The game Europa Universalis caught the strategy gaming community by surprise a good year ago. Paradox, the Swedish developer, had put together a game that simulated country interactions between 1492 and 1792. It featured immense replayability as no two games were alike, and since with a little editing you could play any country present in the game. A loyal fan following was born, suggesting and discussing improvements to the game, some of them implemented via patch, thanks to Paradox's very good interaction with the fans. Others were implemented by the famous Improved Grand Campaign which (in its final state) allowed you to choose from various offsets and historical variants, as well as letting you easily select what country to play.
About a year later, Paradox, together with their new publisher Strategy First, released Europa Universalis II. For someone who played the first part, the game will be familiar -- the interface hasn't changed, the map still looks the same. This is not bad by any means, but this has led to many people claiming EU2 is rather an expansion than a new game. This is a debatable point for sure, but it takes little away from the immense fun one can get out of this game.
As most of the original gameplay is still present, and Hartmann wrote an excellent review of EU1 for this site, I will rather focus on what has changed since the original game.
The first thing that one notices is a large world map that comes with the game, showing every province. I didn't count, but there are several hundreds of them. The manual has been improved over the previous one. It gives a brief historical overview of the various aspects and how they work in the game. Inside the game you'll notice that the Grand Campaign, where you lead a country through the entire span of the game, now stretches from 1419 till 1820, as opposed to 1492 till 1792 in EU1. So you'll get another 100 years of play. The "original" Grand Campaign from 1492 is still present. A campaign about the Age of Revolutions has been added, along with one about the Napoleonic Age. 8 countries are always defined as "major". In EU1 this meant they could not get out of the game through conquest. This is now an option you can turn off. You can choose the country to play by right-clicking on the shields representing the players, and then choose from a list that includes the Native American Tribes as well as the Aztec and Incas, the African societies, and the Asian countries and all countries in Europe.
So, what else has changed? The most important feature is the new event engine. This allows to set up special events for certain countries, like the Habsburg inheritance which brought Austria and Spain together, or the War of the Roses in England. Many of these events (as well as the random events) provide at least two options to play out the situation. What to choose often depends on how stable your country is, how much gold you have or need, and what your long term goals are.
Where the previous game had but few religions (Christianity and Islam in their variations, plus paganism), Buddhism and Hinduism have now been added. In addition, you can now send missionaries to provinces under your rule that have a different religion than your state, thereby greatly reducing any revolt risks.
Another new feature are the "domestic policy settings". Every ten years you can change the shape of the state a bit. This may not seem like much, but in the Grand Campaign it's 40 times. There are several sliders, each being a trade-off between two extremes. Is you ruler narrow-minded or innovative? Do your troops favor quantity or quality? Are your citizens free or serfs? Do you favor the aristocracy or the citizenry? And a few more. You get the idea. Sometimes, when you take authority away from the aristocracy they might even demand it back in random events.
The diplomacy has undergone an overhaul as well. You can now guarantee a country's independence, giving you a casus belli (legitimate reason to declare war) when anyone attacks the "target". Claiming another country's throne gives you a casus belli now, too. There are now also even more provinces, introducing the African mainland, for instance.
While these are the changes that attract the eye most, there have also been improvements to game mechanics under the hood. Most notably, the effects of decreasing stability have been lowered as long as your stability rating is still in the positive.
This all may not seem like much, but overall, EU2 is an immense improvement for an already great game, with new features that might not have been missed but that add a lot to gameplay.
The game once again can be easily customized. Most data (events, music playlists, leaders, rulers...) is stored in ASCII files that you can edit with any editor. Most graphics are in the common pcx-format. In short, if you have an interest in the time period, or if you like to immerse yourself in a game of great depth, not wild clicking/rushing, and if you like to play against dozens of AI-run countries at once, you should look into this game. I bought EU1 at full price and don't regret buying this one for full price as well. If you thought about getting EU1 and didn't buy it, you should skip it and get EU2 instead.Reviewed by: Sytass