Overview: Europa Universalis IV: Cradle of Civilization

By Joe Robinson 16 Nov 2017 0

Is it that time again, already? Paradox’s flagship Grand-Strategy game Europa Universalis IV now has a brand new expansion – Cradle of Civilization. Focusing on the areas occupied today by Egypt, Israel Lebanon, Syria & Jordan, this expansion provides a range of improvements that tackle trade, the major Islamic nations, Army evolution and of course, free goodies in the form of the 1.23 Persia patch.

We haven’t had the chance to play the expansion enough for a full review, but we’re here to give you some thoughts and a bit of an overview for those thinking about purchasing it today.

 

Beast from the (Middle)East

The title of this expansion shows where the headline features are, of course. The Middle-East, or West Asia if you're not a fan of that euro-centric designation, gets a bit of an overhaul between the paid and free features.

All of the nations in this region have benefited in one form or another – especially if it’s of the Islamic faith. Rulers of this religion type have always benefited from a ‘Piety’ bar that’s remained largely untouched since EUIV was released. Now, this bar has been altered by making each end of the Piety spectrum relevant. Going heavily one way or the other will yield different kinds of bonuses depending on whether you value Mysticism over Legalism.

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All Islamic nations get a pre-determined Muslim School of Law, which comes with its own bonuses and pre-set relationship with the other schools. Provided certain conditions are met, you can invite a scholar from another school to give you a temporary, additional bonus for 20 years. These can range from tech-reductions, to military bonuses. The Mamluk Government now select their rulers from a pool of accepted cultures, and their Claim is based on the percentage of their culture in state cores, and even the Ottomans get some love.

It’s not just about the big players though – should you free yourself from Timurid rule, Persian players get new unique abilities through the fact that they’re now a ‘Feudal Theocracy’, and Tribal mechanics get brought to the Armenian and Mesopotamian Sheep Tribes.

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Assemble the Army

The most interesting group of changes has to be to the military side of things. Specifically, Armies have been given more mechanics to reflect the transition from ad hoc gatherings of armed men to professional bodies of soldiers.

Nations now have a value called ‘Army Professionalism’ which will affect how well its armies fight, with the trade-off being mercenaries become more scarce and harder to recruit. Each individual army controlled by a General can ‘Drill’ to full up their drill metre – this has it’s own separate effects for that specific army, but also feeds into the overall professionalism gain.

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Crucially, for every 20% milestone in professionalism, armies unlock new on-map abilities that can increase their utility. This can range from creating depots to improve the local supply situation, to making Military Generals cost half the price.

We haven’t been able to test these mechanics fully, but extra buffs can definitely give a professional army the edge over a less professional one, although there’s no reason to believe the AI won’t also be making full use of this new mechanics. Other cool quality of life improvements for the military include being able to make armies conform to set templates – this will cause erroneous units to detach and missing units to be automatically built and sent to that army’s location.

You can also now name generals – yay!

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The Best Things in Life are Free

No modern Paradox expansion would be complete without the free patch that accompanies it.  The free features with Cradle are a little on the tamer side this time around, in the sense that while useful they don't outshine the premium content.

With the focus on the Middle-East, you'll be treated to 80 new provinces spread across those key central regions, which also means new minor factions. The new trade goods are also part of the free patch, so you can lavish in the trade in Incense, Livestock, Gems, Paper or Glass (I imagine a couple of those will need to be invented first).

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The rest is pretty much minor tweaking of existing features – Monarchs, Heirs and Consorts now have more personality, with their own culture and religion. Even advisers have culture, as it ties into the ability to promote them.

Two new manufactories have been added. The most interesting thing for so far is the new Start-up screen.

There is also a nice little quality of life improvement in the form of a ‘start-up’ screen that loads whenever you start a new game (Although not when you load a save). It’s neat in that it tries to give you an overview of your nation as it begins the game, the local climate as well as who around you might be of immediate concern. The tips it gives you depend on what DLCs you unlock, so you can be sure the advice is relevant to your current version of the game, although some of the advice is a bit generic. We loaded up a save as the Commonwealth in the Seven Years War start, and weren’t too impressed by what it said.

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Overall, our initial impressions are positive. This is a more impactful expansion than the previous Russian themed one. Lots of minor tweaks to many nations as opposed to a couple of ‘big’ ones to one nation. The Army stuff is really nice, as it’s nice to see history reflected in the game and be rewarded for it.

We’re starting to hit a point though where expansions like these are mainly becoming terrain improvements with thematic buffs and flavour content to specific groups of nations. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it helps to frame what it is you’re dealing with there. Time will tell if the new Army features prove to be ‘must haves’ or not.

Want to get a full break down on Europa Universalis IV's DLC and what to buy? You should check out our DLC Guide.

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