If there was ever a gaming equivalent to Football Manager in the domain of historical global domination, then Europa Universalis (and its WWII offshoot Hearts Of Iron) would have to be it.
Perhaps in terms of pure numerical depth the comparison is a touch ambitious, but in bringing together areas of foreign policy, trade, development and warfare, few games have been so successful at weaving all the threads together, especially within such a rich tapestry as post-medieval European history. OK, the graphics were a bit knob, but like Footie Manager's rudimentary dancing discs, EU's Risk-style map and cute icons did the job adequately enough.
Which brings us neatly to Europa Universalis III's headline feature - 3D graphics. Don't get too excited - it hasn't gone all Total War (intriguing though the prospect is). Rather, in place of the static 2D map that was probably knocked-up in MS Paint, we're now treated to a zoomable atlas, with textured lapping oceans and soldier pieces that poke at each other with all the enthusiasm of a road-sweeper encountering a dog turd.
Underneath the GPU-friendly visuals, the game is essentially unchanged. Choose a country, set yourself a goal and see how you get on through 300 years of history. The beauty of it is that the game doesn't place any restrictions upon your ambitions (or lack thereof).
HOLD THE LINE
As ever, the combat could hardly be termed exciting, but the challenge is more about maintaining your military and making sure the populace is behind you. Yes, you are expected to behave in certain ways to other nations, but the game allows you to be cunning, or as cunning as you can be against computer AI.
With the overbearing Catholic faith adding another layer to the grand strategy, and other countries reacting to events as they emerge (rather than as part of what was, in previous outings, a jarring historical script), the game makes for an authentic Machiavellian experience.
EU3 is a game that is easy to lose many hours and weeks to, although for the time being the non-existent Total War-style battles will have to be played out in your own tiny mind...
Old world order
- Wonderfully layered historical strategy
- Endlessly replayable
- Rewards long-term strategic thinking
- New graphics aren't particularly special
- Historical deviations may upset purists