Paradox Interactive have a reputation for releasing some of the biggest, most complex strategy games available. The type of games that would have most casual gamers scratching their heads and wondering what was going on. As the sequel to the 2003 Grand Strategy title Victoria, Victoria II looks set to be following that formula, providing gamers with a 100 year period to take their chosen nation to the heights of power.
The game is set during the Victorian era, hence the name, running from 1836 through to the beginning of WWII in 1935 (which of course did not start until 1939, but you know what I mean). In a similar vein to previous Paradox games, Victoria II is played across a massive map that is historically accurate to the period in question. Each country is split into various territories, giving the player control over the placement of such important things as armies and factories.
Although the game will still feature a strong warfare system, much more emphasis will now be paid towards the economy and politics of your country. The choice of government type will have a direct effect on the amount of control the player will have over their country.
There are eight different aspects to the gameplay, all intertwined with one another, ensuring that choices made by the player must be carefully thought through, as the effects of those choices are not always immediately obvious. These aspects are Budget, Diplomacy, Military, Politics, Population, Production, Tech and Trade.
I was lucky enough to spend some time with Victoria II and see if I could get a handle on the complexities of running a country through this era of change. The first and possibly easiest choice that will face the player is choosing a country. For my first game I decided upon Belgium. Some countries will be easier to play than others, which stands to reason. Within the game there are eight great powers – eight countries whose status allows them far more diplomatic options and who have far more pull on the political stage. These countries have a sphere of influence which affects those other countries within the sphere, allowing for the player to instigate change in those countries as well as their own.
But my reasons for choosing Belgium had nothing to do with that. I chose Belgium simply because it was a country I had encountered during the tutorials.
No one can deny that Victoria II is a complex game. This much is evident in the sheer number of tutorials available, with three gradually more advanced tutorials for each of the different aspects of the game. Although complete understanding of the games mechanics will only be achieved by going through all of the tutorials and playing copious amounts of the game, it is possible to get started by simply doing the basic tutorial for each aspect.
This is in part thanks to the alert system. Victoria II contains such a huge number of statistics that the player can easily feel overwhelmed. The alert system causes the relevant aspect to flash at the top of the screen, indicating that there is something happening that the player should pay attention to. This makes it possible to quickly attend to any problems that need the players attention.
Playing through the game, it becomes apparent early on that the player does not have as much control as you would think. For the most part, the best a player can do is try to guide the country in certain directions and suggest actions for the country to take. This makes the game a little less foreboding and easier to pick up. Whether or not this will please the micro management fans out there, who knows? But it certainly does a lot to broaden the appeal of the game to the masses.
One of the much anticipated features of Victoria II was supposed to be the game save converter that allows players to almost continue their game in another Paradox title, Hearts of Iron III. It would now seem that this feature has been put on the back burner for the time being and will not be available at the games launch. Whether or not this will be included in a future update, only time will tell.
Victoria II launches on August 13th and will be available from all good Digital Distribution portals. My time within the game was both engaging and, at times,Â bewildering. Victoria II manages to be more user friendly than first appearances would suggest but still offers the levels of complexity that will keep the Victoria fans happy.