EUROPA UNIVERSALIS IV: MOD ROUNDUP

2013-07-22

Paradox Entertainment released Europa Universalis IV last year, so it consequently suffers from a smaller mod selection as compared to Crusader Kings 2. Still, a great deal of work is out there, and a bigger map – EU4 expands from CK2’s Europe to the entire planet – breeds bigger ambitions. Two of these mods grew to such size and popularity that they have their own subforums on the official Paradox message board: MEIOU and Taxes and Veritas et Fortitudo. There are, of course, other mods worth playing, such as Occultis Orbis Terrestre and various smaller alterations.

MEIOU AND TAXES

MEIOU and Taxes (hereafter M&T) is most expansive and popular EU4 mod. Its bizarre name is the result of combining the teams behind two EUIII megamods, MEIOU and Death & Taxes. The main M&T thread proudly boasts of its “970 new provinces and 450 new nations”, with a huge emphasis on historical accuracy. The end result of such a focus is this:

The above is a screenshot of the area around the modern Franco-German border, using M&T’s map. It’s a mess. Note the green splotches, for example – that’s a single province, composed of exclaves within and around several others. It, like the rest of the European map, conforms to feudal law and historical holdings, but makes little sense within the context of EU4. Contiguous provinces aren’t just more attractive, they’re necessary for the game to work properly.

Unfortunately, this ethos – one of slavish devotion to historical accuracy to the detriment of gameplay – is perpetuated throughout the mod. It chokes and lags a little just looking around on the “country select” screen. With all those new provinces, countries, mechanics – new everything – the M&T team put Paradox’s Clausewitz engine under heavy strain. The game is quite a bit slower than vanilla, and it’s almost impossible to remain stable enough for multiplayer to be a viable possibility.

To be fair, the M&T team, with their broad mandate of “add everything”, definitely improved areas neglected by Paradox. South and Central America, in particular, turned from boring backwaters into exciting starts for players, with plenty to do. Southeast Asia is greatly improved as well. Unfortunately, M&T has actually cut other vanilla gameplay elements – M&T players interested in a North American game have to download a separate submod for those natives to even be included. (Apparently, they’ve been removed from standard M&T for “performance reasons”.)

Changes for their own sake are rife. Someone appears to have run all the flags through a sepia-tone filter in Photoshop (presumably to remind you that this is a Historical Game and all these flags are Old). Is it really necessary for Australia and New Guinea to have triple or quadruple their normal number of provinces? For Albania to be five, instead of the singular province of vanilla EU4?

You have to admire the sheer amount of work they put in – particularly in areas that were underutilized by the vanilla game – but there is such a thing as going too far, or missing the forest for the trees. The existence of MEIOU and Taxes is a good thing, but it’s not really worth recommending, even if it did perform smoothly. More isn’t always better.

VERITAS ET FORTITUDO

Another common move for Paradox mods is to extend the timeline – make the game last longer, giving the player more time to construct the perfect empire. Veritas et Fortitudo (herafter VeF)’s main claim to fame – besides being “the overhaul mod that won’t choke your computer” – is a timeline extension of several hundred years, covering 1309 through to 1865. Included is dynamic province and country history for all those years, meaning you can play the American Civil War (as seen above).

It is actually kind of fun. It doesn’t have pretensions of total accuracy like MEIOU & Taxes, and the expanded history gives lots of new options for fun starts. It feels more stable than M&T, too. The map is clean, attractive and usable – it adds “only” 700 new provinces, as compared to MEIOU & Taxes’ nearly 1000. As with M&T, though, this provincial bloat means the game tends to stutter, even at slower speeds.

Its attempt to represent world history up to 1865 led to some interesting compromises – for instance, the province map of North America was reconfigured to represent modern US state borders, which looks decidedly out of place inhabited by, say, the Apaches in the 1400s. A side note: Veritas et Fortitudo shares M&T’s failure to represent native North Americans, with only a few tribes represented. South America and Southeast Asia are also poorly served, as in vanilla.

