There has been a relative rut of good computer games lately, and when one appears to break the drought, it demands a lot of time from me. Europa Universalis 3 is a case in point. The game allows the player to control any nation that existed between 1453 and 1789 – the fall of Constantinople and the French revolution, respectively.
I spent at least an hour trying to decide. I could tell that the game was going to be epic – the task I chose would have to be epic as well.
I decided to play as Japan and start in 1453. Why? Well, Iâ€™ve always wondered what would have happened if the Japan had become imperialist before the turn of the 19th century – say, before 1588 when the Tokugawa dynasty begins. What if they had managed to conquer Korea, a dream of many a daimyo without much of a navy, and gone from there?
Right now in the game, itâ€™s 1481. Japans controls Korea, Manchuria, Tibet, and about half of present-day China. A formidable if unstable Ming empire holds out, with southeast Asia and India a maze of little kingdoms (with Birat being the only one that has done anything save lose completely in a war with me). The horde in Mongolia is a vassal. Much of what today would be southern Russia is occupied, and revolting on occasion to no great effect. Taiwan, the Philippines, Guam, and Hawaii are Shinto colonies; California and Oregon are being mined for gold by Japanese settlers – the gold rush started in 1480 instead of 1864. An expedition to the Mississippi has made contact with the Cherokee, and my navy sailed past the Aztecs. Iâ€™ve got plans for them.
I played a short game as the Cherokee, too, but discovered that the game makes it virtually impossible for them to develop new government forms or much new tech. I did manage to give them the idea of expansion, and they conquered everything east of the Mississippi, but if Iâ€™d kept playing the Brits, the French, or the Spanish would have steamrolled them eventually.
The one thing I really like about EU3, and which makes it also frustrating, is that it is difficult and expensive to do anything worthwhile quickly. Sure, I can know a good course of action for Japan would be to expand aggressively in the Pacific, contain the Ming, and colonize North America before Europe does, but itâ€™s enormously hard to send more than 100 settlers out a year without having inflation explode or getting mired in debt. Colonies arenâ€™t worth much until they have around 1000 inhabitants (at which point they start dribbling taxes). Technology moves at a snailâ€™s pace, and the multitude of small kingdoms makes dominating trade almost impossible.