Paradox Interactive — a Swedish game developer and publisher known for historical grand strategy series like “Europa Universalis,” “Hearts of Iron” and “Crusader Kings” — has returned to the Victorian age with a sequel to its 2010 classic “Victoria 2.”
The “Victoria” series has always occupied a niche spot in the grand strategy market — a niche market in and of itself. However, “Victoria 2” has maintained a dedicated fanbase of players who enjoy economic spreadsheets and painting the map. “When is Victoria 3 coming out?” has been the community’s favorite inside joke for nearly a decade.
For those unfamiliar with the grand strategy genre, the basics are such: You play as a country (or a ruler in the case of “Crusader Kings” or “Imperator: Rome”) and make your mark on the world. You might choose to play as France and try to conquer the world like Napoleon. Or perhaps you would like to make Denmark the trade-capital of the world. These games are inherently sandboxes — you set your own goals and work toward them through diplomacy, intrigue, management and often war.
That last point provides a good example of where “Victoria 3” deviates from previous games. Many Paradox titles have a strong focus on war. “Hearts of Iron” focuses on World War II. “Europa Universalis” spans the period from 1444 to 1821 — a period full of wars of conquest and colonization. But “Victoria 3” differs in this regard. While war is certainly a part of the game, it is not the focus (much to the irritation of many players).
Instead, “Victoria 3” presents itself primarily as an economic simulator. Players are tasked with managing buildings and production, as well as trade routes and national markets. Should you focus on producing grain to feed your growing population, or expand your industrial output to grow your GDP? That decision is up to you — but there are pros and cons associated with either choice.
Paradox has advertised the game with the phrase “tend your national garden.” Where and how your country grows is up to you. Do you want to spread out like a creeping vine, or grow tall and bloom like a sunflower?
The map is undeniably beautiful and full of life. As you expand your industries, the city models on the map fill out and encroach on the native landscape. As your rail network expands into the far-flung reaches of your empire, little railroads appear with small trains chugging along.
When it comes to the actual quality of the game, I would describe it as an unpolished gem. “Victoria 3” has the potential to be a wonderful game, but it will require some work. Paradox games are well known for being fairly broken on release, requiring a few months of post-release development to make them player-friendly.
The release-day version of the game was full of oddities like Jan Mayen (a miniscule volcanic island in the North Atlantic) becoming one of the most economically powerful nations in the world or the Russian Empire sending colonists to sub-Saharan Africa.
Some issues can be fixed fairly easily (like the AI being too aggressive or not aggressive enough), but some larger issues may take months of development time to iron out. Luckily for players, Paradox has a long history of supporting and developing games after release. Paradox titles like “Europa Universalis IV” (2013) and “Hearts of Iron 4” (2016) are still getting massive updates that overhaul core mechanics many years after release.
The game has already received a few patches and is preparing for its first major update, which includes user interface improvements and balance changes. Paradox releases weekly “Developer Diaries” to provide the community with updates on their progress, and to present new and reworked game mechanics.
“Victoria 3” stands as a game with a great foundation with plenty of room to grow. While players tend to their national garden, Paradox will cultivate the game through continued development. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time playing so far. I can tell that “Victoria 3” is a game I will be playing for many years to come.