By – John Williamson 

Europa Universalis IV Review

Since its formation, Paradox Interactive has quickly become synonymous with the strategy genre, opting for rich and exhaustive detail over simplified gameplay.  Their pedigree from Europa Universalis to Crusader Kings II is unrivaled with a number of key titles that lack any sort of compromise.  In 2007, Europa Universalis III released which enabled you to determine the economic and political future of a sovereign nation.  Europa has always offered a versatile experience in regards to playing various countries based on their authentic political ideology.  This ranged from republic-based nation states to despotic monarchies.  After a substantial hiatus in the fransiche, Europa Universalis has now returned with a vengeance to dethrone any opposition in its way.

Europa Universalis IV is a grand strategy game with an emphasis on explicit decision making.  Every action you engage in from diplomatic immunity to vast territorial expansion has severe and just ramifications.  The core gameplay revolves around balancing offensive and defensive strategies without one being a detriment to the other.  During the progression of your chosen nation, you decide whether to re-enact or re-write history, which is accurately portrayed.  If you lack a legitimate heir to the English throne in 1455, a civil war will ensue.  Rival houses of Lancaster and York contest England’s dynasty during the War of the Roses.  This historical event can be prevented if you managed to unify the English people through loyalty and effective leadership.  Quashing any political opposition during its infancy is the best method to do this, before a large alternative to your governance exists.

You can focus on trade agreements and diplomatic notions to form a flourishing economy or simply militarize your occupying land  in a bid to invade neighbouring principalities.  The geographical nature of the time means that nations are aplenty and all viable targets.  However, it’s important to decipher when considering war, the probability of victory.  Clicking on a rival nation will outline their military skill, current diplomatic alliances and maximum manpower per year.  During 1483, I debated the conquest of Athens due to their low military skill (1).  This would be a rash move, as further information illustrates that Albania is a close ally with a military skill of 6.  You have to take into account the financial viability of conflict.

War is expensive, and there is a fine line between spending enough money to maintain good morale through various garrisons and economic instability.  If you happen to fall into considerable debt, war taxes need to be raised, and loans taken out.  This reduces the apathy for territorial expansion, and results in troops who perform poorly in battle.  It becomes far too easy after a successful invasion to rush into another conflict with a more powerful state, and get your troops and resources obliterated. The basic principles of managing a province is superbly executed to a standard I’ve not seen in any other game.

Europa Universalis IV Review

Your campaign begins in 1444 and curtails off towards the end of Revolutionary France in 1792.  This system is intended for you to start during the Ottoman era, and see your chosen nation slowly evolve.  If you simply wish to bypass a certain time period and start in your favourite historical setting, you have the ability to do so.   When you begin, there are a large selection of notable countries to choose from including England, Castile and even Albania.  The beauty of this wide scope means that each choice brings a different type of campaign and mission goals.  For example, England’s prowess at sea results in objectives such as constructing a grand fleet.  In contrast to this, Castile has other priorities which include transforming the culture of Vizcaya from Basque to Castilian.

As someone who studied European history, I find it utterly fulfilling that your goals are dependent on a nation’s individual attributes.  As such, this adds a huge amount of replayability and variety to the missions.  It is advisable to stick with a major powerhouse as smaller nations have reduced technological advancements and border defense.  There is a high probability that playing with a minor country will eventually result in annexation.  More affluent countries will enhance your power through larger armies, naval craft and better advisors.

To declare war on any opposing nation you must seek a Casus Belli (justification for conflict).  Reasons range from liberation, re-conquest and even holy battles against heretics.  Without a just cause, any military intervention will be frowned upon by other nations who have an interest in that country.  This is a wonderful mechanic which deters widespread invasion and enunciates the dangers of warfare.

Europa Universalis IV Review

It’s imperative alongside border conquest to denounce any rebels and deal with them accordingly.  Each group of anarchists will behave differently and have unique demands.  Some might yearn for lower taxes who are poverty-stricken whilst others have an appetite for political independence.  To deal with these matters, you have the option to increase stability and form a higher level of loyalty or make an example of your opponents by eradicating them.   Whatever your decision, it’s critical that you don’t just allow the rebellion to gain momentum and amass even more of a following.  Any action must be taken quickly and decisively.  In Europa Universalis IV, Rebels are a dynamic problem who genuinely pose a threat.  I applaud this developed idea as it reiterates that your empire is constantly bound by internal tensions, and requires strong management.

The Trade System in Europa Universalis IV has been given a complete overhaul offering more complexity and user control.  This is a monumental improvement in comparison with the previous game which has largely remained unchanged from Europa Universalis I.  Trade is now conducted across an interconnected network of nodes where profit is determined by a nation’s ability to exploit their natural resources.  This traffic of valuable goods is transported and the expenditure is collected by merchants.  However, merchants can only operate in nodes which you currently own with an administrative presence.  To maximize your trading potential over precarious waters, it’s important to instill confidence in your naval defense and encourage business.  Unlike its predecessor, Trade Nodes are based on regions instead of individual provinces.  As they are larger in scope, it is impossible to dominate and conquer them.  This new system exemplifies the importance of economic prosperity to a level which is similar to territorial gains.

Usually, the largest drawback of any 4X strategy game is a monumentally high barrier to entry for new players.  Paradox has done a stellar job in creating an experience which is rich but also accessible.  The new tutorial is incredibly deep and explains fundamental principles of a grand strategy’s gameplay.  You aren’t bamboozled with technical information, and key components are separated into themed chapters.  These topics include religion, diplomacy and basically how to approach managing your beloved nation.

