I'm a fan of Paradox games and that isn't really a surprise to those who know me, but this is yet another masterpiece by them. Fantastic elements of Crusader Kings and Victoria combined into one package of world conquest fun. In this short recommendation/review I'll be covering the learning curve, gameplay, graphics and sound that is within this divine product.
The learning curve is as you'd expect of a Paradox game, but this time they bothered to put together a fairly good tutorial. However, the game still has that "you need to do some side research" element in order to perform to your best wishes. That isn't to say you can't just jump in though, a lot of the game is quite easy to figure out and when you do figure it out by yourself you can't help but hear victory fanfare in your head.
Gameplay as a whole is beyond pleasant. You'll have a fluid diplomatic experience, challenging wars that require attention to small details like terrain, control of trade nodes from very mercantilist nations, balance of culture, religion and the list goes on. This is a very challenging and rewarding game that will not have you steamrolling the map like in a Total War title but won't have you screaming at plots against you like in a Crusader Kings 2 game. There is a lot of room for expansion in the game, don't get me wrong, but overextention, culture, religion and other elements will restrict you making the conquests you do perform something to be proud of. This is not to mention that every faction on the map is playable, moldable and fully possible to take in your own direction.
The graphics are very good for a top down strategy game. They won't "wow" you but are aesthetically pleasing and crisp. One of the most enjoyable things I found was turning the terrain map mode on and just watching the seasons change around the world, something that is also important to keep track of since winter can affect you.
The sound is fairly simple but well done. The marching sound when you send your troops, the booming of guns, screams of men and overall experience is pleasurable to the ears. The music is similar to the basic sound in that it isn't as numerous as many other games but in the music they do have is some of the finest I've heard. The dramatic tone given to a war makes the game much more colourful and powerful whilst the tone given to peacetime can be just as inspiring.
Overall this is one of the best strategy games I've ever played and will continue to play for quite some time. After putting in hundreds of hours into Crusader Kings 2 I fear it will find a sideline as this game holds my attention with its addicting gameplay and pleasurable assault on my senses of sight and hearing.
+ Balanced and fun gameplay.
+ Difficult but not impossible.
+ Wonderful music and sound.
+ Massive replayability.
+ Aesthetically pleasing visuals that don't hog memory yet look beautiful.
+ Tons of customisation to be made through national decisions, government change and more.
- Computer will "cheat" a bit at times to catch up with the player. This is hardly noticeable and barely affects the gameplay, but at times it's so extremely obvious that it will make you tilt your head and say "Really?"
- The learning curve isn't bad but there is a lot not covered in the tutorial. A lot of my success was from trial and error and not from what I learned. In fact, I learned more from the "here's a hint" loading screens than I did the tutorial.
Final score: 9/10
Posted: August 29th, 2013