Review: Europa Universalis: Rome (PC)

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Genre: Strategy
Platform: PC
ESRB Rating: E10+
Developer/Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Release Date: 4/15/08
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Strategy games have been around for a long time, and titles like Risk and Axis and Allies eventually made the transition to electronic media. Many people have heard of those titles, but a lesser known French board game by the name of Europa Universalis was also made into a PC game in 2000. Developed by Paradox Interactive, there have been three sequels to the original: EU2, EU3, and now Europa Universalis: Rome.

The common thread between all four titles is that you are wanting to lead a European empire to dominance. In the case of EU:Rome, you lead a country during the height of the Roman Empire, be it Rome, Greece, Carthage, or any number of outer countries.

There is no story to the game, per se. You aren’t really trying to recreate history. You are given the opportunity to run the country as you see fit. There are no real goals either. If you want to lead Rome to total European domination, you can do that. Or if you want to lead a lesser known country to be a trading powerhouse, that’s an option to. The world is very open, which could be a good thing, or a bad thing. A lot of people like things to be open ended, but I personally like to have an eventual goal to achieve.

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Graphically, the game isn’t really all that special, by it does its job well. The maps and user interface all looks nice and clean, and you can view small versions of the units you command, and those look good, if small. And realistically, this type of game doesn’t NEED to look flashy. The important parts are there. The map and the UI. People have been enjoying these types of games for many years, from back in the DOS days, and they’ve only improved since then.

Sound-wise, it’s about the same. There is some voice acting, and it does its job, but doesn’t really stand out much. There are a few sound effects when you click on a battle, which sound like swords clanking and men yelling, but that’s about it. And the music was good and fits well with the subject matter, but again, that’s about as much as I can say about it.

What really and truly matters about these types of games is the game itself. It’s a strategy, so it’s a thinking man’s game. Your main UI includes the map and several bars. The bars open up options like your diplomacy menu, research, and religion. Each menu can help you achieve goals that you set for yourself. For example, your people need to stay happy, so under your research menu, you can make sacrifices or request that the gods invoke their power to either help you or hinder their opponents. Diplomacy allows you to either make trades with other countries or go to war with them. Other micromanaging you can do includes changing tax rates and assigning provincial governors based on their skills. You can also create military unit and assign leaders to them. It’s a pretty neat idea that I’ve never really seen before. And as you research more, you are able to build more items in your provinces that improve the overall living conditions, and therefore make the people happier.

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Your opponents aren’t resting on their laurels though. They’re doing the same thing you are. Which means you’ll be fending off attackers from one side, while setting up trade routes on the other. Speaking of which, battles aren’t really shown in an actual form. Like most strategy games, it will have an indicator of what’s going on, but you don’t actually see people fighting.

Probably the most important aspect about the game that I haven’t mentioned yet is that this is essentially a real-time game. Many strategy games are turn-based, but here you have an actual date and time that goes up in real-time. You can pause the game of course, and adjust the speed. And herein is the biggest problem I have with the game. It’s just so long, and everything takes a long time to accomplish, but if you crank it up to a more interesting pace, it becomes unmanageable. But it’s not a problem with pacing so much as a problem with my dislike of micromanaging things. But I do have to say that every game is different, so there is literally infinite replayability, since you can start a new game with a different country and different tactics and have it go a completely different way.

Another problem I had is with the difficulty. My play-style with these types of games is very laid back. I like to do my own thing and play at my own pace, but unfortunately, the game didn’t agree with my pace. I was controlling Rome, the biggest and baddest empire, and along came some barbarians who took me on. And won. I know I should have built up better defense, but when the average legion is 1000 troops, and the barbarian hordes that attack you are 15,000 strong, it’s hard to judge just how strong you need to be. But still, having learned my lesson, things were better from then on out.

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The game is fun, but I can definitely see where people would get bored. I personally found it to be relatively addictive, but not terribly so. I kept playing and enjoyed it, but when I had more pressing matters to attend to, I didn’t have a problem leaving the game. And I think that’s the biggest problem with the game. It just doesn’t have a hook. There really isn’t anything to go for an audience outside of its own. I’m sure there are fans of the series, but there is absolutely nothing going for it to try to appeal to a new audience. But that’s how a lot of companies make their money. The niche market is very strong, and I don’t fault them for that, but when you make the same game over and over again with a few small changes, and don’t go outside your comfort zone, I can’t give the dev team too much credit.

In the end, it really comes down to what you like. The game does have an audience, and having worked for a development studio, I know what it’s like to see what happens when a game comes out. And hey, this is the fourth game in the series, so it has that going for it. I’m sure there will probably be a fifth and sixth game too. I just hope they are little more unique.

Ratings Summary

Story: Mediocre
Graphics: Mediocre
Sound: Mediocre
Gameplay and Control: Great
Replayability: Classic
Balance: Mediocre
Originality: Bad
Addictiveness: Mediocre
Appeal Factor: Dreadful
Miscellaneous: Above Average

Final Rating: Mediocre Game

Short Attention Span Summary
This game is okay, I will give it that. I don’t think it’s great, but it is fun. I enjoyed it. But I enjoy strategy games. If you don’t like strategy games, then this game is simply not for you. But if strategy games are your bag, then this is the game for you. You will not be disappointed. If you’re chomping at the bit, you can even purchase and download it right now from GamersGate!

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