Review: Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica

Another month, another Europa Universalis 4 DLC. Res Publica is now out for EU4 along with Patch 1.7. Its content centers around a new mechanic for the Dutch as well as some smaller tweaks documented here. I’m going to discuss playing a game of EU4 as the Dutch and where I think EU4 stands as a whole as of patch 1.7 as best as I can understand it.

Playing as the Netherlands is an interesting challenge. The earliest appearance of the Dutch is during the 80 years war and I got absolutely pasted by a vengeful Spain both times I began a game in that time period. After seeing that the next earliest Dutch game also began during a very serious war, I learned that a preferred way to begin a game was to form the Netherlands yourself out of one of the lesser Dutch states. This was quite an enjoyable experience and when I finally did form the Netherlands, the game didn’t disappoint. The new Dutch government is based around managing the balance of power between the Statists (Republicans) and the Orangists (Monarchists). Instead of the generic choices one receives in a standard republic, one has a choice between a statist candidate who generates Republic points and will be replaceable in a few years or an orangist candidate who often seems to be more skilled (like in a monarchy), but you’re stuck with until he crokes. If the balance of power moves too far in one way or the other, bad events seemed to happen so I tried to keep the balance of power as close to even as possible while making the most of the event bonuses.

The numerous flavor text is fun and informative and seems to inspire the imagination. My Orangist generals kept returning from their New World campaigns and demanding power in the Senate. My Statists would demand to be recognized for being the crazy entrepreneurial powerhouse of the economy who succeed without title or noble blood. Debates would rage over which group was more important to the success of the empire. For a time the Orangists were clearly the superior rulers and keeping them in power was all about paying lip service to the republic while letting the Orangists run the show, which was quite entertaining. These new events and mechanics make playing as the Netherlands worth the time and render the DLC a good excuse to play what was already one of EU4’s more interesting factions.

Now it’s time to discuss one of the thornier issues in EU4’s development. Looking at the four major features advertised on steam, one could become upset to learn that two of the features they think they are buying they will get for free anyway from the 1.7 patch. I’ve seen some real anger about this on the EU4 forums so I think it merits addressing. I actually like this new freemium model because I prefer the most level playing field I can find. I like the idea that I’m supporting Paradox and that, while my version has a few more bells and whistles, it has the same functionality as the poor history buff down the street. This system also seems to have been largely designed to ensure that all major features which might have potential conflicts with other potential DLC features are built into the patch. This makes the game playable with a potentially large set of installed DLC permutations which is part of the Paradox model. Thanks to the well-thought out patch/DLC system, the game hasn’t become a crazy cross-circuited nightmare or at least it doesn’t play like one. Now, there is something to be said against having to spend time figuring out what one is actually buying and Paradox could be better at communicating their new patch/mini-DLC system with the consumer, but I think this will happen as Paradox themselves better understand their new revenue model internally.

It’s worth a moment to discuss the current state of the game with the 1.7 patch and major DLCs installed. One common complaint is that people don’t like the colonial system introduced in 1.4, instead preferring the old system of micro-managing the colonies. I much prefer autonomous colonies. They don’t always do what you want when you want them to, which can be frustrating, but the sort of behavior I’ve read about colonial governments doing things which are stupid or insane seem not to exist anymore, at least in my games. I like the idea of having autonomous colonial allies because they mean that I don’t have to micromanage quite as much and maybe getting frustrated by having your colonials sort of do their own thing is part of the historical experience. That said, I wish I could at least give them suggestions which they could choose whether or not to follow, maybe gain liberty desire if my suggestions cause the destruction of their army, etc. One thing I view as an ongoing issue are the canals released in Wealth of Nations which cannot be controlled so as to allow only certain people or only your allies to use. A lot of the issues stem from ambitious DLC content that hasn’t effectively been built into the menus. They’ve added colonies, canals and trade companies, but these features in particular seem awkwardly welded to the menus. The menus and the diplomatic options should be expanded to make better use of existing DLC features rather than continuing to add more features and some system set up to allow better integration in the future. Without this, as the game expands with more and more mini-DLCs, it will become more and more diluted with superficial features that all seem somehow wanting compared to the depth of the main game.

Closing Comments:

Res Publica gave me a reason to have a blast playing as the Dutch. It adds a fun, historically accurate story about the competition between two philosophies and political entities and asks you to harness their competition for the benefit of the empire. As for the rest of the content, the new “faction” system never seemed to come up and while I liked the new idea groups, they just appear as additional options in your already vast array of idea and policy choices and probably aren’t worth the ticket price by themselves (unless you like the 1.7 patch and want to throw Paradox a few bucks for their trouble). If, however, you’re going to play a game as the Dutch, don’t forget to grab Res Publica before you do.
 Platform: PC