Europa Universalis II, by MacPlay
Posted: 26-Sep-2003

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: MacPlay Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: John Gebhardt Class: GAMES

Description
Europa Universalis II (EU2) is the most interesting and challenging strategy game I have so far evaluated. The game takes place in Europe between 1492 and 1792 and is loaded with historical detail of the period. Of course it would not be a game if the player could not affect the outcome and change fictional history.

MacPlay's describes the game as:

Europa Universalis II is a historical strategy game simulating all aspects of world history from 1492 to 1792. Each player takes on the role of one of the major nations of the era, controlling diplomacy, economy, warfare, exploration and colonization. A number of unique features ensure historical accuracy, including period monarchs, military leaders, and technological gains.

Engage in religious struggles, set up expeditions to claim the New World, lead your country to prosperity and victory. Send your Privateers to roam the seven seas, muster mercenaries to bolster your defences, and send missionaries to convert infidels to your State Religion. Interact with true historical events and persons to determine which path your nation will take in the game.


The installation requires 445mb of space and the CD must be in the drive for the game to operate. The install went smoothly and I downloaded and installed an update to version 1.0.2v2. EU2 has an interesting intro movie and very good music (at least it is good the first time you hear it, but may become annoying after many repetitions). A small problem that I encountered had to do with setting the display size. After selecting 1024x768, I clicked the button to not display that selection screen again. I then found that my choice of screen size was not suitable for my 15 inch iMac and could only change the size by editing the settings.cfg file directly. I discovered later that you can restore the dialog screen by holding down the option key while starting the game.


Main Control Screen

NOTE: This is a game that definitely benefits from a large display.

EU2 has an extensive tutorial that is absolutely required in order to get a basic understanding of the controls and commands. The tutorial has 9 chapters to it, walking you through the elements of game play. Even with several runs through the tutorial it took me about 4 game starts before I got the hang of things. I also used a FAQ available at
www.gamefaqs.com to reduce my learning curve.

Game Play
The game has a very rich set of variables that will permit a high degree of differentiation between successive plays. Although the game action starts in Europe, the entire globe is available for exploration and colonization. There are over 800 named provinces, 550 sea zones and 100 rivers. The user interface is very good if not immediately intuitive, with numerous mouse-over popups to keep you informed about potential actions. You can play the game as one of 8 major European powers or select from about 120 different "shields" representing entities from Aden to Zimbabwe, including several Native American tribes and Asian countries. Key elements of the game are similar to other strategy sims like Civilization, and include diplomacy, religion, colonization, combat, economy (domestic and foreign), and development or technology. A key difference with EU2 is that is it is not a turn-based game, but one of continuous play. You can select one of five play speeds and pause the game as needed, but when playing, time for you and your opponents marches on. Diplomacy and building and maintaining alliances are skills that are critical to success in the game. The diplomatic behavior of the player has a strong influence on the way the AI opponents respond to your actions and requests. Entering into conflicts as a solitary antagonist is a sure way to lose assets and reduce your "Stability" rating.


Land Military - Status Screen

The game can be won in several ways. Dominating the Globe is one, but probably the most difficult. The winning country is determined by a system of victory points that result from advances in all of the game elements. Diplomacy is a major contributor to your score. Building manufactories and winning battles will also add points. EU2 does not have a win scenario equivalent to the space race in Civ III, but there is one like being elected as head of the United Nations. In EU2, being elected the Holy Roman Emperor will almost assure a victory.

System Requirements

  • 33 MHz or faster
  • 128MB RAM
  • Mac OS 9.0 or later -or-
  • Mac OS X
  • DrawSprocket 1.7.6
  • InputSprocket 1.7.3
  • QuickTime 4.0
  • Multi-player (up to 8) capable over LAN or internet (not evaluated in this review)

Test System

iMac 400MHz (DV) 512 MB RAM, 40 GB Drive, OS 10.2.6


Summary
After struggling a bit to get the hang of the controls and understanding the intricacies of balancing military, religious, diplomatic and economic power, I found the game quite captivating to play. As with other global strategy games, it is not something you can start and finish in one evening, but I think dedicated strategy gamers are more interested in an in-depth relationship with the application that will last over a period of days. As with most games originally designed for the Wintel world, this port leaves something to be desired in Mac compatibility. It works well on the Mac, but there is often something "foreign" about the way it feels (aka, for a Mac user, not always intuitive). If you do enjoy strategy games, want to know more about European history, or just want to be an imaginary conqueror, Europa Universalis II will stimulate and maintain your interest for a considerable time.

Pros

  • Outstanding gameplay based on one of most crucial and interesting periods of human history
  • Very good user interface with helpful pop-ups and notations
  • Highly adjustable to create a wide variety of outcomes
  • High quality background music
  • Very challenging


Cons

  • Not as intuitive as most Mac games
  • Somewhat primitive graphics


Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice