Europa Universalis III Single-Player Hands-On

The latest strategy game in this epic Europa Universalis series will let you rewrite the history of the world.

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Europa Universalis III is a strategy game about the birth of the modern world, but don't expect to see any of the trappings of today's society. As historians cover it, the modern world began to emerge in the 1600s, as the concept of nation-states settled in. In Europa Universalis III, you'll be able to take control of practically any kingdom or country on the planet that existed between the 15th and 18th centuries and rule pretty much any way you wish. Do you try to take over your continent? Or do you simply try to live in peace while surrounded by belligerent neighbors? The decision will be up to you. We had a chance to check out the game shortly before it ships for some impressions.

All this and more can be yours if your ambition and skill are large enough.

This is a huge game in scope, so it may be a bit daunting at first trying to figure out where to even begin. Thankfully, the game does offer a few recommended starting points, so you can jump in during a familiar point in history. For instance, you can play as Spain and dispatch Columbus to the New World and then exploit the discovery. Or there's the Thirty Years' War that raged across the Holy Roman Empire and drew in a large number of European powers. Or there's the American War of Independence, which lets you fight the revolution from different perspectives. If none of these fit the bill, there's nothing to stop you from selecting any country on the map, as well as a start date, and playing from there with your own set of victory conditions to work towards.

Like its predecessors, Europa Universalis III is a continuous-time game, meaning that the game is always moving forward unless you're paused. Thankfully, you can still take your time because at the slowest time setting the days pass by at a glacial pace. This gives you plenty of time to analyze the map, give production orders, and issue movement orders to armies and fleets. Once everything is set, you can speed up the passage of time quite a bit, which is useful in a game where it can take months to build a fleet or years to construct a certain building.

Europa Universalis III boasts a streamlined interface compared to its predecessors, and it is indeed an easier game to play. Almost all the information you need is displayed on the main screen or in a couple of windows, which means that you no longer have to navigate screen after screen to accomplish things. The new 3D graphics engine also helps by offering up a clean presentation. The visuals aren't dazzling in a technical sense, but they do lend a solid board-game look and feel to the game.

We played as England during the Age of Discovery, which meant that we engaged in a race to discover and colonize the New World. Since this scenario began in the earliest era covered in the game, much of the technology tree had yet to be discovered. Therefore, many of the buildings and units remained locked and inaccessible. Thankfully, scientific research for the most part is automatic and a byproduct of your nation's economy, so over time you'll reach new tech levels that unlock a new type of building or new military units. You can further speed up research in different fields by hiring certain types of advisers, such as philosophers. Since you can have only three advisers at a time, though, you'll have to decide which ones to hire. For instance, if you're doing a lot of colonizing, a governor can help improve the odds of colonization. But if you have a lot of trouble with your neighbors, a diplomat can help smooth things over. Which advisers to keep, and which to fire, is up to you.

Finances are fairly simple, because you don't have to worry about adjusting tax rates in all your various provinces. The game simply assumes you'll want to maximize your revenue, so it handles the tax rates for you. That's not to say that you don't have some control over this process. For instance, if you have a rebellious province, the game may prompt you about the situation, and one way to quell the citizens' grievance in that province is to temporarily lower their tax rate. Another way would be to send in the troops, but this would further boost the chances of revolt in that province.

The interface has been streamlined quite a bit, and the learning curve is easier.

To colonize the New World, we built up fleets of carracks and sent them to the New World, a hazardous journey that resulted in many ships being lost at sea because of storms and navigational hazards. Still, once we had managed to locate North America, we dispatched colonists to settle the land. Colonization is a very risky endeavor, though, and many of our colonies failed early on. However, there are various ways you can boost your chances of success. For instance, you'll be prompted that the Native Americans are suffering from the diseases brought over by the Europeans, and if you choose to send them aid, which will cost you, you'll earn their support. The danger is that it's easy to find yourself spending all of your monetary reserves quickly. If you get into deficit spending, you'll create political instability at home, which can cause all sorts of problems if you were already dealing with rebellious provinces.

You must constantly balance the short term with the long term while playing Europa Universalis III, which is why the series is so popular with serious strategy gamers in the first place. This isn't a flashy or action-packed game, but it is one that lets would-be Machiavellis manage the affairs of a nation. Europa Universalis III is scheduled to ship next week.

