Victoria II is a grand strategy from the brilliant minds of Paradox Interactive. Similar to many of their other titles like Crusader Kings II or Europa Universalis III, Victoria II lets the player choose and guide any nation which exists in the given time frame. While each title has focused on different aspects, Victoria II is set throughout the 19th and early 20th century and thrusts the player into the center of international power struggles, an intricate economic system and the balance between revolutionaries and reactionaries in their own country. With the new expansion “A Heart of Darkness”, Victoria II has truly become a replica of the 19th century rush for colonies and international stand offs between great powers.
Victoria II’s most likely outstanding feature is its replica of the population and internal politics in the 19th century. Unlike many games, a nations population in Vic II is a living and breathing mechanic which does not always obey the player. In fact, the populace of a country can prove to be as much a danger to the player as a war with another nation, maybe even more so. Say that you wish to be an absolute monarch, your word is law, the issue with that is that eventually you’ll need to deal with socialist and liberals who will start a revolution to get the reforms they want. The same applies to trying to create a democratic government; the conservatives will riot to return to “the good old days”.
Due to the threat a population imposes, the player must use a variety of methods to manipulate and control a nations population. Whether that be through giving out social and political reforms, using your national focus to gain support for your government or simply crushing the revolutionaries with your military. While this all sounds complicated, the developers have made the interface exceedingly easy to navigate; going so far as to give specific details about everyone’s social, religious and political views in your country.
The balance for reform and reaction in this game are incredibly well done. Depending on how the player manages his population he can have total support from them or spark a bloody civil war. More often than not the population will dictate how you play on your home turf.
The new expansion “A Heart of Darkness” focuses more on the colonization, diplomacy and wars throughout this game. While in the vanilla the AI did some confusing and strange moves, the expansion really uncovered the potential of international dealings and player-AI interaction. The most important feature here would be the “Crisis” mechanic. The mechanic occurs in areas where tension is unfolding; say Finland, where Sweden is pressing its’ right against Russia to regain control of its previous territories. This building tension will eventually blow up into an international crisis. Once the issue has reached the international stage, the Great Powers (The eight most power nations) will start to take sides and if it isn’t resolved war will break out between the two sides of the crisis.
While it is a simple system it works like a charm. I’ll give you an example where I was Greece pressing my claim on Macedonia. Eventually I managed to cause a crisis which brought in the influence of the Great Powers. Germany took up my call and in response Austria backed the Ottomans. Although I maintained good relations will all the Great Powers, Austria was afraid of the rising German state and likewise the French and Russians sided with the Ottomans while the British and Dutch came to my aid. The standoff continued until finally, with neither side backing down, war broke lose. All starting off from me complaining about my lack of land, I had caused an alternate World War One.
You may have noticed I only mentioned six Great Powers, this is due to the balancing system to avoid innumerable crisis’ popping up at once. In my game as Greece the other two Great Power were the USA and Spain. If a Crisis breaks out while a Great Power is busy (in a war that usually means) then they will not interfere. So if you’re playing as a smaller nation you have to plan out your crisis well so as to catch as many Great Powers while they are not busy and then convince them to support you. Over all, the crisis system really adds to a sense of realism and interaction that wasn’t present in the game before.
On top of this added interaction and interference with the AI, the colonizing system also had a rework which made the race for Africa a very realistic and engrossing. The colonization system has a number of restrictions base upon early choices made in the game. The restrictions are based on many factors, geographic position and technology being a couple. For example, as Sweden you likely aren’t going to be able to colonize much further than Morocco; however all that focus into Naval tech allows to you colonize just about all of North Africa. But you better be fast because as soon as you can start colonizing so can the other nations. In your race to claim your piece of Africa you and another nation and ‘duking it out’ to get a claim in the same region. If neither of you back down you risk the potential of war, is the war worth is for a slip of land on the Ivory Coast?
All in all, A Heart of Darkness has revealed the total potential of Victoria II. The expansion achieved what it set out to do; the added complexity and interaction with the AI give the game the atmosphere of a living world. Paradox Interactive should feel proud indeed at creating such an amazing game which can feel so realistic and lifelike. I’ll likely be playing this for the next couple of years… Or at least until Europa Universalis IV comes out.
Overall Score: 8.75/10
RGN Rating: Silver Game
Developer: Paradox Development Studio / Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Available On: Steam and other PC digital distribution marketplaces
Review Copy Info- a digital voucher for Victoria II as well as both its DLC expansions was provided to RealGamerNewz in addition to an additional review kit by the publisher for purposes of this review.