Sponsored By: Manifest Destiny 2: The Curse of Papyrus
Time Conqured: 1 milliSands
I have no idea what I’m doing review
I’m going to deploy a European epithet here, and point out that the tutorials are bollocks.
I still have no idea what I’m doing review
Europa Universalis IV is a grayed-out-menu simulator from Paradox Interactive. It’s better than Crusader Kings II, which is another grayed-out-menu simulator from Paradox Interactive, in that there are more nations to choose from and more historical events to watch haplessly unfold before you.
The core mechanic of Europa Universalis IV is unpausing. That is, almost literally, the only button that actually does anything. Everything else is a master class in non-functional menu design. There are gorgeous icons for things like technology research, which you can’t do. There are dozens of buildings, which you can’t build. There are even elaborate options for diplomacy, none of which you can try.
There is no obvious way to unlock any of these things in the game. I spent my two hours playing as Castile, and was able to successfully complete two actions. First, I secured a royal marriage with Portugal, which succeeded in somehow lowering all of my points and resulted in an heir that literally died of dysentery. The second action I completed was to lose a war with Granada in which I outnumbered the victorious army three to one. Everything else was an unresponsive menu icon. (Why any game would have a “lose a land war in Granada” menu option is beyond me, but there you have it.)
The frustrating part was not the infinite stretches of menus that didn’t do anything; it was the completely misleading tutorials. Europa Universalis IV has an extensive, three-phase tutorial that walks you through all of the interface specifics, shows you how to use all of the menu options for things like war, trade, research and diplomacy, and even gives you a brief campaign to walk you through the loop of the game. Then, once you’ve built up your confidence, you fire up your first real campaign and see that literally none of things you did in the tutorials are possible. None of them. You can’t recruit units because you don’t have enough money, and you earn something like three ducats (the in-game currency that represents actual money, as opposed to how much people like or fear you) per month – and that number goes down once you actually recruit a unit, because they cost money to maintain. You can send your traders to more lucrative locations (or locations that would appear to be more lucrative, based on the in-game charts showing them as having more money), but when your merchant gets there you get zero ducats in income, and have to spend time shipping him back to where he was before because 0.17 ducats are better than zero.
Europa Universalis IV also has an Ideas system, which is the geopolitical equivalent of Perks in an RPG. The problem is that you need five ideas to start having any new ideas, and you start the game with three. Again, the tutorials give you no indication as to the mechanisms leading to an increase in ideas. There’s a great overview in the manual of all of the Ideas and the perks that they afford a nation that has them, but the only thing it says about getting new ideas is that you have to have ideas to get more of them. Maybe I’m supposed to direct my monarch to bathe more, in the hopes that he comes up with some Royal Shower Thoughts that can be leveraged into ideas.
You can’t research technology either, because you don’t have enough of the three-types of Monarch Points that it takes to research anything. It would appear that some of them just naturally increase as the game plays out, but the rate at which they do sheds some light on how it’s possible for one person to spend two thousand hours playing Europa Universalis IV: You have to spend a hundred hours waiting for your numbers to go up before you can actually play the game.
Europa Universalis IV is, I’ve concluded, an elaborate idle clicker that costs forty dollars and doesn’t have the decency to let you buy a coin doubler.
I want to like this game. I want to see what everyone sees in this game. Most of all, I want to be a person who has the kind of spare time necessary to actually get to do anything more complicated than lose a siege to an inferior enemy.
But I am not that person. I’m lucky if I can scrape together an uninterrupted hour of game time for myself on any given day, which means a typical campaign in Europa Universalis IV would take between two and six months to complete.
Maybe if I can retire, I can dedicate myself to figuring out how to enjoy Europa Universalis IV, or any of Paradox’s other grognardian idle clickers. At this stage of my life, though, no. I can’t say I’ll be playing more of it.
Is it the Dark Souls of alternate history games?
I’m going to go ahead and dub Europa Universalis IV the Dark Souls of idle clickers, even though it doesn’t seem to be appreciably more difficult or opaque than Crusader Kings II or any of the other games I’ve tried in the genre. It wins, primarily, on scope, scale, and any other bathroom staples you care to name. The sheer number of things you can’t do in the first few hours of playing the game is astonishing.
Ten out of Ten Ducat Souls.