Review: Europa Universalis IV: Third Rome

By Joe Robinson 14 Jun 2017 0

Review: Europa Universalis IV: Third Rome

Released 14 Jun 2017

Developer: Paradox Development Studio
Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Available from:
Steam
Direct
Reviewed on: PC

You know, I've never really played a game of Europa Universalis IV with anything other than the 1444 start-date. Starting from the beginning provides the most flexibility and long-term benefits in terms of shaping your nation, and the way in which EUIV works means it rarely feels repetitive, even if you choose the same nation every time. 

However, in order to fully test out some of the new features coming in the game’s latest expansion – Third Rome – I decided to fire up the 1308 start, the earliest one in which Russia exists as a formed nation. It was a bit weird, and if anything it made me think perhaps Paradox should have another pass at these to make sure the set-ups make sense. For example, there are new features in this expansion that make taking certain ideas as Russia rather pointless, and yet the 1308 start doesn't appear to have been altered in any way to reflect this. But I digress...

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Unsurprisingly, Russia is the sole focus of Third Rome. This 'Immersion Pack' is one of the smaller DLC tiers – similar to Levithans from Stellaris, the also-releasing today Death or Dishonor for Hearts of Iron IV, and other cheaper expansions. Don't expect the game-changing features of Mandate of Heaven or Common Sense, but don’t count this one out either. Personally, I like Paradox’s new ‘formal’ system of smaller DLCs that target specific nations and/or themes, but it can mean they are highly niche propositions for players.

Let's breakdown exactly what Third Rome does:

Russia – The Big Bear has had several key changes made to the way it plays. For one, it automatically has the ‘Tsardom’ government type (which is the same level as ‘Empire’) which is connected to several new gameplay features.

For example, Tsardoms can now lay claim to entire regions, not just individual provinces, for 50% more spy network cost. Russia also gets three new Government abilities tied to the different monarch power branches. Depending on how much monarch you generate in a category each month, the ability meter will fill until you can fire it off. These are:

  • Reform Sudebik: This Administration ability instantly reduces autonomy in all provinces by 10%.
  • Support Oprichnina: This Diplomatic ability instantly reduces the progress of all rebel factions by 30%.
  • Raise Streltsy: This military ability instantly raises 20% of your force limit in ‘Streltsy’ units, which is a new infantry unit-type that has +10% fire damage. The ability also lowers war exhaustion by -2, however the cost to raise stability is increased by the force-limit percentage that your Streltsy units take up. So, for example, raising 20% of your forcelimit as Streltsy increases the stability cost modifier by +20%.

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The Russian Region (1444 Start) – The Russian region in general has been improved. As well as the new Tsardom government ranks, there are Veche Republics and Principality Governments as well. These Duchy-level nations come with their own specific bonuses, but allow access to the Russian government abilities described above. The area in general has been giving new provinces, and new nations have been put on the map (mostly as new starting vassals/potential vassals for Muscovy).

Russian Colonisation – Russia, and anyone with the ‘Russian Ideas’ tech tree have a new way to colonise that circumvents the need to take exploration or expansion ideas. It’s an ability called ‘Siberian Frontier’ that costs a little bit of diplomatic points to create a colony in an uncolonised region next to a city that can trace a route to the capital. This colony doesn’t cost anything in upkeep, and you won’t have to worry about native uprisings either, although other colony related events might still fire.

Orthodox Religion – The Orthodox Religion gets a bit of a face-lift, although not by much. Orthodoxy has always been a bit of a weird one in the context of the religious tensions of EUIV. As a nation you can’t change your religion to Orthodoxy willingly, although you can impose it on others. Furthermore, Orthodox provinces seem incredibly resistant to the reformation and aren’t really involved in that dispute. They’re just kind of there.

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The new mechanics allow you to spend Patriarchal Authority in order to commission an Icon for the Church, which gives you pretty significant boosts across a variety of areas, depending on which Icon one you choose. Eventually the Icon will run out and you have to buy a new one, so much sure you try and keep your Authority high. A new way to get Authority is by consecrating a Metropolitan – States that are of an accepted culture, fully Orthodox and total more than 30 development can do this ability at the cost of a 10% increase in maintenance for an immediate +5 Patriarch Authority.

All in all, Russia is now a more efficient nation to play as in terms of long-term goals & expansion. Not needing to waste an idea Idea group on getting a colonist is a massive boon (which is why its irritating to see Russia start with it fully unlocked in 1308), and the new mass-claiming and religious buffs will make the Russian Bear a real force to be reckoned with. There are few non-Russia specific features, namely that Cossacks are now an official unit type and the Cossack estate has new interactions (provided you have the Cossacks DLC), and for anyone with Mare Nostrum there is a new ‘Press Sailors’ ability that allows you to take sailors from your colonial nations.

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As always, we should probably also spare some words for the free patch that's accompanying Third Rome. Patch 1.22 is actually pretty tame as patches go, and mainly facilitates allowing people who aren’t buying into Third Rome to still enjoy the game. The new government types & events will be included with the patch, and they've been a lot of changes made to Diplomacy, Economy, War as well as some Idea groups being tweaked. It's a patch, and unless you spot a specific issue that’s been fixed, a lot of these tweaks will probably go unnoticed.

Scoring an expansion like Third Rome is a bit of an odd proposition. It's a very targeted pack that makes the thing it focuses on a lot better, but nothing much beyond that. The £8 packs are a lower tier of DLC that can only offer so much and rarely represent ‘must-haves’ if you don’t care for the subject matter. Sometimes, the free patch can steal the lime-light of the expansion but that hasn’t happened her either. To be honest, Europa Universalis IV is a game in its prime – updates like Third Rome are simply part of the never-ending process of keeping this Golden Age ticking over, and giving second or third passes to the few features that need it.

If you don’t really care about playing an easier-to-play Russia, you won’t find anything for you here, but it still does what it sets out to do fairly well. All in all, a job well done, and we look forward to the next one.

A minor DLC that does exactly what it says on the tin. Good at what it does, but if that's not what you're looking for then nothing to see here.

Review: Europa Universalis IV: Third Rome

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