Only a few days ago, Conquest of Paradise, the first expansion for Europa Universalis IV came out. Those of you who have been here for a while will remember that I reviewed Europa Universalis 4 and I also wrote a small preview for Conquest of Paradise. For those of you who haven’t read the previous posts, Europa Universalis is a grand strategy game set in the Age of Colonization where you can play any nation on Earth.
When I reviewed the base game, I broke the game down into “X’s” (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) for those more familiar with the 4X genre than with grand strategy games. I also said that one of the main features that would help the game most would be a random map generator for the New World to propel eXploration. While each game is guaranteed to turn out differently in some way from one another, even in the base game, there was always the same “New World”, so after a few playthroughs you would eventually get the perfect plan for colonizing it. Indeed, that happened to me, getting colonization down to an exact science. But Conquest of Paradise fixes this by introducing a random New World. You can get strange continents or exotic island chains or who knows what else!
But that isn’t the only thing, no, there has been a huge overhaul of the colonization system and how your colonies interact with the homeland. There has been a large increase in the amount of native nations there are in the New World for instance, and they’ve had a lot of expansion, too. They can migrate now, being truly nomadic nations. They can be made protectorates of the European powers, in exchange for a faster technological development. Also, of major importance, is that when a colony overseas gets to a big enough size, it will become a colonial nation, with its own plans. It will pay a lot to you in the form of tariffs and they are effectively a puppet of you, but overtime, perhaps they’ll see independence as a different path.
But, the real primary focus of this expansion pack is on the colonial game including natives. So, for a first time ever, I’m going to play a native American nation.
There are definitely a lot of native American nations to choose from and a large number of them have unique national ideas. These ideas help shape the way your nation will grow and develop. Think of them like the traits civilizations have in Civilization V or passive traits as in an RPG. However, these ones will only activate once you’ve got enough ideas of other types to trigger them. I won’t go too much in-depth on Ideas, since I reviewed them quite a bit in the base review, but a lot of nations have unique national ideas now, that’s for certain.
There have been a few religious changes in North America, too. At the time of the first review, North America was entirely Shamanist, but now it’s Totemist instead, with Central and South America both Animist. I make sure to turn Random New World on so we can get a nice look at what the random map generator looks like in action. One thing I did notice is a complete and utter lack of settings for the random map generator – you can’t tell it to make an island chain or a batch of continents, you get what you get at random. I found that kinda disappointing, since I’d have liked to play with the settings a bit and see what I could get with some experimentation. I hope they patch in the ability to play with the settings of the random map generator.
I picked the Cherokee and hit the start button. Only then did it start randomly generating the world, I guess so that people don’t know what it’s going to look like till they actually start playing which should help preserve the surprise for a better eXploration experience.
Well, it looks like we’ve got a set of continents for our new world. This actually came out better than I thought it would, but there are a few strange looking provinces on the map, long and thin. But the game only came out a few days ago so hopefully they’ll be tweaking the generator here and there. Not only is the New World itself randomized, but so are the trade zones, the province names, the province values and so on. A slight thing I am a little disappointed though is that we can’t set the random map generator to change everything outside of Europe. Imagine sailing from Europe, trying to find India and finding a series of islands in its place? It would be great fun not knowing what lies in the fog the next province over.
Gameplay wise, the natives feel quite similar to the Europeans – they deal with trade the same, they deal with the military the same, they deal with advisors the same (I noticed some of the advisors even have the European image graphic, it’s kinda immersion breaking to see a Theologian with a Native American name wearing black clothes with a cross). But the differences quickly become apparent with a glance at their extra tab, the Natives tab. There they have their version of national ideas and also the redone version of the Westernization system. Just like with the Idea system, you amass monarch points (Administration, Diplomatic and Military, those three numbers on the blue ribbon with the nation name on it) to buy the ideas. Once you’ve completed all three idea lines and border a European nation, you can Westernize, which will allow you to research just like them. Otherwise, you don’t seem to be able to do any research whatsoever. You also have a unique set of improvements that seem more powerful than their regular cousins, for example, a building called Fortified House that gives +10 force limit. Force limit is the amount of units you can field with one force limit representing one division of units, so a thousand men.
There also seems to be quite a few new events for the natives, but I quickly ran into something that I found rather odd. The Federation System. It seemed to be some kind of mutual-defense organization but I’m not sure, even after playing for several days. One thing I noticed was that there wasn’t a range limit on inviting to Federation, so I got the nation of Ojibwe into a federation with myself, even though they are quite the distance away. Unfortunately, this backfired quite quickly, as the Ottawa were declared war on by the Cheyenne. My only way to get there would be to cross through the territory of the Huron and Shawnee, both of whom hated me so wouldn’t give me access rights.
You might be asking, “Chris, why didn’t you try to build boats to sail people round?” But there is a very good reason for that. Natives don’t seem to have boats. I don’t need to say what level of disadvantage that puts you at. Sure, I never heard of natives building galleons and the like, but why not transports? The naval unit could represent a large number of canoes. Without the ability to build boats poor Ottawa is getting rolled into the ground since I, even though I vastly outgun the nation attacking them, can’t reach them. Fortunately, the Shawnee eventually joined the war against us so I could move units through their territory, but I do believe a sort of native transport ship would be very, very useful, even if it can only move in coastal tiles and got one shot by European vessels.
During the war, I received an event. Unfortunately, it seemed like an event best tailored to European nations. I will quote the event so you can see what I mean by suited for a European nation “Unhappiness among the Artisans – Conflicts and protests over taxes, corporations, trade and customs policies are becoming quite frequent and could result in a sharp drop in our industrial production if we don’t handle the situation carefully.” I’m sure I am not the only one thinking that doesn’t make sense for a native American nation to have.
Overall, I have big mixed feelings about this expansion pack. It has added something complete and utterly revolutionary, something that has never before been in a Paradox Grand Strategy game – a random map generator. But, it lacks controls for it, which inturn cripples the generator since we have no choice but to get an entirely random new world. You can’t set it to generate say, a single large continent or an island chain or even to turn off the new world altogether. You can’t use it to generate more than just the New World so you can’t use it to generate a random Africa or the like.
Also, with the native nations being a let down, I turned to the old classics – The European Powers. I started a new game to take a look at what the changes were like to the European nations. Would the expansion be redeemed by the strength of its colonial game? The answer is yes. I built this Portugal for speed colonization and got the Moroccans as an accepted culture to give me a jet engine style boost in power. Leaping across the Atlantic ocean like a spark to a bale of dry hay I set up colonies and got to work.
The strength of the Europa Universalis games has always been in the depth of its European nations. On this new map generation instance, a number of the issues I had on the other I described above, like thin and long provinces, didn’t occur. Indeed, this map generation came out much better than the other. With randomly generated trade lanes, things got very interesting in the search for trade goods – you never quite knew where the next big prize would be, and that small colony near the Inca has the only supply of Cocoa that I know of on this map. Mighty fleets of trade vessels bring the spoils home across the Atlantic, powered by the trade winds back to Portugal where I make a lot of coin. The first place I put my colonies has become a colonial nation called Caraibas, a strong nation that frequently sallies from its borders into unknown lands in the name of the Mother Country.
By playing a European nation, you get the true vision of the game with Conquest of Paradise, and it’s magnificent. New events, new decisions, new missions and the entire new colonial nation system make the game truly great and then catapulted to new heights by the random map generator. If there is one thing I know is that I won’t be getting much sleep for the next couple of weeks.
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