Discussion

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jeffcenate
jeffcenate

fool me once shame on you fool me twice shame on me. wass i totaly agree with you. i dont have issue with the level of detail. never did. the more detail the better, the more options and decisions the better. the lack of information about the details is what kills this franchise. its called transparency. if you have a slider that moves from 1 - 10 and has a name attached to it. but you dont know what that name or that slider do then yes you have depth and detail but you also have no clue how to make a decision about what to set that slider at. if you move that slider and dont see any difference in the rest of the game, they you have just taken an action in limbo, you made a decision, the game has depth and detail but you may as well have taken a long deep breath and held it, its about as exciting as moving that slider that you still dont know what it is or what it did. if on the other hand you had a manual that said , moving this slider from 1 - 10 will in exactly 48 turns cause your population to start clamoring for democratic reform, NOW you have depth and detail that you can USE. you have something to base decisions off of, rather than random chance. the replayabilty of a game should come from the game itself and not be forced on you so that you can learn how to play it. i shouldnt have to restart over and over and over again because i made a decision in limbo and it came back to bite me 50 odd 'turns' into the game. i should be able to read a manual about that slider i moved at random and KNOW that if i move it its gunna come back to bite me BEFORE i do it. the replay value should come from trying different nations, or different strats, NOT from HAVING to start another game because you made a bad decision and couldnt have possably known it untill you did. in any event, they would have to have radicaly changed this game to get over the mess they made in the first one, and after the flubbing i took on the first one im very much not inclined to support them any further. and the fact is it was so bad that i feel compelled to warn other unsuspecting people to go into the purchase with a bit of caution. perhaps you supporters are right and the old dog did learn a new trick. but any one reading this should also be for warned that this old dog has been know to bite in the past so be ware.

joramHH
joramHH

The demo is buggy as hell. Think I'll hold off awhile before looking at this one.

DocZoidXVII
DocZoidXVII

Wow, I can't believe I missed that you said you were basing your opinions on EU3 by playing EU1. EU3 is a hell of a lot more user and newb friendly than EU1 was, TRUST ME. It's also way, way, way, way, way, better. You should probably not talk about what you know absolutely nothing about. The EU1 manual and tutorial was crap. Crappier than crap. There is no comparison you can make regarding the accessibility of the two games.

Anthony9000
Anthony9000

jeffceate....i just played eu for the first time 2 days ago and i learned everything within 2 days of playing the game....and i had fun doing it.....i didnt play a complex game for a long time and i think this game is gonna kik ass!

wasspj
wasspj

The change from Hearts of Iron to Hearts of Iron 2 in terms of accessability was fairly large, so to attack EU3 based on EU1 is quite harsh. As for the level of complexity, it is comes down to what an individual wants. Paradox games tend to be better suited to serious strategy gamers, precisely because they contain a high level of detail and realism. (If a petty princeling in medieval germany had been overly bellicose, his neighbours would have carved up his lands) People who don't want this detail can opt for a lightweight alternative like the total war series.

jeffcenate
jeffcenate

if you go back and read all my comments you would see that i was basing my opinion on the first version of this game. and given the flippiant answer i got in reply to my question on the paradox forums i cant see them changin their attitude in any further versions of the game. its not a 'feature' to be left blind and stupid with a manual that doesnt even touch on 1/4 of the information you NEED to play the game. and Doczoid, what if you buy the game *gasp* w/o access to the forums? i mean im sure there are parts of Europe where even the bums living in cardbord boxes have lap tops and net access but really its not all that common in the rest of the world. your other comments are right on, its eaiser to play a larger country than a small one, and its possable to learn the game w/o a manual or forums or any outside information at all. im just warning the 98% of humanity that doesnt enjoy smashing their heads against a wall for 40+ hrs to learn to play a GAME to beware of this whole franchise.

