unavailable for the duration of their task. In the case of trade, powerful merchants can be sent to strategic offices within the trade hubs to gather influence on behalf of their home nation and encourage resources to be sent to their favoured trade routes.
Controlling strategic trade points is the key to economic success and certain trade points are worth more than others in their monetary value. However, as more of the world is explored more lucrative trade routes will be discovered and the strategic importance of available routes will change.
As a final note on our short time with Europa Universalis IV, it is worth pointing out that despite this being an incredibly early build the presentation was particularly impressive. The overarching world map was colourful and easy to read, with animated avatars, impressive weather effects and detailed ships with rippling sails.
Europa Universalis IV is a long way from release, with a very tentative Q3 2013 having been planned. Given the quality and the passion we have seen so far this is already shaping up to be an exciting title for fans of grand strategy gaming.