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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Europa Universalis 3 Divine Wind second impressions

NYC - Brooklyn - Prospect Park Zoo: Discovery Trail - Red Panda by wallyg from flickr (CC-NC-ND)

Over a month ago I wrote first impressions review of EU3 Divine Wind. Since then I've played it a lot more, and did a tiny bit of modding, so here's an update.

Modding is easy!

First, modding is ridiculously easy. Pretty much everything is a just a bunch of text files.

To get started you just need to make a simple mod skeleton, copy over defines.txt and any other files you want to tweak, and just edit some data.

New values you're trying don't necessarily have to result in a "better" game, it being different from one campaign to the next can be very interesting.

Some things like giving everybody a lot more diplomats, or making basic buildings not get destroyed when province changes ownership are fairly easy to do. Unfortunately "fixing" infamy or providing faster mission cancelation option for particularly stupid missions seems like a lot of work, if it's even fully possible.

The game is full of bugs

So far I had two different save game corruption bugs - and since save games are plain text files (something very rarely seen in any game ever) I managed to fix them both manually. The first was achievement exponential growth making save games double in size each time, the second was some kind of string escaping problem that added a lot of crap in the middle of save file - and interestingly moving back to last good save the problem would still reappear in a month or two.

In addition to these serious bugs there are countless things in the game that don't work like expected, or in a sane way - for instance just a few game-years ago when my vassal was sieging a province held by rebels and I sent some spies to bribe defenders away, my spies were detected and of course that screw my relationships with my vassals.

There's even more things which might or might not be bugs, but in any case work in completely undocumented ways - I still have no idea why my relationships with other countries go down (usually) for no apparent reason at random times. It's amazing since the game openly provides such huge piles of data and algorithms, and still manages to surprise every single time.

Even when things work as designed, it's really hard to know what's the design unless you alt-tab to a browser with EU3 wiki. The tutorials and in-game explanations are so bad as if they were nonexistent, but after a few games you figure things out on your own.

There is no balance

Some games make a serious attempt at balancing things - I doubt they even bothered with EU3. There are so many broken things you can do, like become Holy Roman Emperor, establish Baltic or Black Sea tolls, seize Rome/Jerusalem/Mecca, establish land route to Africa or India and so on.

These things tend to be game-breakingly good, but then if the prize wasn't great what would be the point putting major effort into such goals?


There are quite a few fun mild exploits I recommend trying.

Start multiple wars at once. Sadly the casus belli system makes it unprofitable to get anything out of countries that joined existing wars, but there's an easy workaround - save 5 diplomats, then stars 5 wars on the same day with each member of the alliance! A massive 5-way Crusade against Ottomans/Saruhan/Candar/Kardamon/Ramazan can net you 10+ provinces and up to 5 annexations at 1 infamy each.

War goals against leader sometimes work against alliance members. If you declare war against a country and it loses war leader status, you have no casus belli against anybody except that country. But if other countries join as minor parties your war goals often still apply! So declaring a Holy War against Muslim country, you still get 1 infamy/province even for taking provinces from their Christian allies. It's quite useful against Bosnia and Serbia early game. It's not as good as multiple war technique, since you'll rarely be able to afford taking more than 4-5 provinces in peace talks per war and you won't be able to annex anyone.

Bait ships in port with 1-ship blockade. AI is somewhat competent at land warfare when it has compact country like France or Burgundy, since it's pretty much impossible to screw that up. Naval warfare on the other hand - it's just amazingly bad at. If you want to sink some ships that happen to be in port, just move your entire fleet one province away and leave one ship blockading their port. AI will invariably sail out of the port to attack that ship, then your fleet returns to sink them.

Baiting fleets before blockades are invented. Similar technique works even before blockades - if your land army is crossing a narrow strait, AI can't resist trying to stop it, even if that crossing is fairly irrelevant to its goals. Of course your superior fleet is just one province away, waiting for them.

Naval patrols. That's not as exploitative, but useful when you have massive naval superiority, but don't want to micromanage. Just set your whole navy to go in circles (set route with some shift-clicks, select start patrol) - for example around eastern Mediterranean when you're fighting assorted Muslim minors. AI will see that your ships sailed away and will leave port even when it has no reason to, then it won't get back in time when your patrol reappears.

Land route to Africa or India. This is a surprising game mechanic, but can be extremely powerful. Provinces are counted as "overseas" when they're on another continent (somehow "continent" boundaries are not quite geographic), or when there is unbroken land route of actual control (not ownership) from your capital to the province. This makes is extremely powerful for European power to control land route to Africa or India, since then they count for far more money and manpower. You lose some special abilities of "overseas" provinces like colonialism casus belli, ability to culture shift with one colonist etc., but since what matters is actual control not ownership you could temporarily make these provinces "overseas" again by letting rebels take one of key provinces on your land route.

Breaking alliances. Do you want to attack your ally's ally? First, attack a third country and get your ally into your war on your side. Then attack your target. Since they're in existing war on your side, they can't take the victim's side in the new war, so their alliance will break. It's pretty damn useful if you get alliance with the Holy Roman Emperor, get them into a silly war on your side, then you're free to attack anybody in the empire at flimsiest CB and they won't intervene.

In other words - it's an awesome game to play, and an awesome game to mod!

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