Europa Universalis IV Review

Complex and rewarding strategizing makes the fourth game in the Europa Universalis dynasty shine.

The Europa Universalis series has always struggled to be approachable to newcomers while offering a deep strategy game experience that accurately depicts the colonial period's social dynamics without becoming too deterministic. Europa Universalis IV succeeds at this balancing act by simplifying the series and making the hundreds of playable countries feel unique without dumbing it down or adding too many special rules. In many ways, EUIV is the pinnacle of the series; however, it is also plagued by numerous bugs that can ruin an otherwise outstanding experience.

Some see Constantine XI leading his cavalry in a final battle against the Turks. Others will have no clue what is going on.

In keeping with previous incarnations of the series, EUIV plays like a real-time version of a tabletop board game, which is appropriate since the series is based on one. You can pause the game and change its speed at any time, and instead of having you command real-time battles, combat is resolved with dice rolls influenced by modifiers such as terrain, weather, and generals. The series has been referred to as being akin to a real-time version of Risk, but that is a woefully inadequate description. EUIV covers over 400 years of history, from the last days of the Byzantine Empire to the end of the Napoleonic era, all of which takes place on a map consisting of a couple of thousand provinces.

As the leader of one of several hundred playable countries, your word is law, and your will drives the state. This is a game about royal marriages, colonization, trade, social and political intrigue, warfare, religious strife, and revolution. While victory is technically score-based, EUIV is most satisfying when you forge your country's path into an alternate history. In other words, EUIV is a game for dreamers who want to create a greater Montenegro that stretches from Germany to Jerusalem, fight off European invaders as the Cherokee, save Constantinople from becoming Istanbul, or simply see what kinds of hijinks Ethiopia can get into.

Of course, the same is true of Europa Universalis III, which would make EUIV redundant were it not for the many welcome changes the latter makes to the series. While not the most significant change, the implementation of automation may be the most welcome, because it greatly improves gameplay while reducing your clicking work. Consider the act of improving relations with neighbors: in EUIII, the process involved selecting a country and giving the order to improve relations, sacrificing a diplomat for an incremental improvement in relations, and then repeating the process ad infinitum. Now, diplomats are permanent characters who remain in Vilna for as long as it takes to make the Lithuanians love you before returning home for their next assignment.

Greater Montenegro's reign of terror is about to begin.

Colonists are treated in the same way: a colonist enters a territory and convinces people to move there until the area is large enough to support itself. If the colonist is run off by angry natives, he returns home. In previous incarnations of the series, you had to send multiple colonists to a territory, one at a time, and wait for the next one to spawn while hoping the natives didn't burn down the settlement in the meantime. Another example of automation making the game more enjoyable is the ability to order an army to seize the initiative and automatically hunt down any rebels that pop up. You'll have more fun when the AI takes care of chasing rebellious Ruthenians across the map.

An even more profound and welcome change to gameplay is the addition of administrative, diplomatic, and military power, resources that replace EUIII's bureaucrats. These powers grow based on the administrative, diplomatic, and military stats of your monarch and her advisers. You can use these powers to increase your country's all-important stability rating, research technologies, build province improvements, slowly change the demographics of a province, and repress potential revolutionary movements. This element creates many new and interesting dilemmas. For example, do you pick an adviser based on a beneficial trait or to increase your power level? Do you spend power points to help build structures that will benefit your empire in the long run, or save up power to buy the next level of administrative, diplomatic, or military technology?

Administrative, diplomatic, and military power also play a role in the revised "ideas" system. Previously, you could pick national ideas that would affect your empire, like tolerance of religious and ethnic minorities. Now, you have the option to unlock up to eight idea trees by increasing your administrative tech level. Each tree has seven ideas that can be unlocked with power points. For instance, there is a religious tree that benefits and enhances missionaries, an exploration tree that enables you to explore hidden areas of the map while also providing more colonists, and other trees focusing on areas like diplomacy, spycraft, and military thought.

The huge number of ideas allows you to customize countries in numerous ways.

You can now choose whether your military complex emphasizes quantity or quality (or both). Almost every country has a unique national ideas tree, and these bonuses are unlocked automatically as you go through the other trees. For instance, in addition to things like manpower bonuses, Russia's tree includes an idea that provides a free colonist and reveals nearby territory whenever a colony is completed, thus allowing Russia to colonize Siberia without investing in the exploration tree. Ethiopia's tree, meanwhile, makes reference to the beliefs that its royal dynasty is descended from King Solomon and that it has the Ark of the Covenant under lock and key.

