Friday, July 26, 2013

Europa Universalis IV Beta Gameplay Preview

I played the beta of Europa Universalis IV, a real-time grand strategy game by Paradox Interactive. Recording video is not allowed for this preview period, so please enjoy my antiquated non-moving words!

Europa Universalis IV features some significant changes to the previous game in the well-regarded grand strategy series. Most countries now have different national ideas and events that make each play a bit differently, and missions give reasonable intermediate objects to achieve. Multiplayer games can be joined in progress, and plans call for persistent online servers supporting many players that can join the world when they like. The interface has been enhanced with many small changes, the most notable being placing all pertinent information in related tabs on the country information panel. Other new interface features include a construction mode for units and buildings, auto-repairing fleets that patrol trade routes, units that can automatically engage rebels, and suggestions on how to combat negative conditions (like rebels).

One of the biggest changes is the transition to administrative, diplomatic, and military power points that are spent on research, national ideas, stability, diplomacy, constructing buildings, inflation, military leaders, and many other actions. The amount of power accumulated each month can be boosted by your monarch (who can have a huge impact on technology and ideas, both positive and negative, based on their ratings) and advisors (that latter option effectively converts income into power points). Merchants, diplomats, colonists, and missionaries are now named characters (similar to Crusader Kings 2, minus the detail) and are sent on tasks instead of being spent like currency. This means you must prioritize jobs for the limited number of envoys you have available.

Trade is another overhauled aspect of Europa Universalis IV. Centers of trade are now “trade nodes”, geographic areas where merchants can be sent to compete for trade income. You can also send merchants to trade routes in order to direct more trade to the nodes in your country. You should also devote a fleet (or two) to defending nearby naval trade routes to further increase your coffers. Once your merchants are set up, however, only minor tweaks are needed to maintain your trade empire. Budgets are now only monthly, and loans are less troublesome to take out (although they do increase inflation).

Diplomatic relationship values are now two-way (like in Crusader Kings 2) with specific descriptions of why the value is what it is. New diplomatic options include temporary coalitions against a single enemy, basing your fleet (for protecting trade) in friendly nations, and enforcing peace in a war (you’ll join the side of the defender if a white peace is not immediately signed). The old espionage actions are now jobs for your diplomats, and new peace options are present, as is the ability to set rival nations. You also suffer a penalty for having too many diplomatic agreements at a given time. Aggressive expansion (replacing “badboy”) will result in neighboring countries to have a lower opinion of you, eventually resulting in war. Low national stability and taking too much non-core territory can spawn rebels; newly acquired provinces can become core provinces by spending administrative power. And the various religions come with subtle differences.

Combat has also been tweaked: shattered armies retreat several provinces and remain stationary while morale is recovered, which eliminates annoying “ping-pong”ing during war. Battles now produce much more definitive results, causing shorter, less annoying wars.

Europa Universalis IV is scheduled for release on August 14th.