Review | Victoria 2
The Queen of grand strategy
Format: PC | Genre: Strategy | Publisher: Paradox | Developer: Paradox | Release Date: 13/08/10 | Price: £34.95
Greg Giddens rewrites history on a grand scale in VICTORIA 2.
VICTORIA 2 exudes intelligence in every aspect. It feels natural and realistic and it’s this quality of experience that truly sets it apart from other strategy titles. There’s no encapsulating narrative or indeed primary goal in Victoria 2. Like other grand strategy titles before it, the experience of leading a nation through an alternative history dictated by your actions, in addition to thoughtful integration of historical events, forms a personal journey full of interesting tales of politics, industrial growth and/or decline, and warfare.
Take one of my playthroughs as England for example. The year is 1837 and young Victoria has taken the throne. My first instinct is to advance our military might, and so other concerns take a back seat. Belgium and Texas both request alliances, and by 1840 both are requesting military aid. With my forces strong and my hunger for war growing I send a large army to Belgium to help push back the Dutch, and send a very small force to Texas to aid with the Mexican aggressors. The Dutch were successfully pushed back but greed overwhelmed me as I continued my campaign and marched on towards Amsterdam.
By 1845 The Netherlands belonged to me. Over on the Texas Mexico border however, my small brigade had been decimated by my underestimation of the Mexican forces might. I failed to reinforce my forces in Texas quick enough and my presence served only to rally and accelerate the Mexican’s advance into Texas. Texas was lost entirely. Back home in England revolution was in the air. Rebel forces, upset by the lack of civilian support and citizen rights, had rallied. Scotland broke away from England with no fight and in the remainder of Britain’s territories, civil war erupted.
As my playthrough suggests, the scope to change history is great, and all my struggles and victories could have so easily played out differently. The range of experiences is impressive to say the least, and the flow of events makes each playthrough unique. Unlike the original, Victoria 2 doesn’t force historic events to occur on specific dates or in specific years, instead these events occur if and when your playthrough demands it. As a result the alternative history you create feels a great deal more real and spontaneous, successfully making your actions feel like they’ve had an effect. In addition, the AI also sports measurable intelligence, making choices for their respective nations that best suits them. It all comes together to form a tangible and interesting experience that is different each time you play.
In its most austere form, Victoria 2 is a personalised experience of an alternative timeline, and developer Paradox has successfully maintained this simplicity on the surface whilst hiding the impressive and complex mechanics that run this grand strategy in the background. The tutorial does a great job of explaining the various aspects on offer in Victoria 2, and the interface – even when expanded – is intuitive. It offers a great scope of control over running your nation and successfully integrates these options without overwhelming the interface or the player with unnecessary popup messages. As such, it’s familiar to veterans of this sub-genre – with no compromise to its grandeur – whilst being accessible to newcomers. Once again it’s a sign of intelligence, this time in its design; however, its originality suffers slightly.
As with many other grand strategy titles, Victoria 2 takes place in the familiar time period of the 1800s – more specifically the century between 1835 and 1935. There’s no denying the interesting political, social, and military changes that took place during the industrial revolution – all of which you can witness through whichever countries perspective you desire – but with so many other titles exploring similar time periods, the experience can’t help but feel a little stale. Victoria 2’s quality and accessibility does set it apart however, but this is only apparent by actually playing it. At a glance, Victoria 2 may not gain the attention from newcomers to the series and sub-genre that it deserves.
Victoria 2 is one of the most accessible grand strategy titles currently available. Condensing its huge variety of options into an intuitive interface goes a long way to encouraging more players to give this sub-genre a try. The lack of originality in regards to the time period is slightly disappointing, but despite this it’s still a great game.