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Publisher: Virtual Programming    Genre: Strategy & War
Min OS X: 10.4    CPU: G5    RAM: 512 MB    Hard Disk: 700 MB    Graphics: 64 MB VRAM

Europa Universalis III
March 14, 2008 | Andrew Wasilow

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It is January, 1590. The forces from Normandy have crossed the channel in what could possibly be our final battle. The men under my command are battle weary and their numbers are dwindling. I don’t have enough money left to hire any more forces to aid them. I have only two options: fight or surrender. My army stands ready to fight the inevitable onslaught, ready to defend their country with their lives! But, no! The enemy has not yet moved to attack! What are they waiting for? They outnumber me, have a much higher experience at battle than I. What are they waiting for? I glance at the upper right hand corner of my screen in an attempt to determine why I have not been written into the pages of history as a horrible leader to find that I had forgotten lesson one of the tutorial. I have the action paused. I press the resume button and watch as my army is quickly decimated and my reign is over.

Enter the world of Europa Universalis III at your own risk. These risks include spending hours on end playing a nicely put together Real Time Strategy (RTS) game and possibly losing a bit of self esteem every time the computerized enemy tramples over you and your pitiful little army. Or, if the idea of being crushed by a computer does not appeal to you, invite friends and enemies to join you in trying to take over the world, and after the novelty of creating alliances wears off, get to destroying each other and stabbing each other in the back with great satisfaction as only computerized warfare can deliver.

The graphics in Europa Universalis III are of a mixed nature. The player is presented with a rather flat view of a portion of the world, depending on what country you choose to play, that is tilted to give the effect of a three dimensional land. You can zoom out to view a large area of land, the borders of the countries and provinces and scroll very quickly across the entire globe. Zooming in gives you, aside from the obvious conclusion of a closer view of the map, three dimensional characters representing different aspects of the countries displayed: armies, navies, cities, etc. Also raised against the flat surface are flags representing the respected land they are attached to, flapping away gallantly in an invisible three dimensional breeze.

All of these are very well done. Even the two dimensional map is very detailed in its country boarders and descriptions. While zooming in to the full extent, it is simple to determine the country of the soldier representing an army at a glance, the uniforms are very well drawn, detailed and distinctive. All of the flags flap happily in the wind (even though the animation is the same, the flapping is staggered so that no two flags are in the same stage of flapping as the flag next to it, which I thought was a nice touch) and waves lap upon the shores smoothly and detailed. Select an army and tell them to move to a different province, and the character moves as if it were actually walking. When you select a province, harbor, army or navy, you are given a nicely detailed picture to go along with your selection. If the province you select has a large fort, the town is built up and there is a wall around it. If it’s a village, there are fewer houses, no wall, and a small field. The “fog of war” effect is also well done. As any one who has played a very old RTS can tell you, a bad fog of war effect can ruin the playing experience. In Europa Universalis III the fog of war is present, yet not hindering when it comes to planning. Graphics are drawn underneath the areas you have discovered and not updated until you have a presence in the area.

As far as performance goes, my test bed dual 2GHz G5 with the Radeon x800XT ran everything beautifully. When I had a large number of animated objects in the view it did appear to slow ever so slightly, but not enough to make me want to run out and buy a new graphics card. In both windowed mode and full screen mode everything rendered and presented in a very polished way. Only once or twice did I notice any screen artifacts, and they cleared themselves up almost immediately. To display the game as it should be does require some hardware. As a performance test for example, I installed it on my 1.8 GHz G5 iMac with the Radeon 9600, and it was noticeably slower and couldn’t handle the graphics at nearly the same level as the tower, however it was still more than playable at lower resolutions.


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