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Europa Universalis III

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Paradox Interactive

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PC Preview - 'Europa Universalis III'

by David Wanaselja on Sept. 19, 2006 @ 6:58 a.m. PDT

Europa Universalis III delves deeply into the areas of exploration, trade, warfare and diplomacy and is an epic strategy game where players take control of a nation and guide it through the ages to become a great global empire. In Europa Universalis III the team has focused on creating an interface that is intuitive and easier to get into while still staying true to the core and keeping game play intelligent.

Genre: Strategy
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Paradox Interactive
Release Date: Q1 2007

Mention Europa Universalis around a strategy game fan, and you're likely to get a response along the lines of, "That was a great title." There's no doubting that Europa Universalis and its successor really offered the whole enchilada when it came to strategy. Taking the role of practically any country on the planet, from England to China and even various tribes of Native Americans, your goal is to take the reins of your country and steer it toward a better future. Europa Universalis III hopes to continue the tradition of fine strategic gameplay with an improved graphical engine and game mechanics.

Upon loading the game, you'll have the opportunity to take control of any country at any time between the years 1453 and 1789. Wwhen I say any time, I mean right down to a particular day. If you want to play America from July 4, 1776, go right ahead. Each time period will have a suggested group of interesting countries to play, but although Portugal and Spain might be suggested as interesting countries in 1492, a country like China or the Ottoman Empire would alsobe available for you to control. There is also the option to play the entire 300-year span as any other country, or as the Teutonic Knights. It's up to the player to decide how long they want to play, or as which country they want to play. In addition to ratings in important areas such as military strength and diplomacy, each country also has a difficulty rating; all of these factors combine to give you a feel for what you're getting yourself into before you commit.

The first thing that anyone who has played either of the previous two EU titles will notice is the graphical change. The map is now rendered in full 3D, with tiny flags waving above each province, wooden cranes in action representing buildings being erected, and soldiers standing stoically, waiting for action. The 3D map is a great improvement over the simple 2D layout of the past. When zooming in, you get the details of the soldiers and what's taking place in each province, and when zooming out, these details disappear for a bigger picture. The various map filters are still in place, allowing you to see wth which countries you are at war, or the various trade centers to which each province belongs.

Along with the graphical refinements came an improvement to the user interface, which is just as substantial as the jump from 2D to 3D. It seems to be easier to navigate the menus than it was in the past, and everything is noticeably bigger, making the text infinitely more readable than the tiny font used in the previous titles. Hovering over each button or country gives you further information in a tooltip, which lets you know what modifiers each unit has or what the result of your actions will be when you move a slider or take another action. There is far less clutter on the screen now, with each menu housing submenus that make it far easier to navigate your way through the various available options.

Another huge addition to the game is the way it handles the Holy Roman Empire. In previous titles, it was a presence but couldn't be interacted with in the way that many would have liked. In EU3, players can finally attempt to influence the church in ways that couldn't have been done before. You can now bribe cardinals to come under your control, giving you the ability to direct the church if one of them happens to become the pope. Of course, you may also find yourself on the other end and have the pope order your nation to undertake a task in the name of the church. There are other religions besides Catholicism, and each one can have an effect on your country, especially if your Catholic nation takes control of a realm that practices a Pagan religion. You just might find yourself fighting rebellious colonists.

The way the military works has been revised as well. Instead of generic units like infantry or cavalry, there are now many, many different types of units, each reflecting their historical counterparts. Each region of the globe has unique types of military units, and this offers a far more realistic combat experience. Whether this will impact the way players interact with cultures outside of their regions remains to be seen, but it's almost certain that Native American civilizations will have a tough time warding off colonial Spanish troops wielding muskets. All of the old options for resolving combat are there, such as white peace, vassalization and annexation. Other new features include the ability to take on historical personalities to lead your troops, as well as help manage other aspects of your empire.

While the improvements and upgrades to EU3 are staggering, there are some areas that are still in need of improvement. For instance, when putting the game speed on the maximum setting, my PC was chugging through each day. In the old games, the maximum setting was perfect to get a year out of the way in a matter of a minute or two. In EU3, it took that long to get through a single month. Especially when controlling minor nations that don't have much to do for long stretches of time, it's important that this issue gets resolved. This is definitely an early build, and the release date is a long ways off, so hopefully it will be optimized by then. Thankfully, Paradox has a reputation for supporting their games long after their release, so any bugs or other issues should quickly be quashed.

Europa Universalis III represents a quantum leap forward for Paradox and their flagship series. The improvements to the graphics and user interface are certainly welcome, and the upgrades to the game mechanics in the military and religious areas should prove to be interesting as well. This is a highly anticipated title that has a lot to offer any fan of strategy games, and the scope and options that this title has should have anyone who loved the previous titles, or even just loves strategy games in general, drooling with anticipation.

Europa Universalis III delves deeply into the areas of exploration, trade, warfare and diplomacy and is an epic strategy game where players take control of a nation and guide it through the ages to become a great global empire. Unparalleled in its depth and historical accuracy, Europa Universalis gives players freedom to rule their nations from an impressive choice of over 250 historically accurate countries. The Europa Universalis series put Paradox Interactive on the map as a leading strategy games publisher and developer, and Europa Universalis III is eagerly anticipated from fans worldwide.


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