Imagine the year is 1805, and you are King Gustaf IV Adolf of Sweden. The Napoleonic Wars are happening, and the French are closing in on your Pomeranian lands. You can live this situation out through tense battles and diplomacy in March of the Eagles.
Much has been said regarding the need for accuracy in video games. There are many people that long for the types of historical accuracies that March of the Eagles and other grand strategy video games from Paradox Interactive supply. Then there is the group that believes video games are allowed to diverge off the path of realism in favor of entertainment. This game combines both in an amazing fashion, combining an originally historically accurate setting with the possibility for alliances that never would have happened in real life, such as Sweden and Finland siding with Russia to take over and split up Prussia, which happened in my first game. The events in the game can also potentially play out exactly as it did in real life.
For those not too into history, this game still supplies a lot of fun in both single player and multi-player flavors. In the single player mode, which I played exclusively, all other states are controlled by the AI, which tend to make more rational decisions based on the many factors in the game, ranging from diplomatic relations to manpower. Humans, by contrast, can make more irrational decision in the heat of the moment, resulting in interesting alliances that would seem unheard of.
Objective of the Game
The objective of the game is to harness as much control of Europe as possible in terms of both land and sea power. What creates the tension is not only the existing conflict and alliances due to the Napoleonic Wars, but the 15 year span in which the game takes place. There are eight major powers which can be chosen if victory in the game is desired. If you’ve grown tired of being one of the bullies, though, you can control a smaller country like Switzerland, where you will be able to see how you can affect the game, but will more than likely have no chance of winning.
How to Win
In order to obtain dominance of Europe, players will have to balance good diplomacy with smart military tactics in order to take over many minor nations. This will include not only obtaining allies and annexing small, would-be nations, but knowing when to leave a nation well enough alone. There are also a select few other aspects that players must pay attention to besides waging war and creating coalitions.
The idea system is one of the many aspects on which players must focus. With it, Paradox presents an interesting way to provide players perks for performing various tasks. Essentially, this is akin to leveling up a nation, where idea points are given for winning battles and gaining victories in war, but the choices on what to spend your points on can be difficult. But the handful of categories provides an easy to choose direction for your nation. For instance, if you want to focus on your military strength, you can upgrade Land Movement and have your brigades pursue enemy forces faster. This simplification of the technology research process that is in many strategy games allows more focus to be on the actual war and diplomacy side of the game, which separates this game greatly from the Europa Universalis series. Since this game only spans 15 years, everything happens quicker. In Europa games, you can spend a whole lot of time sitting there, waiting, trying to coax someone into a coalition or a war. In this game, wars can take only months. In Europa they will take many years.
Disparity in ideas was the difference between winning and losing a war against the Netherlands, as 50,000 French troops swoop in with a maxed-out Land Movement idea out of nowhere to overtake my Swedish troops as they were assaulting one of their ally’s cities. France’s armies all had experience leaders assigned to them as well, thanks to France being at war with virtually every nation. I only had a handful of inexperienced ones, which put me at a severe disadvantage. Of course, land movement is only part of the battle, as I initially had trouble battling through Finland. My main issue was that I had neglected to build up my sea arsenal. With ships being able to block land troops’ movements between islands, it was difficult to island-hop through the Finnish islands until I had constructed enough ship fleets to at least distract them for long enough to move my superior land units through to its cities.
Balance is key in March of the Eagles, and if you do not have it, countries like France, Great Britain, or even The Ottomans will quickly remind you why it is imperative.
Paradox made a big deal about the interactive 3D map present in March of the Eagles, but the lack of high quality models and textures makes it not very aesthetically pleasing. The game is much better looking when zoomed out, which is where you will be most of the time anyhow in order to better manage the game board. It will be important to know where basically every single army and ship is located to avoid getting ambushed.
The models also appear to be very similar to that of Sengoku and previous grand strategy games from Paradox. I was hoping for a bit more innovation in this department from them. The graphics are serviceable, and do not negatively impact the gameplay at all, but seeing as how this game is somewhat of a re-imagining of their previous games, one might expect some more effort to be thrown at visuals.
Overall, March of the Eagles is a great way to be introduced to grand strategy games or a great break from the more complex Europa Universalis series. The graphics, while not terrific, are not bad, which keeps the focus on the amazingly deep gameplay, where it should be. Whether you are playing against 31 other people online or by yourself against the computer, March of the Eagles can be a lot of fun and a huge time sink if you aren’t careful. While the amount of sitting around and planning does not appeal to everyone, this game mostly accomplishes what it sets out to do in terms of gameplay, with graphics being the only lacking department.