Europa Universalis 3 and Napoleon's Ambition

Europa Universalis 3 and Napoleon's Ambition

As the Portuguese battle the mighty French, those aren’t mere numbers rising from our avatars. They’re people! Thousands of people!


The exciting, and sometimes upsetting, national narratives of world history form the setting and mechanics of Europa Universalis 3, the latest strategy title from publisher Virtual Programming. But don’t worry—the game and its expansion pack, Napoleon’s Ambitions, are more of an exercise in strategic domination than a history lesson.


EU3 begins in 1453 (the fall of Constantinople) and extends to 1789 (the French Revolution). The game is not as Eurocentric as its name suggests: Players can choose from more than 250 nations that existed during the time span. If you’re new to the game, you may want to play a strong country like Portugal or Castille, until you get your bearings.


The game’s goals are largely up to you. If you play as England, you can have fun beating up on France or setting up colonies all over the world. If you’re a smaller country, like Provence or Iroquois, you’ll have more fun if you play with more limited and realistic goals, such as gaining a few provinces and remaining sovereign until the end.


After playing EU3 for a month, you’ll probably think, “Gee, this would be more fun and less annoying if . . .” and come up with ways of improving it. But odds are, most of the tweaks you’ll think of are already part of the $20 expansion pack, Napoleon’s Ambition, which changes a lot of how the game works, plus adds a few interfaces and automatic settings that take some drudgery out of managing your empire.


The online-user community, which is largely made up of European players, have mostly settled on NA as their version of choice for Internet play, so you’ll need the expansion if you want to play with them. (A time-zone calculator and active use of iCal will come in handy for scheduling the months’ worth of play sessions most games require.) Owning EU3 without the NA expansion won’t stop you from starting your own online games, but it will probably hinder you from finding opponents.


The bottom line. This game is excellent in concept, but its biggest problem is that playing from start to finish can take longer than some games of play-by-postcard chess. That, and the occasional system-halting crashes we experienced on an Intel-based Mac mini, may give pause to nonstrategy gamers. But if you want to try EU3, you might as well get the NA expansion, too.


COMPANY: Virtual Programming


PRICE: $39.95 for EU3; $19.95 for Napoleon’s Ambition expansion pack

REQUIREMENTS: G5 or Intel CPU; Mac OS 10.3.9 or later; nVidia GeForce 5200, ATI Radeon 9600, or Intel GMA950 graphics card; 64MB VRAM; 512MB RAM; Broadband connection for Internet play
Lots of choices. Online play. Expansion pack adds new features. Universal binary.

Games take too long. System crashes on some Intel Macs.




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The review doesn't mention how online play works. Is there a charge?

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