MEIOU and Taxes - The Europa Universalis IV Mod We Were Waiting For14 Nov 2013 0
If you've been at the Europa Universalis IV (EU IV) section of the Paradox Interactive forums lately, you might have noticed a slight buzz over the release of the much anticipated ?MEIOU and Taxes? mod helmed by ?gigau? and ?lukew?. This mod, which is a cooperation between the heads of the Mihi Est Imperare Orbi Universaso and Death and Taxes mods respectively, is a comprehensive enrichment of the base EU IV game. Included in this free-to-download mod is a massive expansion on the original map, hundreds of new nations to play, as well as overhauled mechanics and the addition of new music.
Unlike other mods which attempt to radically shift the atmosphere or gestalt of a particular game, the gamplay of MEIOU and Taxes itself has not changed much from the unmodified EU IV game. Instead, this mod is focused on providing texture and immersion into the EU IV experience. Perhaps the best example of how MEIOU and Taxes achieves this goal is by the richly enhanced map which is the largest gem in the MEIOU and Taxes crown. Nearly a thousand new provinces have been added to the map with careful attention to historical boundaries, naming, and production. These provinces are not merely cut ups of the base game, but are completely thought out boundaries with historical cities and regions demarcated as if they had been lifted from a historical atlas. The naming, as well, has been researched and, in many cases, debated by the modders as well as fans of the mod. This regular flow of conversation and community input is one defining feature of many of these mods housed on the forums of Paradox Interactive as it draws and pools together educative talent in history, geography, and politics. These gentlemen are not your Call of Duty crowd that's for sure. The result is a map which is wrought in the crucible of discussion with naming conventions that follow the historical trends of any given region.
MEIOU and Taxes takes this naming mechanic to a whole new level as it introduced a dynamic system for changing province names. One is given a national decision to active or deactivate a re-naming system which changes the province name depending on the culture of the province owner. Thus, Gharnata turns into Granada when the Reconquista is completed. Some might consider this to be vanity, but I would argue that this necessary function helps player immersion by bringing the player into the drama of conquest. The spread of nations not only becomes territorial, but also cultural. The fires of nationalism which were barely ignited in the Renaissance, and became a flame which spread through Europe after the so called Enlightenment, become etched into the very map itself which gives the player a real sense of the dynamic sandbox nature of the game. Admittedly, this feature has its drawbacks. Since there is no actual coding for this operation, the modders had to make do with creating their own code on top of the notoriously overburdened Europa Universalis engine. This can cause a good deal of processing lag on machines. It's not so surprising since, after all, EU IV is attempting to calculate the minutiae of an entire world in real time.
This processor lag is a problem in general with the massive amounts of new provinces and nations present in the game as well. It's obvious that the developers of EU IV had not anticipated nearly a thousand extra provinces and hundreds of new nations making calculations every second when they coded the game. In a very real sense, MEIOU and Taxes is pushing the limits of the capabilities of this historical-world simulator. The good news for many individuals who were well aware of these limitations is that the venerable Clausewitz engine which powers the core of EU IV has made the map a lot more stable. This means that many of these massive calculations may lag the game, but crashes are relatively fewer than they were in previous incarnations of Europa Universalis which had not used the Clausewitz engine. Although there is little the modders can do to mitigate the engine load that the mod puts in, at the very least the dynamic naming tool can be permanently switched off if the player wishes to rename his or her provinces manually.
This undertaking with the map is not merely a cosmetic change either, although the way in which the three dimensional graphics for the map were overhauled is impressive in and of itself. It also means that new nations throughout the course of the game have been researched and finely tuned with their own set of national ideas. This massive undertaking truly brings to life the historical periods which the player has access to, and adds a sense of realism to the gameplay. The player speedily becomes acquainted with the native names of many of these nations that he or she will choose to play. I found myself rather charmed and enchanted by the synergy between the redrawn map and the nations one can choose from. For example, Genoa at the start of the grand campaign has many small port cities along the Black Sea and Rimini is a small coastal strip. All of these details bring the player into a historical setting which takes itself seriously. This is a mod which lovers of historical accuracy will enjoy thoroughly because let's face it: how many times have players found themselves with games that oversimplify borders? How many times have players groaned with some anxiety whenever they see the noble and proud factions of the Holy Roman Empire lumped into three or four factions in Empire: Total War? Even the base game of EU IV necessarily does this. This is where MEIOU and Taxes helps by adding much needed texture to an already excellent engine. Whether it's the fun of playing an obscure, small nation in the different corners of the globe, or the heavy handed glory of one of the many massive empires from China to France, MEIOU and Taxes gives the player the choice of his throne. The Europa Universalis franchise has always prided itself on its depth of historical detail such as their fully fleshed out Holy Roman Empire and the inclusion of minor nations from Livonia to Ceylon. MEIOU and Taxes expands on this tradition in such a way that one should have almost expected from the base game to begin with. As a bonus, MEIOU and Taxes not only provides the choice of where a player may begin his adventure, but also when. MEIOU and Taxes extends the timeframe of the game nearly a century earlier to the heyday of the 14th century, giving the player even more time to enjoy his sandbox experience. This alone would have made this mod an easy download, but it is only one of the many features included therein.
