LOS ANGELES--Paradox gave us our first look at the next chapter in the Europa Universalis series, the incredibly deep strategy series that lets you take command of any one of hundreds of nations during the 1500s and gives you the ability to micromanage everything from the economy to the diplomacy to the military of that nation. Europa Universalis III brings the series to the 3D age, with a new graphics engine that now lets you zoom the camera down and see the world rendered in 3D. However, there are a lot more changes under the hood.
The interface in Europa Universalis III is being completely rethought to give micromanagers all the control that they need, but it's also being designed to give players who don't like micromanagement the ability to manage everything with as little effort as possible. It's a tricky balance to strike, and this is a game of such huge scale that it'll be interesting to see if Paradox can make the learning curve easier. After all, there are more than 250 historical nations in the game, in a world divided into 1,700 provinces. A new province screen now gives you a city view, which shows the state of the province, sort of like the city view in Civilization games. Build something new in that province, and it's represented in the city.
The amount of power at your fingertips is daunting. Once again, you can chart the course for your nation. You can declare war, propose royal marriages to seal alliances, bully and threaten your neighbors, spy, and more, all in the realm of diplomatic options at your disposal. You can tweak the religion, as well as decide what your national tolerance will be to other religions. Need more money? Jack up tax rates, though watch the repercussions on the economy. You can build up armies consisting of infantry, cavalry, and artillery (if a nation has a special type of those units, such as dragoons, they're in the game), as well as a navy consisting of 16 different ships, representing ship types that cover the eras. Wage war, wage peace, it's all up to you.
A new feature is national ideas, which gives you special bonuses based on the research that you do. Also, you can really tweak your society, as you're given a set of values, and you can slide a slider toward two completely opposite ideas. Do you go for a completely centralized state where everything is decided by just a few, or do you slide it toward decentralization and reap the rewards and risks that go with that? That's just one of the many decisions at your disposal.
Europa Universalis III is as ambitious as its predecessors, but the series definitely has its fans. We'll have to wait for 2007 for the game to ship, though.