Additional changes have been made to affect how trade, combat, and balance-of-power politics work. The old trade system involved sending merchants off to peddle their wares at centers of trade. Now, there are trade routes, and merchants are used to direct trade into your country and siphon off some of the profits from global trade. Careful placement of merchants coupled with control over important trade goods can be extremely helpful for your country's economy. In terms of combat improvements, the biggest is that AI armies no longer bounce around like Ping-Pong balls or retreat behind your lines and besiege your provinces when they've been defeated. Instead, retreating armies try to make it to the nearest "safe" province, like an allied capital, to lick their wounds. Sometimes an army's morale is utterly shattered, completely immobilizing it for a time as the officers try to restore order. That's an opportune time to strike and achieve a decisive victory.

Unfortunately, this otherwise excellent game is marred by some technical problems and bugs.

With regard to the balance-of-power system, in previous games, the entire world would seemingly gang up on a would-be Genghis Khan. Now, AI-controlled states form more reasonable military coalitions to keep an aggressor in check. For example, there is no reason for England or France to care if the Russians are beating up the remnants of the old Mongol khanates in Asia. The other khanates, however, form a coalition against Russian imperialism, and Russia's other neighbors, like Poland and Lithuania, might join in. A major difference between coalitions and the normal alliances in EUIV is that members of a coalition may not make a separate peace treaty with the targeted country. Thankfully, coalition members are public knowledge, and you can make them break up with skillful diplomacy.

EUIV is built around a modified version of Crusader Kings II's new graphics engine and is the most attractive game that Paradox has developed. Of particular note is the terrain map, which looks fantastic and is filled with details. This map features lakes that slowly freeze over during winter. You can catch what appear to be trade caravans passing through your provinces, birds flying overhead, and whales the size of Taiwan. The units also look much better than in previous iterations of the series and are more diverse, with different appearances based on military technology, culture group, and whether the army is mostly composed of infantry, artillery, or cavalry.

The most important graphical element in EUIV is its user interface. There are tons of tooltips that help explain why your missionary takes decades to convert a province, what the dice rolls during combat mean, and how many levels of military research you need to unlock before you can build more powerful units. These tooltips are desperately needed, because EUIV is a complex game, and its tutorial does little to prepare you for the challenges to come.

Veni, vidi, vici…and then continue a Crusader Kings II game in EUIV.

Unfortunately, this otherwise excellent game is marred by some technical problems and bugs. A particularly irksome and possibly game-ending bug involves coalitions. Members of a coalition may not make a separate peace and neither can vassals. However, a vassal can become the leader of a coalition. As a result, you might get stuck in a war with multiple countries that simply never ends because you cannot negotiate with the coalition's leader, causing increasing unrest at home from war weariness even if you control every enemy province.

A recent patch doesn't help EUIV's performance, sadly. While the game is very stable, it tends to lag a lot. To be fair, there is a lot of number crunching going on as the game takes into account the daily situation of hundreds of countries, computing how many troops China is building, whether Prussia is going to take a loan to finance a war, and what Suleiman the Magnificent ate for breakfast. Still, the lag and the bugs detract from what would otherwise be a solid gaming experience. These issues aren't deal breakers, but they are certainly disappointing.

Think globally; act locally.

Europa Universalis IV is every bit as epic as its predecessors, and the changes that it has made are overwhelmingly positive. For instance, the diplomatic, administrative, and military power aspect is more fun than the older system of bureaucrats and sliders restricting your actions. Also, the automation of mechanics like rebel repression and colonization wipes away the most tedious aspects of the series. The technical issues and bugs are a major disappointment, but they pale in comparison to the depth and diversity of the gameplay. It's a game where you can bribe cardinals to become the pope's true master, turn the Holy Roman Empire into a unified state, become shogun of Japan, prevent Poland from being partitioned, convert Eurasia to Buddhism by force, or turn Oman into a superpower. Europa Universalis IV easily provides hundreds of hours of gameplay for those who develop a taste for it. There are very few games remotely like this out there, making it a must-get game for people who want to "fix" history.

