EUIV's Res Publica28 Jul 2014 0
EUIV's Res Publica
The Dutch may have lost their shot at the world cup (again), but the game developers at Sweden's Paradox Interactive have decided to reward the ?little? Republic anyway. Res Publica, Latin for ?public affairs,? and, not so coincidentally, the root for the word ?republic,? is the latest expansion DLC for the critically acclaimed grand strategy game Europa Universalis IV. Unlike the previous two expansions already released ?Conquest of Paradise? and ?Wealth of Nations,? ?Res Publica? focuses on bolstering the game experience of the the various republics from the famous Dutch Republic to the merchant Republic of Venice, as well as introduces new mechanics for Republican Dictatorships like those one might have seen in Revolutionary France.
Among the titular benefits of this DLC include the introduction of the aforementioned Republican Dictatorship government type which, while maintaining some facets of monarchial rule such as consuls reigning until death, also entail models of election. There are also now factions within republics. These factions include Aristocrats who wish the republic to gain glory through war and domination, Merchants who wish to steer the state towards maritime superiority to protect their trade, and Guilds that seek only to supercharge their own earnings and production. Pandering to any of these factions by spending influence triggers different benefits urbane to each faction. The Aristocratic faction, for example, among other benefits, also gives a military bonus. Merchant Republics also have access to the ability to create trading posts in distant nodes boosting their respective trade power while the Dutch Republic has received its own specialized Statist vs. Orangist mechanic and a plethora of new ?flavour? events.
Many of these additions already dovetail with the mechanics currently found in the game. The way in which Republican Dictatorships may arise if one has low ?Republican Tradition? finally makes the tradition metric actually mean something aside from lowering revolt risk here and there. Fleshing out the events that give the gameplay of these state types was, also, just a natural progression. There is a tinge of excitement now when it comes to managing the factions of certain republics and the balancing act a Dutch player has to play between Statists who wish for a much purer Republican government, and Orangists which tend towards Monarchy-but-in-name helps to add tension and historical accuracy to playing the Low Countries.
Playing with the Dutch (despite all of my Hispanophile sensibilities), it was a rather nice experience the way in which the State and Orange factions would vie for government control. If the Statists maintain control, elections are held every four years. However, if the Orangists are in power, the ruler remains until death. The respective ?power? of each faction is dictated by a spectrum and each election or event has a specific value in one direction or another dictating who has the majority sway in government. Choosing a good Statist leader means he'll only be around for four years while choosing a mediocre Orangist will mean the Republic might be stuck with him for a very long time.
Venice was also a fun distraction. Choosing which faction to back with one's influence helps to create a dynamic flow in the gameplay. The Aristocrats are needed in defending against the League of Cambrai at the beginning of the 16th century. With our land secure, we might switch to rebuilding our depleted coffers by supporting the guilds before finally advancing the goals of the Merchant Marine in order to go on the offensive against the Turks. Our modernist sensibilities point to republics as ?innovative? and ?adaptable? (at least in theory), so it is only natural to see Paradox finally implement this kind of flexibility to this class of state.
Flexibility also seeps into the other nations as well. This DLC is not just a boon for republican states, but also for gameplay in general. There is now the ability to have a ?national focus? which will boost the monarch point generation of a certain type (administrative, diplomatic, or military) by two while subtracting one point from the other two not chosen. Thus, if the Dutch, for example, were hoping to construct several canals in order to bolster their trade power in Antwerp, a focus might be set to Diplomatic points in order to better facilitate this infrastructural development. The major problem with this new mechanic, however, is that national focus takes twenty five years to change. This is an utterly long time and completely opposite to the trend of dynamism that Paradox is attempting to extol in the spirit of ?Res Publica.? If I had been directing the designers, I would have tied this mechanic with leader ascension. In other words, I would have allowed the player to reset national focus only when a new monarch ascends to the throne or a new leader elected. Not only would this be a lot more logical than the arbitrary 25 year waiting period as new rulers typically decided for themselves what their focus would be, but it would also reward republics for having frequent new rulers. This would thematically tie national foci and republican politics together and, I think, is a better representation of what the developers were hoping to achieve with making republics dynamic little states.
Although the DLC is focused around republics, it also contains elements for livening up the experience with elective monarchies. Elective Monarchy was a government type added before the DLC and this DLC now actually adds mechanics to it. There are now options for the player to ?interfere? in elected monarchies through diplomatic actions that support heirs in foreign nations. If the heir you sponsor happens to win, it gives prestige, legitimacy, and relations bonuses. This has big consequences for historical elected monarchies such as Poland. This adds a wonderful added dynamic to the game. The big strength of Europa Universalis IV has always been the careful concert of powers and diplomatic interplay between nations. This added dimension of intrigue in elected monarchies not only fleshes out a historical reality, but adds more drama to the theatre of world history. Personally, I hope that this signals a growing interest on the part of Paradox to increase the involvement of leaders and monarchs in the game mechanics. Paradox, however, seems reluctant to bring in massive interpersonal mechanics on the level of Crusader Kings II, which is understandable considering since they wish to differentiate the two franchises, but I truly hope Paradox realizes that there are plenty of players out there that would love better micromanagement and control of their dynasties in EUIV. It's a sad day for the pinnacle of grand strategy to be overshadowed by the Total War franchise which at least has family trees in Empire and Shogun 2.
