October 25, 2022 became an almost holiday date for fans of “grand strategies” – the signature genre of games of the Swedish studio Paradox Interactive, because on this day Victoria 3 was released – the latest iteration of the cult series among fans, named after the famous British queen, under whose name we know a whole era in the history of mankind – Victorian. The last part, Victoria 2, was released 13 years ago, and its last addition – 9 years ago. The release of Victoria 3 tore up the Steam charts. The game instantly topped the charts, but received mixed reviews. What is the matter and what upset both veterans of the series and newcomers?
|Platforms||Windows, Linux, macOS|
At the dawn of change
Victoria 3 begins in 1836 – 15 years after the end of Europa Universalis IV, another legendary Paradox game, and exactly 100 years before the start of Hearts of Iron IV. The player will have to lead one of the many states that can be found on the world map at this time. The choice is truly stunning – from industrialized and powerful Britain, to Ethiopian tribes and the extremely vulnerable Chinese Qin Empire, which a capable ruler can turn into an invincible superpower.
In the main menu, the player is offered five modes: training, where you will be introduced to the basic rules of the game and will be allowed to play poker in a fairly rich, but “calm” country like Belgium; economic dominance, where you will have to become a leader among world economies; a military hegemony where you will have to develop through aggressive wars and an egalitarian society where you will have to lead a movement for human rights and a free-for-all society. There is a separate “sandbox”, that is, a game for any country without predetermined goals. If you are a more experienced player, the “sandbox” is your choice, while beginners will find it easier to move along the path helpfully defined by the developers, who will tell you the most successful solutions to achieve your goal.
When you go to the game map, you will see an interface in front of you that is surprisingly simple and clear. On the top panel, you can see four main indicators: bureaucracy, power and influence points, as well as your budget and income. Each type of score serves its purpose: bureaucracy shows the efficiency of your tax and management systems, power shows how much you directly influence the processes in your country, using it you can issue edicts that improve certain indicators, such as stability or production capacity in certain regions , and regulate the popularity of political forces, suppressing or strengthening them. Influence points are spent on international agreements and improving or worsening relations with another country. But the main thing on this panel is the budget – the holidays of the game.
Capitalism for Beginners
The economic system is the main decoration of the game. It is the economy here that is detailed the best and it is to it that you will have to pay the most attention, especially during war. There is a real simulation of the market – each production needs certain goods and produces others. For example, a steel plant needs coal and iron and produces steel, which, in turn, is needed by motor factories. Your market is a living organism that does not obey you directly. Other countries can buy your goods, and the only way to prevent this is to impose an embargo on one of them, which will destroy your relationship and give you dishonor – a special indicator that affects the attitude of all countries of the world towards you.
In addition to the needs of trade and businesses, certain goods are also needed by your population. Here it is divided into three layers – lower, middle and upper classes, which have different needs and different influence in society. While the lower classes primarily require clothing, grain, and furniture to satisfy basic needs, the upper classes often require luxury items, porcelain, and tobacco. Satisfying these needs is one of the main mechanics of the game, because a disgruntled population riots, which can cause divisions or even revolutions (more on this in the next part of the review).
The key to success is modernization. Research and introduction of new production methods allows reducing the need for low-skilled labor and increasing the volume of goods production. It would seem that there are only advantages, but there are also nuances here, which makes Victoria 3 so exciting. Automation of production reduces the number of workers, which causes dissatisfaction, because people lose their jobs. Discontent deepens if the dismissed were owners of shares in the company – we have capitalism here, don’t forget!
No less important is the development of the infrastructure, because no production will be useful if it cannot deliver its goods to your market. Therefore, when developing industry in certain regions of the country, it is necessary to take into account the need for workers not only of enterprises, but also of railways and ports that will deliver their products. That is why countries like China and India have the greatest economic potential – they have not only rich natural resources, but also a huge amount of labor. However, their problem is different.
Rise up, persecuted and hungry!
Your society is no less a living organism than your market. Each resident of the state has certain interests, needs and preferences, and if they are not satisfied, this person will turn into a radical – a rebellious element that causes unrest in the region of his residence. Riots are a parameter that determines how dissatisfied people in a certain area are with their living conditions. The higher the riot score, the less taxes you get from the residents of the rebellious province, and the less attractive it becomes to migrants. The effects of riots can be reduced by increasing police funding, but they can only be eliminated by getting rid of radicals. There are two methods for this – to raise the standard of living and to satisfy the interests of the population groups that represent your citizens.
