Victoria II review
Paradox Interactive, the studio behind grand strategy games such as Hearts of Iron and Europa Universalis, has released yet another strategy game that centers on micromanaging a country, rather than a single kingdom. Victoria II placers players in the shoes (or throne) of a monarch, and sets them free to make political decisions for an entire century.
For players uninitiated with grand strategy games, rather than building separate units and tasking them with different jobs or sending them out to battle, or erecting buildings, everything withing Victoria II instead is accomplished through political persuasion.
Starting out, players are assigned to select any country located on a world map set during 1836. Each location has different bonuses and penalties, so the choice of the player is critical for playing to their advantage. Want to start out with an advancement on armies? That's easily obtainable. What about going for the more peaceful route and focus on becoming agriculturally gifted? That's available too.
Setting your eyes upon the game board looking world map for the first time (which looks like an advanced Risk board) may be off-putting and present itself as an overwhelming experience. Since you can shape the history of each country, everything is open-ended and left in the hands of the player to decide. From political standings, such as becoming a Communist or Stalinist, to being strictly agricultural and growing your country through import and export, it's all here. Often, it was enjoyable to build up armies in preparation to overthrow bordering countries who never see the attack coming.
While newcomers will be confused by Victoria II’s many options, an extensive tutorial walks through every aspect of the game. Though helpful, I still found myself lost in the many menus presented. Returning players from the original Victoria, which was far more complicated, will on the other hand right away see the extensive interface overhaul, making everything more streamlined and organized.
Having only political influence, rather than complete control of your populace, means having to keep them happy and satisfied. Balancing what the population wants versus what is profitable and good for your country is the main key point here. Once something goes wrong, it all goes wrong, so it's best to keep a close eye on the citizens so they don't revolt and make the game unmanageable.
Each country also has multiple research trees that will help with growth and prosperity. A country can't progress in each tree however, since each of the five trees have five categories that have five specific things to upgrade. Agricultural countries for example will want to concentrate on commerce and transportation, ensuring a decent railroad system will export their goods in and out of the country. Countries concentrated on war however will want to invest time in raising their armies morale, or the advancement in weaponry technology, enabling the development of stronger weapons and vehicles.
Victoria II, also acts as a computer game history book of sorts. Playing in the US for example will let you experience the Civil War, but also provides the chance to rewrite history. So while you can play it out to be historically correct, you can also craft your own story and have the South win for example.
The graphics aren’t anything to write home about. Since the entire game is played out on a world map, the only time you will see anything remotely exciting is when pictures are brought to the forefront during the loading screens.
Victoria newbies will definitely look upon the game with confused glares at first, and even after going through the extensive tutorial, might find themselves scratching their heads with confusion more often than not. Victoria veterans however will be pleased with the interface overhaul and streamlined menus, which helps alleviate frustration and ensures satisfaction. Feeling like taking the first step into the shoes of a monarch, try out the Victoria II demo that can be downloaded right here on GameZone.