Victoria II spans the globe from 1836 to the start of World War Two with over 200 playable nations. Like its predecessor, Victoria II focuses on internal management, covering the industrialization and social/political changes in a country with dozens of different government types. The game gives a lot of importance to the economy of a country by having a complex market system with over 50 types of goods and factories. While warfare is a component of the game it is not the primary focus as in other Paradox Interactive games such as the Hearts of Iron series.
Nations' populations are divided into cultures, religions, and occupations. There are several different population groups or "pops" including aristocrats, officers, clergy, capitalists, clerks, craftsmen, soldiers, laborers, and farmers. Victoria II introduces two new groups, artisans and bureaucrats. As in other Paradox titles, like Europa Universalis, historical missions that are micro-objectives in the larger game have been added. There are thousands of historical events and decisions as well. These events and nationalist forces can lead to the creation or disintegration of nation states.