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Strategy games have come a long way since their origins. As with the rest of the gaming industry, they’ve advanced as both technology and gamers continued to improve. In the current market, there is a progression towards grander and more realistic experiences while maintaining a certain level of accessibility. One of the few outliers in this process has been Paradox Interactive’s series, Europa Universalis. Against the grain, this series has continued to grow its scope and hyper-realism while forgoing mainstream accessability in favor of these two areas. For its fourth iteration, Europa Universalis IVcontinues the long tradition and holds out as one of the toughest, realistic, historically accurate simulators while taking small steps towards welcoming new players.
There are four basic components for most empire building strategy games: finance, diplomacy, military, and technology. In Europa Universalis IV, the technology tree has been further broken down by the concept of Monarch Points. These points are influenced by the leader of the countries’ affinity for three leadership roles – Administrative, Peace, and Military points – that are accumulated to spend on technology upgrades and Ideas. Hiring advisors costs monthly income but offers bonuses, in addition to increasing one of these Monarch Point categories.
As the most evident change from previous Europa Universalis titles, Monarch Points still follow the theme of balancing tough decisions while presenting yet another layer of choices that fit the series well. While points can be spent on increasing the Technology Level, they are also used to advance bonuses within singular concentrations which unlock upon certain levels of advancement. This means that during the course of learning new technologies (which discover new concepts and unlock bonuses) are also used to unlock mindsets called Ideas which have their own specific bonuses related to their theme. Each Idea represents a mindset, such as the quality and quantity approaches in the military section, which offers increased damage or decreased costs respectively. Choosing one of the five mindsets in the Administrative, Peace, or Military sections can be hard enough, but when upgrading an Idea to unlock specifically related bonuses comes at the cost of setting back a technology unlock, it can be agonizing – even more so, as these Monarch Points gather slowly over time. A decision has lasting – though incremental – effects.
The inclusion of these points, while thematically appropriate, has the negative effect of adding yet another point of potential confusion. More detail in components add to the realistic decision making that Europa Universalis IV has become required to include, but this further breakdown does nothing for accessibility. Along with these Monarch Points, another change to the formula in the calculation of building bonus and their effects has effectively neutered the often costly investment in financing infrastructure. In an attempt to make these buildings and their effects more understandable though, Paradox Interactive does overlay a financial indicator, which shows the change in each province were a building placed there. These two changes have been called out by some long-time fans as steps backwards, while also causing an overstepping of the accessibility expected in modern games for new players.