If your country is an autocratic monarchy, most likely the power is held by priests and nobles. However, the more modern your laws become, the less influential these population groups become, and then you have to choose whose views are most in line with your vision of the state’s development. If your country does not have elections, each layer of society is represented separately and takes a place in your government (or opposition), which directly affects legitimacy. Otherwise, these groups can unite in a party, although sometimes this system fails. For example, you might see a fascist party made up of communist intellectuals and military pacifists. Since it is all generated randomly, the results can be completely unpredictable.
If you want your country not to lose advanced positions, you will have to constantly modernize. If Great Britain, France or even Prussia in 1836 already have relatively modern legislation and can effectively develop society, the Ottoman or Russian empires are stuck in the past. The lack of any civil rights, serfdom, state religion, traditionalist economy and many other laws from past eras do not allow moving the country into the future, and the priests and nobles, who control the majority of the ignorant plebs, block reforms in every possible way. How can you overcome this opposition and give citizens a better future?
The devil is in the details
What makes each game in Victoria 3 unique? Random events. Has your monarch disgraced the whole country and lost all authority? Party leaders fought a duel and died? A march of suffragettes? A socialist revolution? All this is possible! Most often, you have no influence on these events and they happen completely randomly, but there are exceptions. Most often, these are events “fixed” for certain states, such as the Opium Wars in the Qin Empire, the American Civil War, or the Tanzimat reforms in the Ottoman Empire. These events take place under certain conditions, such as the prohibition of slavery or the introduction of certain laws and can have both positive and negative effects.
In the previous paragraphs, it was primarily about domestic affairs. And what is happening in the international arena, and how can it be influenced?
You want peace…
No country can close itself within its borders and remain completely isolated. Whether you like it or not, you will have to interact with other countries in various ways. For international politics, a resource of influence is used – glasses with a bird on the icon. The most basic diplomatic interaction, the improvement and deterioration of relations, exists to change the attitude of other states towards you. If your relationship with a certain country is high, it is more likely to take your side in diplomatic games and sign agreements with you. Countries with low relations, on the other hand, will have hostile policies towards you, and only such countries can be declared war.
The game features various diplomatic interactions, both friendly and hostile. Their number is affected by the rank of your state, which varies from decentralized, that is, one that does not have effective institutions, to a large state that can dictate its will to the whole world. To increase your rank, you need to gain international recognition, the easiest way is through military means, and also have a higher prestige and GDP than the country whose place you claim.
A unique type of interaction is the “unification game”, available only for countries of certain cultural groups. It allows you to challenge other states that claim to unify the entire cultural group within the borders of one country. These include: India, Germany, Italy, Ethiopia and many other states of different levels and sizes. If words and influence have proved ineffective, the last argument of the kings must be used.
… prepare for war
“War is a continuation of political intercourse, a carrying out of the same by other means,” says the famous quote of Carl von Clausewitz, a prominent military theorist and the man after whom Paradox Development Studio’s game engine ClausewitzEngine is named. Although the game tries in every way to show that war brings only harm to your country, primarily by destroying the economy and the population that could be involved in production or agriculture, sometimes you are left with no way out. However, an armed conflict does not yet mean the beginning of a war.
After the announcement of claims to a certain country, the “diplomatic game” begins – another novelty in the series. A menu opens before you, showing the military strength of the parties, the mood of the AI participants (from horrified to convinced), the goals of the war and the allies of each of the participants in the conflict. Both the initiator and the victim can give in, after which the main objective of the war is imposed on them, that is, the one through which the announcement took place. If neither side wants to give in, war begins.
War is frankly the weakest parameter of the game. It is made somewhat lazily, the criteria that affect the armies are unclear, and in the battle a lot of factors depend on pure randomness. In addition, the player cannot directly influence the course of the war – all battles take place automatically, and you can only appoint generals as commanders of armies and send them to a certain front, causing a lot of inconvenience.
An absolutely standard situation is when the army has a low number of captured provinces, so the enemy country is divided into a dozen small fronts, and the function of dividing armies in the game is not provided. Therefore, the enemy gets the opportunity to easily win back the captured territories. Currently, the combat system in Victoria 3 does not work very well and will certainly continue to improve in extensions. In the tradition of Paradox, there will be many.