The Good
Changes from Europa Universalis III reduce tedium and improve gameplay
Revised ideas system allows for customized countries
Hundreds of playable countries
Countless hours of 'what if' entertainment
The Bad
Bugs can ruin your fun
Laggy performance
9
Superb
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Daniel Shannon still remembers the day when his family got a 486 with a CD-ROM drive. He used that PC to play an immense amount of Tie Fighter, Civilization 2, and Doom. Since he grew up without a console he insists that they are a "fad" and refers to them collectively as "Nintendos." Too this day he is skeptical about anything that doesn't use either a flightstick or a keyboard and mouse.

Discussion

125 comments
naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

Can someone tell me if the bugs have been killed yet?

fishless
fishless

Thank you for this review.


oriontyson
oriontyson

Why you no make video review if this game is so good?

janlappalainen
janlappalainen

I am so disappointed in Rome 2 that I want to try a new strategy game - this seems interesting.

janlappalainen
janlappalainen

could we get a video review please? how come you give video reviews for all games that receive a rubish score, and then text only for a 9?

Open_Sights
Open_Sights

Automation is always welcome, since perfectionists (like me) spend more time enganging fine detais than actually playing the game. However, I would prefer a greater quantity of historical evnts (even those that were a sideline of world history) than new graphics. In fact, I think CK2 engine makes the game cumbersome for old pcs and isn't useful at all. A game like this should have AI and events, not graphics. Once those were in a state of art, then the developers should aim graphics.

cryingdevil63
cryingdevil63

Paradox strikes gold again,these guys make amazing games,but are always shadowed by bigger budget titles with large ad campaigns.

SipahSalar
SipahSalar

OK just one question, is the game easier to get into than hearts of iron or harder? Because i just couldnt get into HoI.

YuukiKenshi
YuukiKenshi

This Game is really great! Like this guy in the video, he is playing the game in a historical way as much as possible... Amazing

www.youtube.com/watch?v=miJ7b-zPBsA

mbyrd
mbyrd

Automatic rebel suppression was in EU3 too - in fact this feature is exactly the same in the new game. Not sure if this reviewer ever played EU3.

I don't get the laggy complaint - works great on my older computer and every YouTube playthrough clearly shows the game runs fine. The only hiccups can be in Ironman mode, which is a big change from EU3 that the reviewer never mentions.

Stesilaus
Stesilaus

Another grand strategy game gets the "text review only" treatment.

abbood2
abbood2

hay you said the bad:Bugs can ruin your fun and  Laggy performance.

so how the game got 9.0!!! i mean i play for fun but i do not know why you play!

zzodr
zzodr

Can I marry ma bitches off like in CK2 with this?

JimmyJumpy
JimmyJumpy

This could cure me of my Civ 5 dependency...

ggregd
ggregd


So take me back to Constantinople
No, you can't go back to Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks

Yeah,  But I like EU3 and the fix to the way defeated armies behave alone make this must have.

vishisluv7
vishisluv7

Another 9.0 game with no video review?? What, are you paying by the video now Gamespot? 

You want me to read when I should be relaxing and watching half assed while surfing Brazzers on the other monitor?

Did we lose a war? It's still 2013 right?

Better get started I guess, looks like a long tough read ahead.

..screw it, knowing it's a 9.0 is enough I guess.

hadlee73
hadlee73

Its a shame its not quite as good as "Gone Home" (sorry, couldn't resist). I'll have to check this one out :)

GOGOHeadray
GOGOHeadray

Good game put there are two main problems. THe first one are the random events; these can range from comet sightings that lower stab; to your prized heir dying for no particular reason. The game relies alot on monarch points to keep up with other countries and getting a heir with a 0/0/0 rating compared to some of the larger countries (france, austria, etc.) which spawn 5/6/6/ rather monarchs constatily. 


The second problem is the use of rebellions and the way the AI treats them. Oftentimes in this game mass units of 18-19 rebel regiments can and will spawn right in the middle of your country ravaing it while you try despartely to scramble together a solution. However, even if you manage to squash the rebellion ( who for some reason are more organized and just as trained as your best front line troops) another one will often pop-up into place not even two or three months later. 