Thankfully, the tutorial isn’t just a static documentation outlining what to do.  In order to progress to the next chapter, you are required to complete a task which is currently being discussed.  One example of this occurs during the trade introduction where you are instructed to send a Merchant to Collect from Trade in the Venice Node.  Even if you are well versed with Europa Universalis and become mystified about a small mechanic, it is possible through the hints system to remedy this.

Europa Universalis IV Review

Clicking on the question mark item will illuminate in blue explainable concepts.  To clarify these procedures clicking once again will grant an overview of the system.  Once you have finally mastered all the game has to offer, you can disable hints to create a cleaner interface.  In addition to a wonderful tutorial, Europa Universalis IV has employed the beautiful and intuitive UI from Crusader Kings II.  The player has the option to zoom into the smallest of principalities and visually see army types and fortresses.  Navigation is easily done with the mouse and is incredibly smooth.  The visual style is also helpful when targeting certain objectives.  You can select terrain, political, diplomatic, military and many other map skins which divulge a wealth of information at your fingertips.  Throughout Europa Universalis IV,  the onus is on producing gameplay which is made more enticing by a unique art style.

Steam Workshop support is included in Europa Universalis IV with the opportunity to modify any aspect of gameplay.  Currently, there are a substantial amount of intriguing works from the community.  I congratulate one modder, (Bloodspoiler) who created an edit which alters the background colour of units and improves a number of visual differences between cores and claims.  This Colourblind Mod, makes it far easier to distinguish between you and those deadly AI units.  The amount of content being created demonstrates how much Europa Universalis IV could grow and improve over time.

If you become weary of the single player aspect, Paradox has implemented a number of impeccable multiplayer alternatives.   You can compete against users in bloodthirsty conflicts to see who has the most tactical prowess.  In comparison to this, a co-operative mode in included where you can join a clan of up to 32 players to work in harmony and govern a country.  This is nothing short of scintillating as working with others to progress a nation state is challenging but extremely rewarding.

Cross-platform play is fully supported which allows Windows, Mac and Linux users to cross paths in battle.  The servers work much better than Europa Universalis III and matchmaking is relatively quick.  When you join a server, its host will configure individual parameters while you select a country.  For the most part, the matches are severely barren with around 2-7 players at most.  This means it’s difficult to tell if new entrants over large battles would be used as cannon fodder.  The majority of engagements are password protected, with only a few offering free access.  While this does cut down on individuals spoiling serious confrontations, a lack of open access tends to discourage novices from entering the online aspect.  On the rare occasion you find an active game, the multiplayer is undeniably addictive.

Europa Universalis IV Review

A number of Paradox games have been notoriously buggy on release, and Europa Universalis IV is no different.  When I initiated my campaign as the Ottomans everything appeared operational.  However, reloading my save resulted in a message stating, “Save game belongs to another user or is edited.  Achievements will be disabled.”  It took a considerable amount of time to decipher what was causing this issue.  When you start a military campaign from scratch the default setting disables Ironman Mode.  By default, this option removes the ability to create user saves and automatically writes your progress to Steam Cloud.  The rationale behind this is to restrict the user in terms of restoring to a previous save and having strict consequences of your actions.  Of course, this mode is a lot harder and designed to test you, but I would have liked an explanation early on that achievements are bound to a certain type of gameplay.

Also, the automated saving results in a choppy frame-rate and slow down when you zoom into specific provinces whilst a cloud save is being performed at the time.  Although, I’m confident this can be resolved in a minor patch.  Another major technical shortcoming is the lack of a Windowed Mode.  According to PCGamingWiki, this can only be done via manual modifications.

To enable Windowed Mode -

1) Navigate to Documents\Paradox Interactive\Europa Universalis IV

2) Edit settings.txt

3) Set fullscreen=yes to fullscreen=no

Europa Universalis IV Review

Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

Europa Universalis IV is a tour de force global strategy game.  Paradox has managed to implement a wealth of new features from an expansive trade system to improved multiplayer options.  I’m amazed that such innovation was done whilst making a 4X title more accessible.  No longer does the Europa series instantly alienate potential customers.  Even after a short period of play, you have a greater appreciation for European history and how the modern geographical map developed.

Unfortunately, if you reside in the United Kingdom or another part of Europe be prepared to pay an extortionate amount of money in comparison with the USA.  The UK asking price is £34.99, whilst Americans have to invest $39.99.  The conversion rate for £34.99 equates to $54.62.  Subsequently, the UK demographic pays 36.58% extra.  Despite this annoyance on regional pricing, Europa Universalis is possibly the greatest grand strategy game ever devised.

Europa Universalis IV – Technical Summary:

Europa Universalis IV Review

  • Time Played – 33 Hours
  • Widescreen Support – Yes
  • Resolution Played – 1920×1080
  • Windowed Mode – Known Workaround (See Above)
  • Control Scheme – Keyboard and Mouse
  • 5.1 Audio – No
  • System Specs – AMD X6 II 1090T @ 4.01GHz, 8GB RAM, NVIDIA GTX 670 OC 2GB
  • Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
  • DRM – Steamworks
  • Demo – Yes
  • Availability – Steam, GamersGate, GreenManGaming
  • Bugs/Crashes – Save Game Bug which disables achievements.  Frame drops when zooming in during Cloud Saves
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  • TheAux

    Just found this site but I really love the way you review the game. Its organized, deep, and pretty well written. I have never played an Europa Universials game but I’m really interested in this one. Thanks

    • Adam Ames

      Thanks for the comment. We take great pride in bringing in-depth and detailed reviews to our readers. I am happy you enjoyed the article.

    • John Williamson

      Thank you very much for you kind words, they mean a lot. I appreciate you taking the time out to read my review. I always aim to make them as detailed as humanly possible. If you’re new to the series, I would advise the use of some video tutorials on youtube which will should help you considerably. I hope you like the rest of the content on the site, and look forward to your continued feedback.