Victoria 3

Victoria 3

We've been able to go back in history and explore the great social changes that came with the Industrial Revolution in this fantastic sequel.

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The 19th century was a time of monarchy, colonisation and empire-building. At the same time, it was a period of opposing ideas such as freedom, socialism, democracy and many others. It is often listed as one of the most peaceful periods of time (although wars did occur). Victoria 3 captures the spirit of the times with industrialisation and the increasing need for resources states experienced. Paradox also manages to cement the challenges and contradictions. We are confronted with new ideologies, economic systems, city-building and one of the most awful conflicts in human history. What caught me with the predecessor was the optimism you can feel coursing through it and the major societal shifts. The same can be found in the third instalment. It offers an isometric menu-driven simulation of the time period right up to the early 20th century.

As usual, I started by testing the tutorial mode before embarking on the campaign. I got to test a number of different countries in Europe, including Sweden. My first impression was positive. It offered a beautiful campaign map with a smoothly designed menu system. The biggest novelty is that it is designed with Paradox's modern systems. The one that came with Crusader Kings II and then been a staple in the rest of the series. Compared to the second and its expansions, the third is more streamlined. The menu systems are much cleaner and clearer, it's only when you want to dive into sub-menus to examine demand/supply and resources that you're met with graphs and calculations. Nevertheless, even these are easy to read. The dilemma when you start is mostly understanding how to influence the graphs in the right direction.

Victoria 3
The training mode is as usual only text boxes intertwined with instructions.
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The simplest way to explain the threequel is that of a much smoother experience. I rarely notice that I can't find what I need, thanks to the presentation being really intuitive. Historically this has been a problem in these strategy games. This is where the trilogy shines in how it differs from its sibling series and predecessors. The menus are really made to instil the feeling of industrialisation with gears, colours and more. You can tell that Paradox has worked hard to let the user interfaces contribute to the presentation of everything as well, and from a design and functional perspective, I'm pleased.

These titles are of course much more than just their user interface. Victoria 3 has chosen to specialise around economics and diplomacy with conflict as a less emphasised aspect. The majority of work you as a player will do is to understand the underlying economic simulation and manage the diplomacy. If you've played Paradox titles before, you'll of course recognise it. When you carry out an action, it usually takes time, as you're setting up projects over a longer period of time that will hopefully benefit you in the end. Even though everything happens in real time with days, weeks, months and years, it creates the feeling that you're constantly moving forward. In my big campaigns with Sweden, Prussia, and France this impression was left clearly. Whether I played a completely open campaign or one with a focus.

Victoria 3
Maps and menus are really well done. When zooming, the map mode changes between realistic view and hand-drawn. The whole world map is on a table with compasses and other things, which adds to the experience.

Trade, technology, agreements, diplomacy are all complex systems that change depending on internal and external influences. Your role in this has a big impact even if change doesn't always happen at once. Transitions between different modes of government and laws affect how your nation plays and what it can do. If you play as the US or England, they will play differently with different areas of focus. The UK is focused on expanding colonies and not losing its own. The US is a very young nation just out of the revolution, and along the way you too will have to grapple with the Civil War, the role of slavery and much more. The game takes into account many historical events for almost every nation. Your role will then be to either influence it externally as another state or control the course of events.

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The music, unfortunately, is something that is mostly in the background and forgotten. There's nothing wrong with the songs, it just seamlessly blends in with the experience and then it's forgotten. The sounds, on the other hand, are something I like, everything from you pressing things and hearing gears and other timed stuff. As with older strategy games, this is a way to enhance the time period. The sound design though not very extensive does its job. Where the music can be pushed off without you noticing, the sounds are all the more difficult to do the same with. I really like that there are sounds built into the menus, it's almost as old as the medium, but it works brilliantly in this genre.

Victoria 3
For a Paradox game, the amount of detail on the campaign map is strikingly high. You can also seamlessly attach information and more. Important information you need can also be easily attached in the map mode of the user interface.

I don't have major criticisms against the great economic and diplomacy systems. Rather, it is the conflicts that I find a little too automated. Of course, I've been spoiled by Hearts of Iron but I feel it's less than Europa Universalis IV, which is odd. You can produce military, appoint generals and choose fronts, then the conflict takes care of itself. It's a deliberate choice, but I'm a bit sceptical. I can understand that the focus doesn't rest on the arms of militarism, but the game's main and biggest event is World War I. The whole game culminates in the Great War, and I'm sure the developers will expand the focus there with expansions. However, it's a bit strange that the war puts you in a spectator position mostly.

Certainly, the automation of conflicts is not entirely wrong given that we're supposed to be playing the country's leaders, not their armies. It's just a bit boring not to have full control over everything. What you can influence, however, in war is how well conflicts can go, albeit indirectly. You are in charge of the leadership, how much military you mobilise, their equipment and the level of technology. You can do all this in advance or while wars are going on. That means you still have an impact on the military even if you don't control troop movements in detail.

