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Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise Review

By on January 22nd, 2014 9:07 am

Look, a "New World"!

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.

North America with natives!

As you can see, there is a lot for you to choose from.

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.

"New World" Random Map

Well, that's an interesting "New World" to say the least!

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.

He must be cold like that.

The Native tab and a look at what our stout Cherokee warriors wear.

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.

Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise

Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise (PC, Mac, Linux)

Buy at GamersGate, Green Man Gaming or Steam.

Space Sector score:
The Good:

  • For the first time ever in a Paradox Grand Strategy game, we’ve got a random map generator, a miracle if there was one. It vastly expands the amount of exploration you will do and completely revolutionizes the game. To me, that alone would be an instant buy.
  • Colonial nations. They seem more realistic and make the game more enjoyable. You could get a friend to play the colony while you run the homeland. Together, I imagine you could accomplish great things.
  • Expanded diplomacy with the natives. Instead of just conquering them outright, you can turn them into protectorates. They give you most of their trade power and you protect them from the other European powers.
  • I’m gonna say it again – Random map generator. It makes exploration truly great since you really never know what is around the next corner. Could it be a sea province, or maybe a continent as yet undiscovered?
The Bad:

  • Unfortunately, there aren’t any settings for the random map generator. It’d be nice to be able to tweak the settings manually.
  • The game doesn’t seem to have had much done for the native nations. They were never the focus of the base game, that I understand, but it would’ve been nice to see them get more love here and there so they weren’t always nothing more than a speed bump for the European powers.
  • The map generator feels a little rough around the edges in some areas with micro-provinces and calling some coastal provinces Lakes, but these are just quality of life issues, nothing truly major.
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  1. LuckyLuigi says:

    Great review as usual. I like it that you don’t hold your punches even for a crowd favourite like this game. Fair reviews are hard to come by in the game industry.
    That said, I don’t mind the lack of options to mess with the generator as when I use this I like it to be a complete unknown to me and even setting option would give me too much information :P

  2. Jayl1ee says:

    Nice review, although I feel you could defend giving it a 8 or 8.5 score perhaps. Your beef with the map generator is fair, but the natives as only a “speedbumps” is simply not true. It is now almost to easy to become a powerhouse and lock down an entire continent as native nation. Still with regards to the natives, paradox could have put in a small amount of work and made the native nations more fleshed out. As it is now the majority of the native nations share the same national ideas.


    • Chris Salt says:

      The main problem isn’t that it’s hard to become a native power, the problem is that there are only a few national decisions for them, that they aren’t that much different from the European powers.

      China, for instance, has a faction system for it’s government. CoP tried to expand the native gameplay but in my opinion I don’t think it quite hit the mark.

  3. Expanding Man says:

    I badly want to like EUIV but, frankly, despite the high opinions many seem to have of it, I find it to be, well, simply terrible.

    I thought that having a fixed map all the time is one of crucial flaws of the game, but looking at Conquest of Paradise I don’t think it will be nearly enough. It does not replace the totally nonsensical resources in the game, or the trade system, the stupidity of which is matched only by its strangeness.

    I don’t know, maybe I can still give it more of a chance, I would very much like a historical strategy game which is more sophisticated than CivV, but EUIV is just silly…

  4. Gary says:

    Chris Salt said: “The game doesn’t seem to have had much done for the native nations. They were never the focus of the base game, that I understand, but it would’ve been nice to see them get more love here and there so they weren’t always nothing more than a speed bump for the European powers.”

    To be fair to Paradox, in reality, the natives _were_ nothing more than speed bumps to the European powers.

    • Chris Salt says:

      In real life, they pretty much were. But EU4 allows the creation of a wide variety of alternate history scenarios. Hell, Paradox even published one in the form of Sunset Invasion for CK2.

      But in EU4, it would be nice to have the possibility to become strong enough to not be barely a blip on the radar. I can load up my game of EU4 and annihilate most of the native nations in a few years once I’ve reached the new world.

      They feel completely irrelevant.

  5. dsheepish1 says:

    This is actually the first expo-DLC of Paradox that I am disappointed with.

