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Historical strategy game starting in 1444, with more than 2000 total tiles, most of them land-tiles and hundreds of nations to start as and even further to release or form. It started as a semi-simulation of Europes history, but has become international.
You mostly play the game focused on two aspects: Diplomacy and warfare.
Diplomatically the game is focused on simulating countries as a unit. Your primary options are sending diplomats out to improve relations, forming alliances and getting reasons for warfare. Tactically this side of the game is deep and very well-functioning. A really enjoyable part is the randomness of the AIs diplomatic actions and how it affects the way you get to play. Endless posibilities makes for very good replayability!
The other primary aspect is warfare. Apart from battle-calculations, this side of the game is relatively simplistic, intuitive and easy to approach even though randomness and the limitations of the AI can cause some distractions. It is always satisfying to see your empire blob out and most achievements and the general game seems to encourage this type of play. Finding new ways to increase the size of your blob is always a way to keep challenging yourself, even though min/maxing it may not make for the most fun way to play!
The lesser aspects in the current game are focused on internal politics, internal cohesion, economy and dynamics/other elements.
The internal politics are split into ruler and advisers to provide 3 types of points, administrative, diplomatic and military. The points are used as a currency either to improve the internal imperial situation or to provide advantages in technology, ideas or policies. Many countries have unique ideas that gets unlucked as ideas are developed, adding some unique flavour. As a setup it works well as a gameplay mechanic and it provides for some clear goals of reaching tech x and getting idea y. Policies still seems a little too late-game centric and generally seems like a weaker choice for your precious points unless you have a very specific plan. It would be nice to see the system developed further to include economic considerations!
Internal cohesion has several elements, from a general stability element of the country, religion, rebellions and culture.
General stability is focused on legitimacy/republican tradition, prestige and a general stability modifier. All of those affects many of the other elements in the country. As a system it is working well for what it does.
Religion is a very prominent feature in the game, given how it acts as small mini-games in the greater game. It is a different game for each religion. It provides great advantages if you have a good unity on religion, while it can be damaging to just ignore. You can convert provinces at will. The mechanic unfortunately lacks minorities and is therefore a bit too crude in terms of provincial simulation.
Rebellions are one of the most changed features in the game. It is meant as a deterrent from ignoring the internal problems in a nation and it is adding a percentage chance of spawning rebels based on the most prominent internal political matters. Unfortunately it is still not working well.
The culture system in the game is a 3-split in accepted, tolerated and non-accepted. It lacks any overall depth as to reasons to take it into consideration and on a provincial level it lacks minorities. As such it doesn't add much to the game.
The economic modelling of the game is extremely complex and unfortunately it mostly comes off as a "positive income = good, negative income = bad". The three aspects are taxation, production and trade. Particularly trade is extremely complex, while also production has a steep learning-curve. Taxes are the most understandable, but it holds a lot of complex interactions with other gameplay elements. Unfortunately the gratification from achieving economic success without conquest is rather limited, but it holds some potential.
Furthermore dynamic events are added. Decissions and missions act as a bit of railroading of the game, but fortunately you can ignore them. Events are randomly chosen from a pool, with a lot of flavour hidden in different nations. It is a very easy way to add some dynamics to the game and it works well.
There are other elements in the game like colonization which works well as a game mechanic, but lacks some depth in terms of simulating the difficulties colonies faced, particularly based on the biggies.
The most glaring lack in the game is modeling famines and illnesses. Another lack is in terms of some logistical challenges. Both historically and in terms of game-dynamics, they could have added a lot of flavour.
The game is very computationally demanding. Be prepared for needing a high end computer to run it well. It also still holds a few crashes and some problems in terms of disconnects and slowdown in multiplayer. At the same time a few other bugs have gained historic standing as "features".
When that is said, the game is still getting developed and a new patch on the way should improve warfare and improve the rebellion system so as to force more considerations to be made about internal stability. At the same time it adds even more countries and land-tiles. The game is very good and approacheable for many people in terms of the basic elements. The depth is amazing. There are some less developed mechanics and a lack of more non-conquest goals and gratification, but since the diplomacy and military part of the game works well, the game is very good and recommendable for history buffs, economy simulation players, strategy game players and tactical game players alike.