Europa Universalis IV hands-on preview


I want to break free.

Paradox Development Studios have arranged an enormous multiplayer preview event for Europa Universalis IV and they've given each attendee control of one nation during the renaissance era. I would say that they've given me control of Sweden, but for the fact that I find that, at this point in history, Sweden isn't entirely in control of itself.

Instead, I'm in what's called a "personal union" with Denmark, in which their ruler makes all the important diplomatic decisions for me: military pacts, declarations of war, whether we serve Ferrero Rocher at receptions and so on. I'm left to tend things within my own borders, muttering away to myself as I manage trade routes and try to force the Finns in my land to speak Swedish. I wouldn't mind a little more autonomy. Actually, I'd like a lot more of it, though for now I'll have to wait and I already have plenty on my plate.

As well as balancing my books, shuffling my armies about and constructing a host of improvements, I'm trying to make my country much smarter than its neighbours. If I can't look outward, I'm certainly going to look inward.

This is how things start should you choose to be Sweden in the fourth game in this grand strategy series. This is no Civilization, where every nation begins from scratch. Europa Universalis IV is all about asymmetry, starting you off at a point in history where some nations are large and sprawling, while others are weak and subservient and others still have the possibility for greatness ahead of them. Modest Portugal stares out at the Atlantic, across which a whole continent awaits their opportunistic explorers, and even the smallest countries have a lot to keep them busy.

Starting in the renaissance era means that the world is poised to discover new ideas, new lands and even new technologies. Europa Universalis IV has a real sense of pace to it as you quickly realise that, as well as whatever petty land-grabs your neighbours might be involved in, much more is at stake. Using merchants to control trade routes becomes vital for raising funds, while employing capable advisors who will advance your research is essential for if you want advantages in both peacetime and on the battlefield.

Read more about Europa Universalis IV at The Average Gamer >