Grand strategy at it’s finest.
First, let me apologise for any mistakes that I make during this review. I have neither a deep knowledge of history or the vaguest interest in politics, which puts me at a disadvantage when writing this. Are these things essential to enjoy Victoria 2? Read on to find out.
Victoria 2 is a grand strategy title from the masters of their craft, Paradox Interactive. What this means, for those who have never sampled a grand strategy game before, is that there is not so much sending peasants to cut down trees and unlocking a new upgrade to your mech walkers, and more watching stats and subtle choice making. Whilst this may sound like much less fun than your average strategy title, the result is a far deeper, much more complex and ultimately more fulfilling gaming experience.
The first thing that becomes apparent when starting the game for the first time is that there is an awful lot to learn. This is first hinted at by the massive number of tutorials that can be worked through before even starting the game. Although these tutorials are not essential, especially to those who played the first game, without at least watching the basic tutorials, new players will stumble at the first hurdle. It is also worth bearing in mind that reading the manual and the highly detailed strategy guide will go some way to improving your chances of actually surviving the first few years without going broke or suffering a revolution.
Anyway, the player takes a country of their choice, from over 200, and controls that country from 1836 to 1935. The player will have a chance to guide the overall direction of their population and country through politics, diplomacy, economics, colonization and military might.
This is where Victoria II really excels. The scope of the choices available is quite amazing. Every choice that is made has ramifications that may not be immediately apparent to the player and it is quite amazing to view the chain of events from a simple decision through to a catastrophic failure of your entire game (I am not saying that it is fun to watch your country fall, but one has to admire the way something small and seemingly insignificant can actually turn out to be so important)
Paradox Interactive have created an intelligent game here. The world in 1836 is exactly as it should be, but from there the direction of the world is guided by your actions. The highly capable AI of the other countries will continue as would be expected, unless influenced by the actions of the player. Historical events will only occur if the requirements that lead up to them are still apparent. In some ways it is actually quite creepy to see how little choices could effectively make such a difference in the world.
Which is what makes Victoria II so much fun to play. Once you get past the high learning curve, it becomes quite compulsive to play through a century and just see how different the world will be at the end.
Fans of the first game will already know all of this however and will no doubt already be running their favorite countries as I type. But, as with any game, the developers look to attract new players to this genre and have made a number of strides to make this game more appealing to them. The interface is for Victoria II has been designed to be far more accessible and intuitive than that of other Grand Strategy games, which will at least reduce the overwhelming feeling faced by a lot of newcomers.
But the game still maintains that level of difficulty that will make most newcomers pass this game by. Realistically, the game is not actually that difficult to play, but it is difficult to play successfully. Also the game still looks highly complex at first view, which will be enough to put off a lot of potential newcomers to the genre.
The game is played across a massive, detailed map of the world, which is historically accurate to the time period involved, or so I am told. Although very impressive and detailed, this is perhaps where I feel most let down by the game. It just doesn’t look that great. This has absolutely no bearing on the gameplay whatsoever. But a game that is so dependent on statistics and text based decisions could really do with some spit and polish on the graphical front if it is to appeal to a wider audience.
The overwhelming feeling that I came away with, after playing through a couple of sessions of Victoria II, was that of possibility. Although I don’t know that much about history, being able to play a part in these alternate timelines that were so different to our own, was invigorating. It is the sort of game that will have you telling complete strangers about how you once ruled a small part of the world.
Victoria II still doesn’t feel like it has made enough attempts to appeal to newcomers. That being said, it is certainly the most accessible of Paradox Interactive’s grand Strategy titles and, with time and practice, is not beyond the ability of your average gamer. The fans should certainly be happy with the depth and possibilities that are presented here. For everyone else, give Victoria II a try, even if it is not your usual fare. You may be surprised.
Victoria II, by Paradox Interactive, is available from GamersGate