DocZoidXVII
DocZoidXVII

Jeff, the nice thing about the Paradox forums you mentioned is that should the manual fail you (I have not read it but I believe jaguar has, and I'm confident it's well written) and the tutorials fail you too, you can simply logon to those forums and ask the question. The odds are that you'll get quite a prompt reply from the community, be they moderators, Paradox employees or just the people playing the game. The same person that wrote the manual for the retail release has been busting his butt on the forums answering all sorts of questions about the demo. Should they have included the manual with the demo? Yeah, maybe. I'm not going to debate that. Did you try the tutorials? As to your previous posts, I would like to address two specific portions. "it may appeal to some as a challange to acheave a 1.0% inflation rate instead of a 1.1% rate but i found it a very very dry game and i cant help but think that they havent really changed much." If you don't find it entertaining to get from 1.1% inflation to 1.0%, as I certainly don't, then don't play the game focusing on that. Inflation is a factor to keep an eye on, but it certainly does NOT require the amount of attention you suggest. "before i cheated i played various smaller nations and most of it from what i could tell was just setting there kissing PC ass for years on end so they didnt attack you untill you has researched and otherwise improved things in your nation so you could even begine to compeat with them." Playing a one province country in the Holy Roman Empire is not very similiar to playing France, or Spain. I would suggest to all beginners that they take a larger country such as France or particularly Spain/Portugal and learn the game through that. Wouldn't you agree that once a new player has got a handle on the game from playing a large powerful country, it's nice to have the choice to play dinky little one province Bremen and see how you can do? It's a new challenge. That's what I love about EU3, there are always challenges to take on for any skill level. Sometimes it is difficult to stay within your experience level, this is true.

jaguarusf
jaguarusf

So I can assume from your comments that you have read the 148-page manual that comes with the game to base your judgments on? Oh, wait, that's right, the game hasn't been released yet. The manual is not available to the general public. So how do you know that the game does not come with a good manual again? Regarding speculation as facts is an interesting way of going about things. Have you tried the six tutorials that have come with the game? Oh, wait, that's right, only three come with the demo and the others are not available until the release version.

jeffcenate
jeffcenate

the sad part is that the game could be great if only they would give you a good manual that tells you in detail what everything is and does. i made a comment to this effect on the paradox bords for the first version and got a reply from an admin that paradox concidered the learning curve part of the fun of the game. ive seldom heard such a bone headed idea and excuse for saving cash on writing up a decient manual. there is nothing fun involved in being dumped into a complex situation with no guidance or even basic information about what is what. alot of the features in this game have no referances what so ever on what they do , not even tool tips. in my opinion the games fun comes from understanding how things work and making them work together, NOT from trying to figure out from nothing how they work in the first place. i too have played other games from paradox but none of them were as bad as this one for lack of information. there is nothing wrong with this game that an in depth manual wont cure, but untill they provide one your asking for a lession in frustration.

F1freak660
F1freak660

I don't have time for something so deep. I'll stick with the Age of Empires series

Buzz__Lightyear
Buzz__Lightyear

I enjoyed EU2 a lot, but this third episode seems too similar... also, graphics are not very good and the map is a bit confusing sometimes

blackleech
blackleech

The only thing that's keeping me from playing this game are the not-so-great graphics... wish they had something equal to Civilization IV.. would look much better

hcoimbra
hcoimbra

I am a huge fan of the series. I played the first one a lot. At first I really didn't like it. The learning curve was huge and it didn't seem fun at all. But then I gave it another chance and really got to know the game. After that I was hooked. Played it on and off for a few years. Can't wait for this one!

stpap
stpap

The game looks deep and involving if I am to judge from the demo. I own several games from Paradox and they are all challenging, fun and educational albeit with a high level of complexity. For some reason, however, this one has adopted a 3D map which looks ugly and is telling of the suboptimal 3D engine that drives the game's visuals. Surely, they should have stuck with the 2D view, as in their previous games, which was way more functional. Now, however, you can zoom in (jerkily) and see how blocky and squared the troop models are.

