Europa Universalis IV: Emperor Review09 Jun 2020 0
Europa Universalis IV: Emperor Review
Released 09 Jun 2020
It may not be as ‘iconic’ and Crusader Kings, but I've always felt Europa Universalis 4 is Paradox’s ‘Flagship’ grand-strategy title. It’s the most robust, it’s the most consistent in terms of mechanics and the experience of gameplay from start to finish. At this point I’d say it’s the most fleshed out, but tt also happens to be the one I’ve played the most.
Europa Universalis 4: Emperor is the game’s 16th major content expansion, and the first one since December 2018 when Golden Century was released. The dev team took 2019 off for some reason (although there were still milestone patches) and now 18 months later we finally have a new expansion.
This one adds in a lot of stuff, and the free patch adds in even more, so buckle down. We’ve got a lot to get through...
The titular focus of EU4’s Emperor expansion essentially deals with the twin hegemonys of the Holy Roman Empire at the beginning of the game’s time-frame, and the theoretical emergence of Napoleon’s 'Revolutionary' France towards the end. Historically, given the incredibly sandbox nature of EU4 it wasn't actually guaranteed that France itself will follow its historical path (if it even still exists by then) and there’s also no guarantee ‘Revolutionary State’ will emerge at all.
The end-game revolutions have been neglected for a long-time. I remember once Johan Andersson speaking about it as a kind of ‘final boss’ for the player to face, but quite often the world would be too different to actually facilitate the historical event to its fullest extent. With the Emperor expansion, the mechanics for a ‘Revolutionary State’ have been fleshed out and decoupled slightly from France itself (although I imagine there’s still plenty of player-and-AI tools to make it happen). The way revolutions spread has also changed, and more agency has been given to the revolutionary movement at large, much like how the Protestant Reformation was reworked.
In general, there’s been a targeted effort to flesh out the 18th century overall, with special new events and other late-game content to make playing through to the end a richer experience.
Coming back to the earlier sections of the game, the Holy Roman Empire game is significantly different. There’s a new window, for one thing, but also how member-states interact with the empire and the reform paths has also been enhanced. There’s also a special new type of dynamic event called ‘Imperial Incident’. The Burgundian Succession event has been folded into this new system, and it also features things like the ‘King of Prussia’ event, and other specific incidents.
The Pope is the third main ‘pillar’ of EU4 Emperor, mainly because faith is such a dominant issue during this period. Whoever is the curia controller can award ‘Golden Bull’s which give buffs across everyone of the same faith, the Pope can directly appoint cardinals in other territories, and there are new mechanics and content around the Counter-Reformation and the Council of Trent. How a player typically interacts with the Papacy hasn’t changed much - you gain Papal Influence by being nice to them and/or possessing cardinals. You can spend that influence to receive temporary buffs (it’s a good alternate way to boost stability) or to boost your cardinals chances of getting named Pope next, which makes you the curia controller.
The ‘Defender of the Faith’ title has also been reworked slightly so there’s more ‘meat’ to it, and Bohemia have a special ‘Hussite Faith’ path they can go down if they want prior to the Reformation kicking off in full.
Missions for Days
The lion’s share of content for this new patch involves the addition of new missions trees. Most of the important (and some mid-tier) central European powers get new missions, with a few getting new or expanded trees based on what they had before. I’ve counted perhaps 23 nations from the patch notes, but there could be a few more.
One thing worth reinforcing with this new system is that the missions do not give you any help in achieving them anymore. For example, Brandenburg starts with a mission to reclaim Neumark - in days gone by accepting this mission would then give you a ‘claim’ on the region to facilitate the conquest. Since moving to the new mission tree system this is no longer the case.
There’s not much you can say about the mission content except that it really does help give some personality to each of the nations that get bespoke trees. Depending on the nation and the tree, you may not end up using it any more than you would before the new system got introduced. It's definitely one of the dev team's smarter innovations though and can offer a better form of guidance than the system before it - the issue since it's introduction in Rule Britannia has been the team have had to play 'catch up' and provide in-depth trees for everyone as and when they could. The Emperor expansion makes a very goods wipe at this task, though.
Free for All
As is the norm with Paradox grand strategy games these days, just as much content goes into the free patch as does the premium expansion that you need to pay for. Every Paradox title handles this ‘free vs. paid’ balance differently and EU4 has had its ups and downs. I think on the whole the balance has been quite good, but there have been some outliers like Cossacks and the previous pack, Golden Century, where incentives to buy the expansion itself weren’t great.
The Emperor expansion is most definitely eclipsed by the 1.30 ‘Austria’ patch, but not necessarily in terms of content. The raw ‘content’ influx from the free patch mainly focuses on a smaller number of new missions for minor nations, some dynamic events around Italy, and lots of changes and tweaking to things like Government reforms. Estates have also been made part of the base game, and the new mechanics associated with them have largely been made free. That’s not to mention all of the new provinces and nation tags that have been introduced. If you thought central Europe looked busy before, it’s absolutely nuts now.
The free patch extends beyond content drops though. Look at the official patch notes and you’ll see plenty of changes to economies, AI, modding and an absolute boat load of bug fixes.
Europe: Definitive Edition
Europe has definitely been given a whole swathe of love in this expansion and it’s in the best state it’s probably ever been in. This is a very focused expansion - even though France gets a little bit of love, essentially anyone outside of the HRE won’t be getting as much. The attention to both the start and late game should at least make things interesting consistently across the board in terms of the events and situations you have to deal with.
Make no mistake, playing within the HRE is still tricky, and while the new interfaces and mechanics are still interesting only the Emperor is going to get the most out of them. Depending on how your playthrough is going, there’s no guarantee that’ll be you. If you want to dig into the ‘meta’ about playing the HRE and min/mazing, as well as what the implications are, we found this reddit thread to be especially illuminating.
It’s been a while since we felt we could say this, but if you buy Emperor on day one you (probably) won’t be disappointed. Obviously if you don’t usually play HRE YMMV but for those that do enjoy mucking around in central Europe, it’s been given a breath of new life and well worth your money.