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Posted on Jan 2, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Europa Universalis III – Recon (PC)

By Jim Cobb

Europa Universalis II was certainly a seminal game, spawning a host of historical strategy games such as Crusader Kings, Victoria and Hearts of Iron. The themes of all these games are molding several factors of society and government to lead a dynasty or nation to world dominance over a period of years. However, time marches on and any number of patches simply can’t keep an aging engine up to date. Paradox Games has taken its flagship game and is updating it with Europa Universalis III, due out in January 2007. The changes made are not only in appearance and adding the odd piece of chrome but go to the heart of game play and user convenience. The product appears to be more than a mere update.

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Usefully Pretty

The Europa Universalis series is map-intensive. Hence, Europa Universalis III‘s 3D graphics show off terrain, cities, units and special icons to aid players when looking at their county, one of over 180 around the globe. Each country is made up of provinces with the map containing around 1700 provinces. Different types of map styles show color-coded terrain, political boundaries, trade and diplomatic relations as well as religious affiliations. Special maps show the Holy Roman Empire and the Papal States. Levels of views of these maps can be changed smoothly with either a scroll wheel or button clicks. Unique icons mark capitols, port and centers of trade. A mini-map helps cover the globe while a new button takes players directly back to their country. Unlike most games, these maps are moddable with the appropriate software.

Around the map are a number of icons for quick information. The status of a country’s manpower pool and treasury as well as the number of merchants, colonists, spies, diplomats and missionaries available can be seen at the top of the main screen. Clicking on a province brings up the province screen showing that area’s army supply and attrition rating, income, political stability, religion, culture and major resources. A 3D graphic displays a town center with facilities and walls indicating fortification levels. Three buttons control the building of facilities, regiments and ships. Overtime, players can build nineteen different facilities and 214 land and naval units.

Clicking on a country’s coat of arms invokes seven sub-screens. These screens are the heart of game play. The overview screen shows gaming rankings and important diplomatic possibilities. The court screen shows the present ruler’s administrative, diplomatic and military abilities with the new options of recruiting up to three historical great men as advisors. The treasury screen not only shows a balance sheet with the inflation rate but also seven investment sliders. Five of these are for technologies such as land, sea, trade, production, and government. The other two represents emphasis on the country’s stability and cash on hand. Options for taking out loans and raising war taxes are here also.

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