jeffcenate
jeffcenate

be warned it doesnt allow you too test your skills, in fact it locks you into a position where you dont even know what your skills are and cant find out untill you have played the game for 20 - 30 hrs just to figure out the basics. and that 20 - 30 hrs is NOT fun. its in the nature of doing market research over long term stock trends. decisions you make seldom if ever have instiant feedback on wether or not it was a good decision. it may take you 45 minuts too even notice a change in your tax rate, and generaly by the time you DO notice it its too late to recover from it if its a mistake since your entire empire is in revolt. (and yes they will revolt if your rate is too LOW also). unless they have radicaly changed this game in this version, i can only stress that there is no feedback in game about decisions that allow you to make good ones unless your willing to play 30 games over weeks too learn (in a very general way) whats right and whats not. i live for games where i get to make alot of detailed decisions, im a total micro manager at heart, but in order to make those decisions i need to KNOW what they mean, how they work, and how its going to effect anything and everything else. this game gives you choices up the wazoo the trouble is you can play for weeks (if ever) and not know what those choices actualy effect. your in for a long long long learning curve, and unlike other games with steap learning curves this one isnt fun to play while you learn. by the time i actualy figured it all out i promptly quit playing and havent loaded it since. the only reason i even made the effort to learn it was because i spent money on it. buyer be ware

etsmellsme
etsmellsme

My collage courses taught me to glue a dizzying array of fantastic pictures to various mounting surfaces to create a stunning visual hodge-podge. I managed to further specialize, and launch a whirlwind career in the incredible world of scrapbooking! So I'm glad to read comments like those from Jeffcenate. I really look forward to a game that will finally allow me to test my skills!

cougan
cougan

dont bother, its just a crappy spin off of civ and aoe.

jeffcenate
jeffcenate

heh i played the original version of this game. and let me tell you i hated it, untill i cheated and gave my self some cash. now normaly i dont cheat on a game. i believe in playing it within the rules and if later on after having mastered it i may cheat just to see what if anything i missed rather than play through another dozen times just too see if i should have produced wine instead of beer (not an in game event but you get the idea). but once i got some cash, i could actualy PLAY the game and had some breathing room to actualy figure out how it was done. before i cheated i played various smaller nations and most of it from what i could tell was just setting there kissing PC ass for years on end so they didnt attack you untill you has researched and otherwise improved things in your nation so you could even begine to compeat with them. it was kinda neat though after a while playing austria trying to get a sea port province and turning the nation into a sea power instead of the "historical" land power. but that was only after many many many false starts and floping around like a fish out of water trying to just get a handel on the basics of game play. if ever a game called for a 500 page manual and another 100 page referance guide this was it. now im not stupid by any means or otherwise i wouldnt even have looked at this game to being with, but there is a very fine line between deep and complex, and dull and incomprehensible. the first version tended to the later, and after having spent/wasted my cash once id think long and hard before i did it again. it may appeal to some as a challange to acheave a 1.0% inflation rate instead of a 1.1% rate but i found it a very very dry game and i cant help but think that they havent really changed much. the very things that i though were amazingly dull were the things that paradox touted as 'features'. and just so you know im not a kid with the attention span of a gnat, or some hyper hormoned halfwhit that pans a game unless im involved in a nuclear war in the first 5 minuts of game play. but there IS such a thing as too much "detail" especialy when your talking about economics. in short the original played like something youd see collage courses using as a teaching tool and not at all like a game butilt for fun, youd have to have some odd sence of fun too think otherwise.

eegotriip
eegotriip

Stick with Civilization 3 or even Age of Empires 3... this game don't appeal to me.

midn8t
midn8t

Well I would download demo frist for sure, I thought id like game but game actulyl hurts my eyes, no matter how i change the in game settings. the text is unreadable, I am using a 20" Wide screeen i tryed settings on, 1024 by 768 and i tryed them on 1024 1028 and i tryed maxed 1680 by 1050 which is what i use, on my desktop and othere games. for some reason its like allt he text for the game options and stuff you ready in game telling you about diffrent menu options and sof orth every thing is bolded and pushed to gethere tigthly, its un readable for me. i would have to get a microsope out to read it, and like i said it dosnt matter what video settings i use it dosnt effect the game text at all. so id like to play game actulyl try it but i cant. some of us older gammers need text thats easyer to read.

cjcr_alexandru
cjcr_alexandru

Even if it's more user friendly, this game's primary target remain the serious strategy gamers. And I'm not one of them.

Ariolander
Ariolander

So its more user friendly this time? That should do wonders.

mrbass208
mrbass208

Looks like an awesome game with a ton of replayability. Can't wait to at least get my hands on the demo to take it for a test drive.

strupp22
strupp22

It doesn't look like the actual look has changed too much from the last one, but if the interface has changed like it says it should be a pretty fun and present a new challenge to win.