E3 2006: Europa Universalis III

By Scott Parrino 11 May 2006 0

Europa Universalis III

Tuesday night before the show we got an early peek at Paradox?s flagship title, Europa Universalis III. This new version of the historical grand strategy game makes significant improvements to the already successful franchise, covering the Middle Ages from the fall of the  Byzantine Empire in 1453 to 1786. The franchise?s epic scale is back, and to an even greater degree, but with a new aim of appealing its historical lessons to a broader audience.

One of the first things that struck us was the streamlined interface. In the previous editions of Europa Universalis, the event pop-ups would attack the user like a medieval siege assault, while the interface often required multiple clicks. Finding and controlling the various aspects of Europa Universalis III should be much easier; Paradox showed us how the new user interface had grown more intuitive with simpler menu structures and just one or two clicks to access the majority of the game menu. Furthermore, the depth that made the franchise so great has been expanded to a degree that should impress even the most hardened of Paradox critics. Each individual province in the game will have a well-researched history, with accurate historical personalities and individual timelines that extend back for hundreds of years. To that end, Paradox has made it possible for players to jump into any period of history covered by the game. Want to start in England at the outset of the Thirty Years War? No problem. Play as the Spaniards and conquer the Aztecs at the beginning of the 16th century? No problem. It?s even possible to narrow the game down to a specific date, allowing players the full flexibility of time and the luxury (or pain, as it may be) of selecting one of 250 different nations to play across the entire world.

Many of the features seen in the first two games are still present, and players will be able to experiment with their territories? domestic policies, including the level of autocracy, centralization, innovation, mercantilism, and freedom of peasants. In addition, players will be able to set how warlike their population is, as well as the focus on land and naval technologies. The impact on the economy, stability of citizens, and trade are all still there, too. Trade still plays a large part in the game, as do colonists. On a similar note, Paradox has added a new feature to the religious component. As always, religion and its development in the player?s country will play an important role. But as an added twist, players can now declare their nations to be the ?Sole Defender of the Faith,? a title which requires the nation to live up to a lot of demands, including military action. But the payoff can be an especially happy and holy populace.

One new feature will be the ability to recruit talent to the player?s court. No longer will players have to make due only with the talent pool their own country produces. If they have the resources they can try to lure luminaries such as Mozart, da Vinci, and Descarte to their court. During our presentation, we saw the German astronomer Johannes Kepler join the Swedish court. Each of these additions will bring specific benefits, affecting such facets as the economy, religion, or military strength.

Our impressions so far have glossed over the elephant in the room, namely, the new 3D graphics engine. The visual air of the game has changed dramatically with the addition of a true 3D graphics engine, giving players the ability to zoom in from the standard grand strategy perspective to see some of the more detailed terrain and unit icons. We really liked how on the 3D graphics added to the attractive design of Europa Universalis III. On that same subject, Paradox has also introduced a ?City Mode? which brings players in close with any of their own cities. This new mode presents players with a zoomable picture of their current metropolis, providing basic facts and stats on the city. From there, players can manage individual city responsibilities and tasks, including the role of trading in the city or the construction of particular buildings. However, this won?t necessarily mean more micromanagement, as the functions that are performed at this level can be heavily influenced from the main country screens.

Overall, our initial impression of Europa Universalis III was very positive. From what our time with the beta preview showed, Paradox has paid special attention to keeping this new title faithful to the original series. Expected to be released in early 2007, fans of the series should keep a close eye on it as it develops.

About the Author

Jim Zabek has been playing wargames for over thirty years. He still has his first copies of PanzerBlitz, Starship Troopers, and Tobruk, amongst others. In fact, his closet can?t hold all the boardgames in it. That doesn?t stop him from buying more even if he can only rarely play them. PC games don?t help the situation. He loves games so much that his wife has to periodically remind him that the rest of the world doesn?t necessarily love games as much as he does. He?s not sure he believes her, though.

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