To add on to this is the AI's inadequate way of dealing with the rebillions which launch in thier home countries oftentimes they dont take care of the rebel stacks forming in their home countries perferring to seige already taken cities or even worse launching a war of conquest against their neighbors. I have had plenty of units totally decemitaed by these roaming rebels who cross borders and engage your armies oftentimes with a higher regeiment count than your own force limit will allow. 

Its a great game but I am not seeing the 9 here.

Hurvl
Hurvl

There are lots of reviews on Gamespot today, that must mean that summer is almost over.

oo7abhishekcool
oo7abhishekcool

@janlappalainen Yah! I also anticipated more from Rome 2

ggregd
ggregd

@Open_Sights The way their games work, once the the game starts running and AI countries are going at each other, history is out the window.

Zloth2
Zloth2

@mbyrd I saw a bunch of complaints on the GeForce website about recent NVIDIA drivers causing a lot of extra lag in EU4 and CK2 so the "laggy" thing could actually be NVIDIA's fault.

dannyboy2016
dannyboy2016

@mbyrd Was automatic rebel suppression added in a patch for Divine Wind or something? I have no recollection of it, and I played a lot of EU3.

There are many changes from EU3 that I didn't mention. Ironman mode just didn't seem that important, personally. 



Zloth2
Zloth2

@Stesilaus They can only do so many of those things.  If you're not going to do videos for each review, grand strategy is probably at the top of the list for games to skip.  They may be fun but they just aren't visually interesting.

8akkura
8akkura

@abbood2 Look at it this way: It's a 9.5 game with a few bugs knocking it down to a mere 9.0. The bugs aren't usually bad, but you can get unlucky. I haven't run into any lag, but again it does seem to affect some people.

Zloth2
Zloth2

@vishisluv7 If you aren't willing to even take the time to read a review, I'm thinking this game really isn't designed for you.

dannyboy2016
dannyboy2016

@GOGOHeadray

You are absolutely correct about the random events being problematic. I once got the comet event 3 times in five years. That was ruinous. I've never had a 0/0/0 heir (but I have "sired" several 1/1/1s). I assume the best course of action in the 0/0/0 heir case is to put them in charge of an army and hope they die gloriously.

Regarding rebels, the broken (though apparently now fixed) peasant war event chain was particularly nasty, and I agree that the AI is inept at handling major uprisings. However, I rarely had problems crushing rebels (whether they were home grown or domestic), and I've played 70 hours of the game (between the press and the retail version). The only rebels who have given me the type of trouble you describe are the religious zealots.

Open_Sights
Open_Sights

@ggregd @Open_Sights

You are right to a certain extent. However this is not what happened in EU 2. EU 2 had lots of scripted events that would take place some time near the real event happened in real history as long some factors that triggered the event in history were also true in the game.

8akkura
8akkura

@dannyboy2016 @mbyrd It was added in a patch at some point. I *think* it was indeed sometime after the release of Divine Wind.

Stesilaus
Stesilaus

@Zloth2 @Stesilaus You're quite correct.  I do realize that GS staff have limited resources and must be selective in assigning video reviews to games.

I'm a bit more cynical about their criteria though: To maximize advertising revenue, they'll prepare the video reviews that are likely get the greatest number of views.

It explains why games like Europa Universalis seldom receive video reviews: They're aimed at a small niche market.

It also explains why an obscure game will sometimes receive a video review when the review score is TERRIBLE: People enjoy seeing bad games being bashed in the same way that they enjoy watching video of a train wreck.


4le_breVVer
4le_breVVer

@Zloth2 I don't think you're qualified to make that assessment. Why don't you apply for a job at GS?

jimrhurst
jimrhurst

@Stesilaus @Zloth2 Play to your audience, right?  Grand strategy players are patient, they'll read.  And nobody on the home page is clicking through because of the kickass screenshot of little soldiers marching on a really complicated looking map.

xXJayeDuBXx
xXJayeDuBXx

How does applying for a job at Gamespot mean anything? Did you think before you typed or just smacked your head against the keyboard and got lucky?

Europa Universalis IV More Info

  • First Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • Unix/Linux
    Europa Universalis IV explores the world history in an experience crafted by Paradox Development Studio.
    8
    Average User RatingOut of 178 User Ratings
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    Developed by:
    Paradox Development Studio
    Published by:
    Paradox Interactive, CyberFront
    Genres:
    Strategy, Real-Time
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Drug Reference, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Themes, Mild Violence