Aside from the new items one can play with if one buys the DLC, this new DLC also means that free items will now be made available for the base game. These include some new idea groups, the merchant factions themselves are free, and there are now new mechanics if one is ahead of the traditional adoption dates for certain technologies. This means that even if one is not interested in playing any of the republics available, the game experience still advances by a tiny bid. I find the most significant of these free additions to be the tweak in bonuses for advanced nations. Administratively advanced nations now gain a 20% production efficiency bonus and Diplomatically advanced nations gain a 20% trade efficiency bonus. These are massive boosts and make it almost always desirable to be ahead of the curve. I am well pleased by this change as it finally makes sense to spend those extra points on technology instead of simply waiting for the ?ahead of time? penalty to go away. This is much more realistic in the sense that it demonstrates the way in which advanced technologies would give nations a particular edge over others in that given time span. All previous penalties for monarch points of non-western tech groups have also been rescinded. I think this is not only a beautiful recognition of the capability of Non-Western dynamism, but will truly help in affecting the gameplay of non-western countries positively. Discerning Emperors with the Mandate of Heaven will have an easier time leading the Middle Kingdom to glory.
The $4.99 price tag is worth mentioning. I find the price to be absolutely correct. To wit, this is not a big DLC. One might even call it a ?mini-expansion.? There is certainly not a lot of new material here and, unlike ?Conquest of Paradise?, does not create a massive new paradigm in overall gameplay or mechanics. Considering ?Res Publica? is only half the price of the previous DLC ?Wealth of Nations? and a third of the price of the first DLC ?Conquest of Paradise,? it's well classed for the volume of content it delivers. Regardless, it's interesting to note the way in which this DLC tapers with the other two. One might worry that Paradox is running out of innovation in their DLCs as they have now released three DLCs with the last two being smaller than the one that came before. This DLC also only really affects a very small group of nations. However, I take it very well that this is only due to historicity. In other words, the limitation is only because republics were not as abundant in history.
What this DLC does, however, is it has released the genie from the bottle. Any nation, if taken down a certain path, can now experience the violent convulsions of the French Revolution. Power hungry dictators can now fulfill their desires of ruling over a country given to them not by the crowning hands of God and His Church or the Mandate of Heaven, but by the collective, swelling, and heaving masses. In other words, while the DLC itself is paltry in its offerings, it unlocks a particular mechanic which can now satisfy the desires of certain ?enlightened? despots and panders to the hopes of those who would change history.
The comparisons between this expansion for EUIV and ?The Republic? DLC for Paradox's other flagship title Crusader Kings II cannot be avoided. Both these expansions do the same job of attempting to make the gameplay experience in playing a republic unique. For the most part, they do a decent job. ?Res Publica? helps to alleviate the playthroughs of Republican players from being merely bland versions of monarchies which happen to have elections. The tensions and politics associated with a republican form of government finally get to see the light. Paradox has finally let the Republic gameplay out of the decanter and is letting it breathe. However, did this DLC do as much for Republics as ?The Republic? did for Crusader Kings II? I would go so far as to say that the DLC for CKII was the superior upgrade for Republics. The trade post system seems to have been emulated in ?Res Publica? by allowing merchant republics to establish trade posts in non-home trade nodes, but there is no real sense of territoriality or factional in-fighting that one had gotten with ?The Republic? for CKII. There is no special map mode where one can see one's economic spheres of influence. In other words, there is no interactive or visual incarnation or iconization for the new mechanics. Unlike what Paradox had achieved in ?The Republic? with its separate map modes and overlays, ?Res Publica? is a bit of a beautiful spirit with no body. Factional loyalties are presented in mere numbers and trading posts are just highlighted buttons on a province. The user interface is not all that different and there are obviously no graphical changes.
Overall, I would have to say that ?Res Publica? provides interesting starting points which will hopefully increase the dynamic ?sandbox? gameplay that Paradox is going for. It is certainly a worthwhile DLC for anyone who wishes to play the different republic types or for those crazy enough to ?revolutionize? the world and carve republican states out of any country they choose. For those who may be of the more Aristocratic or Monarchial type, it may not be that wise of a five dollar investment. Nonetheless, it's still a DLC worth the money one puts in and will provide a lot more drama on the global stage.