It's 1467. Christopher Columbus, son of a Genoan weaver, is barely 16 years old. He's nobody.
Meanwhile, Teodosio de Magalhaes, a Portuguese navigator, receives orders from his king: sail West. "Gladly," says Teodosio, and with ten ships he sails across the Atlantic, pausing to resupply at the Portuguese colony on Cape Verde. In 1468 Teodosio discovers the New World, dooming that sucker Columbus to a life of mediocrity. American children grow up celebrating Teodosio Day. Also, the entire U.S. speaks Portuguese.
The sun never sets on the Portuguese Empire.
This is the future I've wrought in Europa Universalis IV, the latest grand strategy game from Paradox Interactive.
A whole new world
Like the three previous Europa Universalis entries, EUIV is a historical strategy game set in the Renaissance era. It's a game about colonization, enlightenment, overthrowing tyranny, religious upheaval, nation-building, mercantilism, piracy, feuding monarchies, and political intrigue.
Or none of that. Like most Paradox games, EUIV is a virtual sandbox with a ton of systems and no real end goal. Launch the game and you're presented with a map of the entire world, populated with various civilizations from the Aztecs to the French to the Koreans.
Pick a country! Any country!
You choose which country to play as, what year the game starts in, and then take command of the country. You decide what technology your country invests in, arbitrate disputes between your nobles, put down rebellions, send spies to neighboring countries, and maybe even--if you're patient--wage a war or two.
If you've never played one of Paradox's games before, know this: Europa Universalis is not like Civilization or Total War. Waging war in EUIV is often a last resort, reserved only for the most powerful countries; small countries usually shouldn't bother. Even if you win, you can't just take over an entire country in one fell swoop. You might annex one tiny corner of a country, slowly convert it to your culture and religion, and thirty or forty years later they may finally acquiesce to your rule.
Grand strategy games are all about patience, EUIV demands it in spades. This is chess, played out on a world stage.
The new kid on the globe
The game runs at a player-controlled speed until you decide to hit the pause button, effectively pumping the brakes to make some world-changing decisions. Technically you could play the game as a turn-based strategy game, with each turn the length of an in-game "day," but there's really no need. While each turn in Europa Universalis is measured as a single day, many actions require months (raising an army) or even years (settling a colony).
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