For fans of the Total War series who like looking at the bigger picture. Or an excellent entry level Paradox Interactive grand strategy game.
When I bought the game I was a complete Paradox Interactive noob but I always liked the idea of their truly-grand strategy games. However, having played the demos for Europa Universalis III and Hearts of Iron II, I was convinced I would never be able to get my head around the complexities of Paradox's games. This all changed with March of the Eagles. The era in which the game is set is right up my street and the scale of the campaign map was like nothing I'd experienced before (scale is a relative term here).
People familiar with strategy games will be fimiliar with the basic concepts here. You destroy your enemies and take their land, simple. However, in MotE the gains (land) you make are much smaller than those in other games such as in the Total War series. This may sound boring to some but I assure you the opposite is true. Because you have to fight harder for every inch, when you eventually destroy a nation it is all the more satisfying.
Every nations on the map is playable from launch (no DLC is a rarity these days) which adds replayability to the game. I had the most fun playing as a lesser nations and working the larger powers against each other. I recommend one of the Italian nations.
What also suprised me is how much you learn. If history/national geography interests you then this game is great. I can now name a lot of lesser Germanic/Burgundian nations such as Nassau and Hessen which I didn't know once existed. There are also event pop ups which add little to the actually running of the game but provide educational fun, such as I never knew that Napoleon named his brother the King of The Netherlands. Fun fact!
The diplomacy element and associated AI is not the greatest in any game ever to be honest but it does the job perfectly well. There is a 'coalition' mechanic in this game which is a unique concept as far as I am concerned. This basically means that you and a bunch of other nations rally behind a super-power (Prussia, Austria, Russia, Ottomans, French or British [and Spain, but not really]) to defeat another super-power which results in an unbreakable alliance. This is a nice idea and historically relevent and probably the best feature in the game.
Let's be honest. You auto-resolve most of the battles when playing Total War and that's why you're here.
Basically the meat and potatoes of the game. If you're not planning on going to war there is not much point in playing the game. There are no live battlefield engagements in the style of Total War or Age of Empires but they are frankly not needed. While nine times out of ten combat boils down to who has more men, there are still other elements that effect the outcome in subtle ways. There are a variety of units avaliable to build but they are essentially pictures which represent statistics. But specific army composition is not necessarily what the game is about for me (though the right balance helps). For me it is not the who, but the where and when.... and also who a bit. Having the right amount of men in the right place at the right time is how you are going to win, not by numbers and blitzkrieg tactics. Also, with the exception of Russia and the Ottomans, you are not going to survive alone. You need friends. When you build an epic alliance as Britain with Naples, Prussia, Bavaria and Piemonte against the French this is where the game shines. It's even more fun to watch all those nations instantly turn against you as soon as the war is over for their personal gain. In this respect the game is extremely Machiavellian and I love it.
The combat is further complicated by the need to balance resources such as money and manpower. Compared to other Paradox game this level of resource management is childs play, but it is still on a par with other conventional RTSs.
Famous historical characters such as Horatio Nelson and Napoleon make cameos which is a nice touch.
Acceptable. There is not a lot to be said here as the game essentially consists of a map and a few character models. It looks nice, don't get me wrong, but it is what it is. If you're going to be persuaded either way by graphics for a game like this you're probably in the wrong place. Be warned, there are a lot of menus bt that is fine. You find your way pretty quickly.
The sound effects are passable to the point of being simply passive. Again, there is not much to report. Music on the other hand is where Paradox always delivers and this game is no different. It feels thematic but also extremely epic. The music adds further grandeur to the game which may not be otherwise be there.
The way Steam works the chances are this game will come up in a Steam sale soon enough. If it drops below £10 ($13ish) and it sounds like it might be your thing just get it and blame me if you're disappointed. I doubt you will be. If you want to get into Paradox grand strategies but don't know where to start then this is the one for you! It's simple enough to pick up easily but deep enough not to be considered a glorified tutorial for the other games, yet it introduces you to the essentials of Paradox grand strategies. Forme it was a gate way drug and now Paradox is one of my all time favourite game developers.
The downside. To be brutally honest after playing Crusader Kings II, among others, I don't see why a seasoned Paradox fan would buy this if they don't already own it. It brings nothing new to the grand strategy table. It was so good for me because it was my first expericence with the genre but if you know the genre already then there is little for you here. It's good, yes. But there are other Paradox games which are better (the aforementioned Crusader Kings II is my favourite so far).
For the uninitiated Paradox virgin: 8.5/10 (buy at any price)
For the Paradox veteran: 6.5/10 (buy at reduced price)