If you played Europa Universalis, you may feel like you have been there before when you play Europa Universalis II. It has the same look, the same feel, lets face that it’s basically the same game with nifty new options and even more comprehensive economic and diplomatic systems. There are also more decisions for you to make as ruler of your nation of choice. But after a game has started, the differences will become more and more clear to you. This is basically a major enhancement to an already great game that only increases the player’s enjoyment of it.
Many have argued that there is nothing on Europa Universalis II that should not have been in the original, and that it should have been an add on and not a new game. You can be the judge of that after reading this review.
You can still start as any major nation of your choice in a wide variety of scenarios. But now you have a larger assortment of minor nations that are fully playable as well. Plus you can start as early as 1419 instead of 1492 as in the original game. Coupled with this earlier start time you can also play to a later date as well, 1820 vs. 1792 for the original. So you end up with around 100 extra years to try and make your chosen country supreme in the world.
You can also still play the fantasy scenario, my personal favorite, where everyone starts in a single province and has to build their nation up from scratch. That is the way I really enjoy this game the most. If you played the original and liked it, there is just more to like in this sequel.
The game is still highly complex and not for everyone, in fact some of the additions add to the complexity in that you now have even more variables to take into account when making major decisions regarding the future of your chosen nation. But a big change has been implemented with regards to historical directions that any particular nation went in. There are now a set of domestic policy slider bars. These show your nation’s outlook on diametrically opposed ideas such as serfdom and personal freedom, or land-based versus naval-based strategies.
Each starts off as the nation you have chosen was run historically at the time your scenario starts but that is only the start. Every ten years you are allowed to slide one of these slider bars one step in any direction you like (with an appropriate reaction from your populace and the other nations of the world, of course) but over time you can mold your nation in the direction you want it to go, not the way history showed it to be ruled. This makes every game basically unique as your decisions either support the historical government or mold it to something the leaders of that nation would not recognize. Just imagine a democratic Russia!
There is also more emphasis on religion. It is more difficult to deal with countries that have an opposing religion to that of your country. But do not despair, as they have also included mercenaries that you can send out to convert these troublesome natives to the one true religion! Included with this is the idea of ethnicity which puts yet another twist into your diplomatic decisions.
There are also a host of new things to think about regarding diplomatic maneuverings. In the original game you could just occupy all the provinces of an enemy nation and then ‘annex’ that nation into yours. This would reduce your diplomatic ratings in the eyes of the rest of the world but was still a viable way to grow your nation. In the sequel you will need to get that enemy down to just one province and then you are able to annex it into your nation. The sequel also has beefed up the way in which enemy nations negotiate, making it more difficult to ‘convince’ them to stop a war by giving you one of their provinces. Again, it’s another thing to keep in mind when making the decisions that will guide your nation to supremacy.
The graphics are very similar to those of the original game. They are not at all flashy, but then they are completely appropriate for the area movement nature of the game. Everything is based around the provinces in the game. Some are owned and you either leave them alone, trade with them or conquer them. Others are neutral and open, for the most part, to colonization or to the setting up of a trading post to lay claim to it as belonging to your emerging nation.
Neither colonization nor the setting up of a trading post are guarantees in the game and, unfortunately, it is not until you have spent the money, expended the settlers and made the trip to the new province that you find out if your mission is successful or not. The chances for success are displayed at the time of deciding whether to fund the mission or not but, it can get extremely annoying when a mission with a 77 percent chance for success fails three times in a row. Not to mention quite expensive as well.
You also have the random events that drove us wild in the original game. Things will happen, completely out of your control that could have major repercussions to your growing nation. In all cases you are given a choice of how you want to handle whatever it is that happened, but in some instances it is a choice of the lesser of two evils. It’s maddening, but just another of the ‘charms’ that keep us coming back to games of this sort!
All things considered, this fine game will get the same four and half GiN gems that the original did. If you played and enjoyed the original then you will enjoy this one even more. If you have heard of the original but never got around to playing it and feel you may enjoy a complex foray into the fascinating world of exploration, diplomacy and combat in the age of discovery, then you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy and give it a try.