Posted: December 15
Imagine a beautiful piece of music that's recorded on a potato, or a brilliant screenplay with a cast of entirely autistic people. That's what VicII is like - an incredibly original, balanced and fun game that's just so, so deeply flawed.
Don't get me wrong, it's my favourite paradox game (or possibly my favourite game altogether) - there are no other games with this level of depth that just work so well. When everything goes right in VicII - you've made it to the 20th century, you're a great power and you're having an arms race preparing for a great war - it feels completely perfect.
I can't think of another game where the actual *gameplay* changes naturally over time. When machine guns, trench warfare and indirect fire artillery have been developed by about 1890, there's no popup saying "Wars are fought statically now!". It just happens to be that to win a war after that point, you have to stop massing your troops into large armies and start lining them along your borders. You're not *forced* to do this, it's just that the bonuses to defence are so high that you have no choice.
Similarly, the economy and politics goes from being a trivial backwater of your country to completely dominating everything you do. By the end of the game factories are absolutely *crucial* and you'll be bending over backwards to get everything working the way you want. Politics goes from completely conservative dominated to a nightmare - by the end of the game, fascist, jacobin and communist revolutions are bulk standard. And if you have a communist revolution, for example, the way you play the game has to adapt dramatically (micro-managing your economy can be a damn nightmare). In the 100 years Vic II covers, you inevitably go from being in control of your economy and your population to being terrified of them - effective strategy becomes absolutely essential to achieving your goals.
So in terms of general strategic depth, this game is absolutely unrivaled. The flaws however, are myriad. Vic II was made before Paradox miraculously got good at programming games with CKII; despite being released in 2009 the graphics feel they came from about 10 years earlier. The game is *slow*. If your economy hasn't kicked off and you're not fighting a war, this is a waiting game. The first 30 years of a non-western country are even worse - the westernizing process is basically just several hours of sitting around doing absolutely nothing. The game *does* pick up towards its last half - but the first half can be really, damningly boring.
There are also some major gameplay flaws that really, really break the immersion, e.g the definition of a 'great power' as the top 8 scoring countries. While this is fine in itself, 'score' takes into account prestige as much as it does military strength. It's pretty normal to see Russia lose its great power status due to a lack of prestige and be overtaken by Belgium, Bavaria or Switzerland. And then, come 1890 the first 'Great War' starts with Germany, France, Italy, and the USA on one side and Belgium and Switzerland on the other - which is an *entirely* game ruining experience. A great war is *supposed* to be a cataclysmic war that goes on for years and years and reshapes the world in the process - when it ends after a month when Germany simply walks its troops into Belgium, it feels really, really dumb.
I have some other pet peeves - for example, the way the USA is hard-coded to get way more immigrants than everybody else - even other large colonial nations like Mexico or Brazil. This means that the Americas are incredibly predictable, every game. Not once have I seen something happen other than the USA becoming a top great power with the entire continent in its sphere. It's just really really dull. There's no way to play as Mexico or Brazil and try to rival the USA for dominance of the area. With that one move Paradox cut off half the world from ever being interesting.
So yeah. It's a brilliant game that will drive you up the walls out of frustration. It's definitely worth playing, but holy ♥♥♥♥ I hope Vic III is better than this.