Europa Universalis IV is a sandbox style strategy game, with its base rooted in history, it gives you full control over what happens with your faction. Where most games would have some contradicting historical facts, Europa Universalis IV allows you to take control of any nation on the map, from the ming dynasty in China, or just a travelling merchant from Venice. The choices you make, the nations you attack, the taxes you collect, everything is taken into account, and has an effect on the game play.
I think that is something that sets it apart from other games in particular, the goals in Europa Universalis IV are completely driven by you. While that can be an annoyance, not having a large “WIN” screen at the end of each match, it allows you to set your own goals, and complete them, in which case you could declare yourself a winner. I know, this doesnt exactly give you the gratification you see when decimating enemies on an end-of-game score screen. While this doesn’t suit everyones play style, it is a nice change from the norm.
Everything in Europa Universalis IV is done in real time, but with a twist. You can slow down, speed up, or stop time all together, to help make well informed choices on where to set up a trade, or which nations to target, which is a welcome change from all the tactical choices required for most RTS games. Though the real time feature is probably not needed, it has been used by Paradox for over a decade and it works well for them.
What makes Europa Universalis unique is that it is, for the most part, believable, in a world where most of the game released are fantasy driven and have no actual historical value, it was nice to see something that was, accurate. The choices and decisions you make in game could have potentially happened in real life. The outcomes from such decisions are equally as believable, and can be fun to experiement with, as you can see what consequences the choices you have made will cause. The realism of Europa Univeralis was a huge plus for me, as you see too many games now that literally allow you to destroy what the game is supposed to be based on choices you can make in game. The developers have made this much more difficult with Europa Universalis IV, as they penalize you for making unrealistic choices, and make making more realistic choices much more rewarding. For example, if you have a slight military advantage, and try to make that into some kind of world domination, there will be barriers to slow or stop that from happening, such as neighboring nation starting to hate you, or even the generals in your army resigning. This keeps the game on track, and not going too far outside the realm of reality.
The control that Europa Universalis gives you over managing your empires internal affairs is just as extensive, you collect currency under 3 categories: Diplomacy, Administration, and Military. You can use the currency for a multitude of options, from strengthening your economy to increasing your military strength. Be aware that it is intended to be somewhat realistic as well, and just like with the decisions you make, the currency you spend and where, will have an impact on the outcome of the game. There is a lot of math that happens in the background of the game, sometimes it can be difficult to understand exactly what is happening or why with regards to currency. On the whole though, with a small amount of time spent learning the game and getting to know the ins and outs, its actually very enjoyable, and unlike any other RTS I have played.
Europa Universalis IV is the best of the series to date, and would be a sure-fire recommendation for anyone you know that has an appreciation for realistic games that offer tons of choices. Wether you are new to real time strategy games, or you are well versed in them, Europa Universalis IV offers a relatively easy learning curve, which can be expanded upon as you continue to play through the game. A Must have for any real time strategy player.