Although the mod does not alter much of the gameplay, the way religion has been treated in the mod has gotten the most attention so far. Written and organized by the legendary ?dharper? of the Dei Gratia mod, this new overhaul adds the same level of refinement and distinction to the myriad religions as the map does for the politics of the game. Just as oversimplification on the map has been chipped away by the mosaic amalgamation of all of the nations and factions of the world during the EU IV timeframe, so does the religion portion of the mod separate the various religions into their distinct factions. Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism, for example, are clearly marked and each faction has its own different set of attributes and bonuses. Provinces not just have the same ?majority? religion mechanic that the base game has had, but now also sport icons which display various minority groups living in the province which could have different effects on the province's revolt risk, taxes, etc, depending on the size and ferocity of the minority. This added level of religious texture adds a level of nuance that is akin to watching one's favourite childhood movie in ?High Definition? for the first time.
Micromanaging these religious elements is made through a clever set of events that trigger whenever one works at converting a province. One conversion may not be enough in any particular province depending on the size of the minorities involved, which demonstrates for the player the lengthy and often complicated process by which real national powers had to deal with their citizens of varying religions. Different events which are available depending on prerequisites (such as having a theologian adviser) add another level of interaction with this new mechanic. Peaceful or forceful conversions, for example, can be enacted by the government and the choice is left up to the player.
Various events are well equipped to follow up on these decisions as well, and far flung areas can have an effect on your own national spotlight as religious wars or religious conversions abroad may trickle down to your corner of the globe and determine your relations to distant areas. The Papacy has also been given a treatment by this mod. Various buffs are now available depending on the ?sponsor? of the Pope, and events for General Councils make much more sense in this mod. Overall, the treatment of religion in MEIOU and Taxes is of the same level of necessary nuance that helps to immerse the player more totally into the destiny of his nation. It is another triumph for the MEIOU and Taxes team.
Religion is not the only mechanical aspect touched by this mod. New events, decisions, and overhauled buildings provide a new set of options for the player. There's something quite encouraging about finding the national decisions screen filled to the brim with varying flavour and practical options. There is even a chain of decisions to bring a Tennis match to your capital so that when one has march'd their rackets to those balls, they can, in France, by God's grace, play a set. The trade map has also been reworked reflecting more accurate positions of historical trade nodes. There had been talk about making the positioning of these nodes dynamic, but that is only a pipe dream for the mod team at this time. Combined with the addition of new music to the game, it is clear that MEIOU and Taxes is fulfilling its mission to provide the player not with a ?different? EU IV experience, but a fuller one. Here is a mod that truly exemplifies the spirit of the Europa Universalis franchise.
There are a few things about the mod which I am a bit displeased about. I believe that the mod should have fundamentally reworked the National Ideas, especially as I thought Paradox particularly botched up this mechanic in EU IV. As I had written about before, I thought Paradox oversimplified their National Ideas and I had hoped MEIOU and Taxes would take a stab at bringing this aspect of the game into the glory days of how it was in MEIOU for Europa Universalis III. In other words: I was expecting a more richly adorned and nuanced set of National Ideas which didn't offer tiny bonuses but real and potentially world-changing changes to a nation.
It's clear, however, that the modders are determined to continually update the mod. From its release, the modders have time and time again reiterated that this is a work in progress, and although the mod itself is now live, there will continually be updates to add new features. Considering how well staffed this mod is, I consider it to be one of the most exciting downloads in the EU IV stable and easily one of the most thought out. If the quality of MEIOU and Death and Taxes for Europa Universalis III is any benchmark on where this mod will go, it's easy to see why this might be a mod which will forever vanquish any wish for the player to return to the base game. Considering that this is a fan-made mod which is free to download, there is absolutely no reason for a fan of Europa Universalis IV to not give MEIOU and Taxes a spin.