Victoria II Preview (PC)

My favourite film of all time has to be Zulu, released all the way back in 1964. Woefully inaccurate, and yet compelling all at the same time, it was actually Michael Caine's first major breakthrough into film. But that's not the important bit - along with the prequel film Zulu Dawn made 15 years later, the two films formed a homage if you will to the Victorian period. Red coats, Imperialism (the good and the bad side), stiff upper lips, heroism... all these things remind us of days when the British people were kind of a big deal, and as a child growing up, they were the best thing since sliced bread.

Will you scramble for Africa, or take care of the homefront?

Victoria II is the sequel to the 2003 game Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun, published by Paradox interactive - and it too is homage to that most glorious of eras. As a Paradox game, you know what to expect: Strategy, hardcore-depth, and an attention to detail that would put the most finicky of bureaucrats to shame. It's niche, but the masters of the mind have been pushing more and more into a space that, whilst isn't mainstream, it's certainly not obscure. Victoria II is the latest title to use their current Clausewitz Engine - the same engine that's been running through Hearts of Iron III, and the latest Europa Universalis titles.

Each of the current generation of Clausewitz titles focuses on the themes of the era they revolve around, and as such their gameplay mechanics are developed accordingly - Where Hearts of Iron focused mainly on Warfare & Diplomacy, Victoria 2 mainly focuses on Economy and Politics. As one of over 200 nations or nation-states, not only must you steer your economy through the industrial revolution, but you must also steer your country through the social and political changes of the time. The other prevalent themes of the time, Colonialism, National Identity... are still there, but they are more abstracted and are not really the focus of the game.

It's important to know what you're getting into with Victoria 2. Population and Economy management actually seem quite complicated at first glance (and even second and third sometimes), but once you get used to it, it simply becomes another meta-game. Make no mistake though, this is one of Paradox's more in-depth titles. If you couldn't handle Hearts of Iron, you definitely won't be able to handle this.
Europe under went some major changes during this period

Where Hearts of Iron III was scripted and tightly controlled for most of the early portion of the game, Victoria 2 is extremely flexible. You can do almost anything you want, depending on certain factors. If your Government type doesn't allow for economic intervention, your economy pretty much runs itself, and the same goes for political reform, but on the world stage, you can do almost anything you want. Declare war, colonise, make friends/enemies where you like... every action has a consequence, naturally, but they let you find out for yourself this time.

As mentioned above, this is an economic and political simulator more than anything, but the real meat and potatoes is in the political system. If Victoria 2 was going to be called anything, apart from a grand strategy game, it would be a political simulator. The economy management is pretty much a standard affair (if you're allowed to manage it): you expand your factories, make sure there are enough workers by subtly manipulating populations, you can subsidise failing factories, build new ones, import goods etc... but the political system is where most of the work has gone in.

Through mini-events that pop up every few days, you get to subtly shape your nation. Do you want to maintain the status quo? Do you want to force a revolution so bloody that Britain turns communist? These things aren't easily done, but they are possible - although the more a-historical the harder it is. Elections play the most important role in this, as it revolves around questions and decisions that will cause the population to swing toward certain ways of thinking, which will intern effect who runs the country, apart from you. Political parties have their set policies, and these in turn affect what you, as ruler can do. Economic management falls under this, as does political reform and how much you can spend on things like the military.

As mentioned - warfare does fit in to things. The model it follows is a blend of Hearts of Iron and EU, although it has none of HOI's depth, which is a shame. Still, it's no use wishing the game to be something it isn't - if you want war, go play Hearts of Iron. It's rather ironic though - if you get the right mix of political party and policies (like the Great Britain faction at the start of the game) then everything is automated to the point where pretty much all you can do is make war. Unlike other Paradox offerings, there is only one Grand Campaign option that starts in 1836, and lasts right the way through till the Second World War period. Personally, we feel this is a bit restrictive as you don't get to try out scenarios from different periods - especially with all the change that goes on, but this is just a minor point.
The tutorial is a must for franchise newcomers

This is a classic Paradox game, and so far it's doing the company proud. Provided you don't expect from it anymore than it can actually give, then you'll be fine. Fans of the first game will definitely appreciate the changes and improvements that have been made. The preview build we tested was stable enough, although there were several bugs that got on our nerves - hopefully these will have been fixed, especially since the game has just gone gold. We don't want another Hearts of Iron III incident. Victoria II is due out on August 13th for PC.

