Europa Universalis II

Published by Paradox Entertainment

Europa UniversalisII (EUII) is Paradox's follow up to their Exploration and Empires game EU from 2000. I have not played EU to a great extent, being disappointed at my attempts to create a great Irish empire in the New World. The developers have installed new features to allow you to modify the historical characteristics of the country you represent, a choice of 180 nations to play, more options in diplomacy, a variety of senarios spanning the timeframe of the game (1400 - 1820) but to be honest the game play and interface are so similar that I find it hard to reason why they wanted to peddle it as EUII a there isn't enough 'new' to justify it.

Having no big game on my PC and encouraged by Byll to have another go with an easier power to settle me into it. I picked up EUII and started off playing through the tutorial. It was effective at getting the basics across, but I did miss one or two important things. I then started the 'Grand Campaign' as Portugal. It is good fun steering a nation to greatness. Game time can be altered so you can speed up or slow down to suit. Bad news are the annoying pop up windows telling you that "Suchandsuch has just arrived in the Bay of Cadiz, or "The Algarve Regiment is under attack by natives", and the like. That said the little goto button allows you to zoom straight to the action but the windows do get tedious after a while. I finally managed to right click on one by accident and got an options window allowing me to turn the pop-up off for that type of message allowing me to filter the dross and auto-pause the game for the more important messages.

Sadly graphics are not going to win EUII any prizes, all the European armies look the same, as do graphics for marching, building forts and tax collectors. When combat occurs it is almost laughable with a window appearing, then your little 2D infantryman waves his pike at an opponent for a few seconds as the bars detailing the morale of the units gets lowered as the fight progresses, until one side looses. Even the old Kingmaker PC game had a more attractive battle interface and all that was was number crunching! I found the rules for trade to be pretty awful at a time before overseas empires were big business when trade was king, but the colony improvements progressed as I felt they should. Save game interface is clunky with no option to delete a saved game and crashes when you put non-standard characters in the save name. I've also had units disappearing and a few CTD's (Crashes to Desktop) and now have the auto-save feature set to once a game year.

Overall it did feel a lot like playing a big boardgame and I'd be interested in a go at multiplayer, but the big let down for me was the hypocrisy of the gamesystem. You have to put up with the historical allocation of monarchs, explorers, and conquistador, yet the non-player states have a free reign to wander willy nilly across the world. In one game China had a major presence in the Caribbean before I gave up, in another I made an explorer wander around the coast of Brazil for years and when he finally found a province it had those bloody Chinese in it again!! After five weeks of play, wondering why I couldn't give gifts to non-player states to improve relations in an attempt to gain access to vital ports for a crack at circumnavigation I finally spotted a radio button that would allow just that! There must be a crack to turn on random explorers/monarchs in this game or it is going binwards

I will continue to play this for a while until something new gets my attention, but I'm dipping in and out of Baldur's Gate II and have an itch that only Jagged Alliance can scratch.

John Cudmore© 2002