I’ve generally avoided commenting on games for some reason, but I do remember having posted on Crusader Kings II some time ago. That is a game I enjoy for the historical depth and strengths it has, and it is a remarkable achievement by Paradox Interactive. That company is generally good with treating history in a gaming context, and one of their more recent titles is March of the Eagles (abbreviated as MotE).
I appreciated the approach that March of the Eagles took by bringing us into the military sphere of the Napoleonic Wars, and while the game does have its problems, it also has a compellingly easy gameplay mechanic that drew me in. MotE runs on the same engine that works so well in Crusader Kings II and Sengoku, called Clausewitz in honour of the Prussian general, and I think that this choice of engine might have been one of the good starting points for me. It brought me into a world I was already familiar with.
So, here goes: What do I like about MotE? It is about war. There is very little diplomacy. Diplomacy with AI is often, in games, so broken that it is not really worth the effort (I am always dubious about my efforts in ‘Total Wars’ for they do end up in a total war… of everyone against me, and that is a tiring prospect). MotE allows us to more or less suspend the realm of diplomacy and go on into the one where we can array our sixty thousand men against the enemies’. It is straightforward.
Now, there are a fair amount of imbalances in this game, especially concerning combat and technological advancements — indeed, I would go so far as to say that for a truly pleasurable game it would be necessary to abandon AI and play with humans instead. That’s not always so with Paradox games (CKII comes to mind again), and I would say that the studio has let the community down here. I’m afraid that this deficiency in the artificial intelligence present is worse than it should be, and this feeling pervades very much of the single player experience.
Of my experience in-game, I have tried a few games thus far: France, Britain, Russia, Prussia, and the Ottomans being the countries I’ve tried playing as. And I have found that these games play out in a very similar way — unless we’re talking of a huge empire such as France or Russia, a dominance victory (the more “important” kind) is difficult to establish. It is difficult to establish mostly because what happens is that I end up with a number of men, say around 100k, trying to fight against three times as many — since I’ll be fighting one of the big dogs and they nearly always outnumber the small one. All that the enemy needs to do is group up, and victory is theirs — by numbers alone if nothing else.
In the case of a game with other people, a more diplomatic alliance to preserve the balance of power would be possible allowing for a more fluid and dynamic game. And I truly do wish that Paradox had managed to implement this in single player so that this game would be even better, and that I could take part in the Napoleonic Wars with all the fervour possible.