Most Anticipated Feature: Being able to mould your country how you want to, so long as you put in the required effort.

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By Knave (SI Core) on Aug 03, 2010
Very nice perview!

You mentioned at the end there were several bugs that got on your nerves. CAn you say what they related to mainly?
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Aug 03, 2010
The biggest one involved crashes and corrupted save files, but since this is the preview build it's all subject to change. For all I know it could be fixed already.

When we come to review, then I'll go into detail with the bugs more clearly because people will need to know what they're product will be like. At preview stage there's no need to highlight bugs, even major ones.
By Ridgy (SI Core Member) on Aug 04, 2010
Oh dear, it would be a massive shame if they don't fix those bugs. I really must try a hearts of iron game and maybe this too. I like my total wars because of the mix of genres they provide, but I wonder sometimes if it's not best to seperate the experiences so that they are deeper and more complicated so more rewarding aswell.
By Knave (SI Core) on Aug 04, 2010
Yeah, a few crashes in the first version of two of a paradox title is nothing new! I'm very hopeful though that this game will end up a much more finished product on release than Hearts of Iron 3. That game was nigh impossable to play on release which made me sad.

I really wanted to like that one. My hopes are lying on the reviews of you and your peers!
By Gyorn (SI Core) on Aug 05, 2010
True, HoI3 was quite buggy at release, but with Paradox you can rely on a constant stream of updates. Not to forget the possibility to mod nearly everything.
Did i mention i love Paradox? ;p

About the preview:
Well written, but as someone who already knows a lot about the game i find its lacking a bit more in depth information which makes Paradox titles as addictive as they are.
An example would be the economic model: Every price is made by comparing supply and demand, your POPs consume goods which they buy, artisans are running your production pre industrialisation but later on are forced to switch due to lower productivity...

But i guess its all about who reads the preview. Might scare away new players :/
By morganja (I just got here) on Aug 06, 2010
It's not just Hoi3, which was ludicrous, all their games are ridiculously buggy at launch. You have to buy a $20 patch for HOI3, Semper Fi, and it's still not playable as an actual game. Paradox has done this over and over and over again. They produce games which look promising, they get great reviews which fail to mention the massive bugs, and then sometimes, a year or two later, after 4 or 6 patches and a couple of 'expansions' which are really expensive patches, they sometimes have a good game. This is from a former fan who owns all of their games. Do yourselves a favor, no matter how promising this game looks, don't buy it until next summer after 3 or 4 patches when it is in the bargain bin for $10. It might be worth it then. Otherwise you are just going to be kicking yourself for wasting money on a game you can't play.
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Aug 06, 2010
Don't worry about the patches, you will get 4 - 5 patches almost already after the game launches. Personally, I think devs should look up more to Blizzard and Valve - those guys sure know how to fix bugs before launch. :)
By Gyorn (SI Core) on Aug 06, 2010
True, almost all their games are buggy at launch. But as said above you can rely on them getting fixed.
Comparing them to Blizzard and Valve isnt quite fair, Paradox is just soooo much smaller, they cant afford to hold back a release just to go bughunting too long.
Not to forget that Paradox games are a lot more complex which multiplies the time it takes to fix all bugs and properly balance a game.
By morganja (I just got here) on Aug 06, 2010
Honestly, at least a year before you get to the fourth patch which is when it might be playable. No reason to hurry out and buy a game you won't be able to play.
By BoneArc (SI Elite) on Aug 07, 2010
@Wowerine , Blizzard Doesn't Let bugs go out , at least not major ones . and they allways put 1 patch for the bugs , but for WoW it seems like every patch is just new content ...

dont know about Valve .

@Preview , i am sure you are right JC , the bugs are probably fixed by now .
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Aug 07, 2010
Well most WoW patches are content rich, but they do include a lot of bug fixes. Just check the info file and see for yourself ;)
Valve patches their games a lot - Steam updates Team Fortress 2 almost every week - not just content.