    The native overhaul was really only halfheartedly done. I should not have people “demanding old rights” that didn’t exist in First Nations societies in that time period, I should not have almost zero new events, zero new decisions, and I should not play an Europe-lite nation as soon as I get two provinces as the actual new mechanics for natives only work as long as you stay an OPM. The CK2 DLCs added tons of fun mechanics, events and decisions for every group they have ever focused on and actually made me change my mind about DLC and what they should be. Federations are okay on paper but are pretty useless in practice since anyone you’d want to enter one with, you can just ally (although the morale boost on top is pretty sweet). New World games are still passive as hell because nobody ever takes any territory from others, or seldom do. I can count on the fingers of a single hand how many provinces an AI native has gained in warfare. They also don’t use their colonist so you can just run circles around them and grab all the East Coast for yourself and become unstoppable, not to mention that even if you do colonize you actually deal with the “Native population” in the provinces which is just a little bit silly.

    Moreover, protectorates are a simply stupid mechanic and they are incredibly bugged in 1.4. You can make a nation half the map away a protectorate while it’s in a war and you automatically enter the war on its side, getting a free CB for absolutely no effort at all, but it’s even worse when it’s done to you. An example being you being some nation in Asia and you try to smash some horde skull, boom Russia protectorates the horde nation out of the blue and now you’re face to face with the manpower monster, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Not to mention you can never break a protectorate, ever (that is, you can’t go to war with its overlord and have it cancel it), they give you a relatively useless bonus as chances are you’re never going to need 50% of their trade power in whatever node they are in as nations you can protect are usually far away due to the tech group limit (while they bonus THEY get is awesome, making it a very one-sided affair), THEY CAN GO TO WAR AGAINST YOU AND YOU CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT, you can’t annex them, you can’t vassalize them.

    As Muscovy/Russia you can’t stomp on hordes and make them bow down to you, you can stomp them then…offer your protection to them? The idea of protection rackets is very nice in theory (kinda like the Mafia destroying your shop then offering to never do it again, plus protect you from those who would do the same in exchange from a cut in the profits), AGAIN, but trade power is nowhere near good enough of a payment, especially since the kind of nation you can protectorate don’t have any. The protector could at least take some of their money, or take some of their manpower and force limit, or better yet, take a monarch point cut from them up to a cap, or at the very least give you a CB when they invariably turn their back on you and join a war against you.

    There’s also the matter that one day you’re vassalizing all your neighbors, the next day you Westernize and can’t do it anymore. Why? WHY? Because the game is made so that I can’t. That’s not a good enough reason.

    The new Trade Node in the Atlantic is another good idea on paper that fails in execution. Forget about having any clout in it as the Netherlands as chances are you can’t even reach it as the premier trading nation, and even if you can, your ships are going to take attrition. Instead of making trade wars interesting, it dumbs it down to whoever has the most light ships patrolling it. Control of the WETN is suddenly everything to your trade from the New World.

    The AI for the colonial nations is re-tar-ded. They don’t colonize new lands (I hear that’s a bug) and never do what you want them to do. Although direct control was perhaps too much, the home government had control of its colonies to a much bigger point than the system lets you have. Not to mention you do retain control over Asian and African colonies. If one is going to strip player control from their colonies, why not go all the way?

    In terms of game mechanics, 1.4 was the nail in the coffin of vassal feeding and at the current point in development, the mechanics for it are hopelessly arcane and depend on AI factors you can’t see directly (it depends on the personality of the AI). While this looks fine on paper, as with everything else, it’s yet another RNG stroke of luck whether the vassal you want to feed has a militaristic leader that is willing to get some stuff from you (at least that you can see), and stroke of luck +2 if it has its sights on a certain province you want to give to it. Coring stuff from nations with +coring cost NIs is now absolutely mind-numbing. It’s a huge drain on already short ADM points due to the zillions of stab hits one gets at every turn of the road. You will understand if you ever get to core Hungarian land with the NI and Local Nobility from the Aristocratic tree.

    Coalitions barely ever form now which allows everyone and his mother to blob (that has been/will be fixed I think) and makes direct conquest an absolute non-issue. The problem with coalitions wasn’t that they actually formed, it’s that you had to fight half the world for the same gain you’d get if you fought a single other nation for quadruple the tediousness.

    And for the grand finale, the random map generator is not well done at all. 90% of the time I get a Civ5 archipelago with all native nations bundled together which removes 90% of the point of the DLC as they can’t migrate due to having no space. While I appreciate and understand the point of it (Europeans back then didn’t know what they were going to find, the player does), I was expecting something better than a glorified Polynesia almost every single game. Desert tiles are hopelessly frequent and make the NW much less of a prize than it actually is. The names don’t adjust and you get coastal provinces inland and other things of that nature. I just play with it turned off.

    Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the game immensely. But after amazing DLCs like TOG for CK2, I was expecting better. MUCH better. I will wait now for player feedback instead of preordering future DLC.

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