Paradox Interactive’s Victoria 2 is now available both at retail and via digital distribution channels throughout Europe, bringing its intimidating brand of geopolitical management strategy to gamers seven years after their first attempt. 2003’s Victoria was a confusing mix of marching troops, financial charts and bottom-line detail. Thankfully, it appears as though the developers had been made aware of the excessive barriers for entry that came along with the first title, having made things much moiré digestible this time around.
Victoria 2 may offer just as much depth and detail as its predecessor, and just as much of it is as unessential; acting as advisory information rather than being vital to progress. However, here in this sequel, a tutorial mode offers a patient and methodical walkthrough that will present you with many of the core issues that you’re likely to face in the campaign, only at a much more leisurely pace. This doesn’t mean the actual game becomes easy however, Victoria 2 is still more concerned with challenge than pace, but it does give players a good grounding for the hours that are yet to be invested in experimentation.
Choosing your home nation at the dawn of the Victorian era, players must guide their armies to victory over the course of the coming century. A balancing act of taxes, debts and expansion, players will not only be concerned with colonising more territories but also meeting the demands of the population as time progresses. Social reform is demanded by every nation at some point, and the player has to make sure that they’re in the position to not only deal with the changes ahead, but capitalise on the opportunities they provide.
Here, however, is Victoria 2’s first real stumbling block. An experienced player may well understand what is expected of them and how to react as their people demand modernisation, but those playing through their first campaign may well find that they are asked for a technology they previously had no interest in working towards, and the time and resources needed are set to completely eradicate any plans they player had established for future achievements. It could be said that this hurdle is essential – that the essence of such management strategy titles lies in the occurrence of the unexpected – but with Victoria 2, the stumbling is so great as to potentially result in many refusing to continue play.
Beyond the campaign are the multiplayer options. Just as deep as the single-player, Victoria 2 is not a game that can be played as a way to pass an idle hour. Requiring a great deal of investment from the player, Victoria 2 is an online strategy title to only those adept to such gameplay could ever hope to draw the best from, but to that handful of elite players, it’s certainly bound to become a compulsive experience. For all of Victoria 2’s fiddly statistics reporting, it’s one fantastic title for use when comparing strengths and weaknesses with like-minded friends.
Victoria 2’s strengths lies in it’s wealth of opportunity; problem finding and solving large and small scale political issues, near-endless opportunity for strategic use of finances and more than two hundred playable nations, these are the aspects which will undoubtedly sell the game to the hardcore management strategy gamers. The additional detail available is a two-edged sword, welcoming to those already involved and potentially bewildering beginners, and as such Victoria 2 doesn’t make the best entry-level management strategy game. A complex and involving game it is then, but one for those who not only understand, but relish in the demands that will be placed upon them.