Due to a slightly less interactive war system and some states focusing on conflict initially, it creates slightly less interactive campaigns. If you're playing as Prussia, almost the entire campaign is about uniting the kingdoms into a unified Germany and becoming a major power in Europe. The same situation also occurs if you play as one of the kingdoms of Italy. Some campaigns focus on the "weakest" aspect of the game initially. While the conflicts aren't bad, it's not as engaging as the other systems. I ended up in that situation as Prussia. It's kind of up to you as a player to really utilise the full arsenal of gameplay systems to create variety day by day. At the same time, you don't have to unite larger empires and can remain a smaller state if you want. You start historically but then anything can happen even on the computer side. I had significantly more fun campaigns when I tried to use as many systems as possible continuously rather than focusing on individual pieces.

Victoria 3
Sweden during this period has lost Finland to Russia and has a union with Norway.

Watching a nation with a historical starting point in time evolve and change is exciting. When the curtain starts to come down and the nations are getting ready for confrontations, it's really nerve-wracking. As all you've done in a campaign that stretches well over twenty hours is thrown into disarray. Campaigns can be shorter if you automate everything, but if you play more normally and take your time, each session can take a while. However, expect a good replay value as different nations have different conditions as mentioned earlier. Playing as a dynasty in present day China is a different experience to playing as Portugal. Not all nations have access to the massive amount of different resources available. You are therefore forced to use the different systems to succeed.

For those with a historical interest in the time period, there's a lot to pick up here. It's not an in-depth simulation of everything. As with Total War, Paradox prioritises making the experience fun, with some systems more important than others. However, I think you can see a passion in how it's been offered up. Expect it to be on par with Crusader Kings II, Europa Universalis IV and Hearts of Iron IV. The last two games in the series offered an older gameplay style, which made me very curious in how this third instalment would be interpreted. Thanks to an awesome presentation, beautiful campaign map, great depth in economics and diplomacy, I'm still satisfied. I also feel at this point that the trilogy can stand on its own and is not heavily reliant on future expansions.

Victoria 3
The options are somewhat limited but are there if needed.

It must also be said that the AI systems are acceptable. Of course, people will quickly learn to overcome the challenge it poses, however, there are some difficulties with the AI I have observed. The computer doesn't seem to be building its nation correctly, as some states fall a little too far behind. At the same time during my play sessions the AI has been very active in diplomacy, trade and war. However, as usual, you can set the computer to follow historical lines, or to be more free in its thinking. Either way, on the hardest difficulty level, it's tough to beat. Overall, though, I think the computer on various difficulty levels is competent for the genre. It does its job at the moment even if it has small logical gaps you can exploit. It remains to be seen how others will 'break it' after release.

I've been waiting a long time for this sequel. A title Paradox didn't really want to make. Thanks to some nagging from the player base, we can now enjoy a highly competent interpretation of a time period with many contrasts. We encounter liberalism, capitalism, communism, democracy, imperialism, the slave trade and much more. It is difficult to explain in one review how transformative this period was for humanity and how it still affects us today. Victoria 3 succeeds well in trying to capture the broad strokes, letting you try to lead a nation through these times. They don't treat the subject in a tasteless manner but try to capture in different ways, the upheavals and challenges large states and small kingdoms went through. A good example of this is how the Civil War in the United States is treated. While the training mode doesn't really help new players well enough, it has a lower entry threshold than the second game did. This is due to better user interface and more clear gameplay systems, with tooltips on almost everything.

Victoria 3
The art is phenomenal.

It's without a doubt one of the best strategy games of the year in my opinion. I love the depth and the focus on more than just war, the diplomacy and commodity trading systems are great, and while it lacks the personality of key characters from Crusader Kings, it succeeds well with its time period. Getting to develop industrial nations is really fascinating. Even leading non-industrialised nations to success is difficult but enjoyable. It's hard to always know what's coming. Uniting China under one dynasty and pushing the country in a different direction is something that creates great "what if" situations. I guess that's the strength here, being able to test alternative theories of history. Although the simulation is neither perfect nor controlled due to its open-ended nature, it is a superb build by Paradox. If you like this form of strategy game, it's a solid recommendation.

Victoria 3
While it's possible to play as any country, there are some that have received a little more attention than others.
09 Gamereactor UK
9 / 10
Beautiful campaign map. Different map modes for clarity. Good depth. Easy-to-use user interface. Well-designed diplomatic and economic systems. Difficult issues treated respectfully. Great potential for many "what if" situations.
War with a little too little user input. Underwhelming training mode.
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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Victoria 3

REVIEW. Written by Patrik Severin

We've been able to go back in history and explore the great social changes that came with the Industrial Revolution in this fantastic sequel.

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