Paradox’s DLC strategy is a pricing model I’d like to see other game developers adopt. With each of their mini-expansions, they release a fairly substantial patch that fixes bugs, polishes existing content, as well as adding new content to introduce or extend gameplay. For the players who want more, and are willing to pay for it, they can always invest in the paired DLC that introduces altogether new elements.
Europa Universalis IV’s Art of War expansion added some often requested features, such as the ability to cede control of occupied territories to allies, raise customized army compositions with a single click, or utilize enhanced diplomatic features, like selling outdated ships or declaring war in favor of rebelling factions in other countries. The expansion definitely enhances the game, but none of the features could be considered a necessity. While the new events and flavor text are great additions, as is the long list of gameplay improvements, the expansion itself isn’t a must-have.
However, its accompanying patch (version 1.8) added nearly 1000 new provinces and over 100 new nations, mainly in Africa, America and Asia. It also introduced new trade goods and price mechanics. For example, prices for trade goods can now also be affected by global events. The more static nature of the new markets make trade easier to comprehend. The revolt-risk mechanic also receives an overhaul with this patch, making the system much easier to understand and follow.
As a result of Paradox’s DLC strategy, the core game is updated frequently – and extensively – for free. Each of these patches is, in a way, funded with small to moderate content extensions that the fans with a little extra cash can invest in.
Recently, Paradox released the El Dorado expansion, coinciding with its 1.10 patch. The patch added new terrain types, an assortment of new achievements as well as a reworking of the terrain to better reflect actual geography. As with each prior patch, it also introduced more than a few bug fixes and other polish items.
However, the El Dorado expansion added one of the biggest features – and easily my favorite – to the game to date: the nation designer. By default, players are now given 200 points to choose their territory, national ideas, culture, religion and technology group. Each of the categories cost a certain number of points, dependent on what is chosen and its level of improvement.
Take, for example, the national ideas. Choosing each of them doesn’t cost you anything until you begin to increase their positive effect. Your national tax modifier starts as an increase of 5%, but the more you increase it in increments of 5%, to say 15%, the more points it’s going to cost you in an exponential way. The system works well and, as you’re building your nation, you can easily add/delete the various components to hone in on what you want.
Furthermore, you can now add random nations to the map, completely eliminating the historical placement of nations within every continent. Additionally, the game’s most recent patch, version 1.11, added the ability to randomly name those nations too, creating a brand new adventure each time you play the game. In my current game, I’m playing a nation that has basically assumed the island of Ireland and most of Scotland and England. My domain is bordered by a country called Kent, my chief rival, and I have recently vassalized a one-province nation to the east. The nearly 40 year war between Kent and I was tense and exciting and ended with me bringing most of their core territories into my fold. I now own most of “Great Britain”, but it’s not called that anymore. It’s called Honakerr, and in this world, Great Britain never existed and the islands of Honakerr are where the colonization magic originated.
What El Dorado does for the feel of the game can be either the most essential piece of content imaginable, or easily the most avoidable, depending on the type of player you are and what you’re looking for in a Europa Universalis expansion. For gamers like me, who don’t care about historical accuracies or the setting in which it all takes place, El Dorado effectively transforms the base game to a pseudo-4X Grand Strategy game where each game and each map are never the same. Paired with the Conquest of Paradise expansion and its randomly forming geography of the New World, El Dorado becomes an exploration game that the base game never was.
On the other hand, if you enjoy Europa Universalis for its historically accurate events and the mostly historically accurate geopolitical action, you won’t get much mileage out of El Dorado. Sure, it adds some new religions, treasure fleets from the New World and a new event involving the ‘Seven Cities of Gold’, but they aren’t overly significant to the game and are certainly not the ‘meat’ of the added content.
For people like me who may have already played enough of the base game to feel ready to try something new, or maybe for newcomers who enjoy the idea of game mechanics that run much deeper than a game like Civilization but offer a similar journey through human history that you create, El Dorado’s new additions are a must-have. I’m easily enjoying myself more than I ever have with EU IV and I can’t wait to get back to it, even after the 10+ hours I’ve spent with the new expansion. With the addition of the nation designer, Paradox has added dozens of hours of new life to a game that is rapidly approaching two years old. I hope that other development studios take note and adopt similar practices for their prized projects and find ways to add life in their games long after their initial release as Paradox has.
Additional opinion from Nosferatiel:
As a seasoned EU IV player, the new dynamics introduced with the Aztecs has made for a much more interesting game for me. The increasing need to wage war in order to reduce the “doom” perceived by your people, or face an uprising from the religious populace (oftentimes threatening to sacrifice your ruling family) has caused me to find a balance of aggressive expansion with keeping some unwilling volunteers alive for the next phase.
To satiate their sacrificial urges, the Aztecs must gather 5 vassal nations, attain positive stability and subsequently reform their religion. Meeting these conditions causes the release of these vassals. Thus, with the creation of a constant need for victims, a careful hand must be employed to ensure balance between expansion by war and the conservation of possible future vassals. And this must be done five times in a row. That makes for an interesting starting phase that bridges the gap between the first conquest of nations around you and the arrival of the European settlers.
In summary, Art of War and El Dorado both introduce lots of new mechanics (global trade events, improved province occupation mechanics, treasure fleets, et al) for both typical parties of EU players: the generalists and the historians. The bottom line is, if you loved EU IV before in any capacity, these expansions will be like a second honeymoon with the game. Now, please excuse me while I go polish my Aztec sacrificial dagger.
In summary, Europa Universalis continues to add more and more content, but doesn’t offer much new material or content that would truly convert those that were on the fence, unless the added options and gameplay expansions are exactly what you felt was needed to purchase it. I think that’s only a small subset of people, though, so it remains a game that we’d tell you to:
Devildog has played nearly 100 hours of Europa Universalis, mostly on an Intel Core i7-3770K 3.5 GHz with 8 GB of DDR5 RAM and a GTX 770 on Windows 8.1 64-Bit and roughly 15 of those so far on the newest iterations of it (patch 1.8 through patch 1.11)