VeF falls into the same trap as M&T: making changes for the sake of making changes – the vanilla font, for instance, was replaced with a less-readable style for no apparent reason. All the flags were reworked as well, to no functional benefit. To be fair, purely aesthetic changes aren’t always a bad thing. As mentioned, what they’ve done with the map is reasonable, even lovely; compare the clearly-defined provinces in this VeF shot to the confusing mess of M&T:

The included alternate history scenario, “Glory of Byzantium”, is enjoyable, though it does seem to be infected by a bit of the Islamophobia and Byzantophilism common among amateur historians these days. Still, it’s a new scenario with new challenges.

Extending the timeline is generally a bad idea. The 1300s, for instance, are still heavily mired in feudalism and better represented by Crusader Kings II, while the EU4 model of proto-states becomes less and less realistic as the world approaches the French Revolution era, nationalism, and early industrialisation. Vanilla EU4 ends in 1820, and even that is probably too late. Expecting an engine to model the Hundred Years’ War and the American Civil War with any semblance of accuracy is, bluntly, a little crazy.

Looking at the Civil War also set off a few warning bells. The Civil War history of VeF appears to embrace fringe historical views – the United States is a “Republican Dictatorship”, while the Confederacy is represented as a “Constitutional Republic”. There are several references to State’s Rights but no mention of slavery. It makes the player wonder, suffice to say.

They’ve also awkwardly wedged a new “research” system, entirely distinct from usual technological progress, into the “National decisions” screen. Furthermore, why does EU4 need separate North German and South German techgroups? As with M&T, there are lots of components of Veritas et Fortitudo that are individually great, but there’s so much everything, good and bad, that the mod is weighed down. VeF is worth a look, but spending 550+ EU4 years in this system is a chore.

OCCULTUS ORBIS TERRESTRE

So: we have dispensed with the “overhaul” megamods. Let’s turn to something playful and genuine.

OOT posits a simple question: what if the legends were true? What if Atlantis was real, the Northwest Passage cut straight through Canada, and the mythical continent of Lemuria and kingdom of Prester John did exist? Why not throw in Thule, too? Well, Occultus Orbis Terrestre has all that, plus a giant Polynesian landmass and a lake in the middle of Australia. If a European cartographer doodled a dragon or a sea monster next to it, it’s here.

The new continents and their civilizations are surprisingly fleshed out, with their own cultures, religions, national ideas and more. It makes playing as one of the mythical civs – say, a Lemurian – a unique experience, and Atlantis serves as a sort of “final boss” for Europeans looking to colonize. All this new land imposes no significant performance penalty, either – the provinces are vanilla-EU4 sized, so the count isn’t huge.

The modder has further ambitions for OOT, including adding “that warm patch in Siberia, El Dorado, and probably some other stuff” – other stuff which may include R’lyeh. Fending off Cthulhu-worshipping zealots sounds like fun.

Some of the new nations, religions, and ideas are a bit unbalanced – check out the Anthropofagoi National Ideas for a taste of that. (+10% missionary chance is nuts.) There are a few other flaws, mostly with localization, but it’s generally a very positive experience. OOT certainly isn’t the third-most popular mod, not by a long shot, but it’s a genuinely fun experience, despite the balance issues. It’s built on the sort of freewheeling silliness (as opposed to tedium and pedantry) that the EU4 community could use more of.

OTHER MODS

EU4 modding really shines with the small projects – ones with defined goals. NeonDT put out a number of these, and they’re almost all solid – just do a CTRL+F for his name on this threadConquest of Australia, which adds Aboriginal Australian nations with native mechanics, and White Elephant (a Southeast Asian revamp) are both quite good. White Elephant is, however, on hiatus.

Extended Vanilla Experience changes, rebalances, removes, or replaces so many mechanics that its connection with vanilla EU4 is tenuous at best – but closer than the megamods. The many new sets of National Ideas are the most impressive parts of the mod, and they tend to be well-balanced and based on accurate research. Graphical Map Improvements (found here, on Steam Workshop) is also quite good. As shown above, this is a purely graphical overhaul to the vanilla map; it is tweaked to be sharper and cleaner. Being entirely cosmetic, it tends to cooperate with other mods.

It can be tiresome playing vanilla EU4 and fighting the same French/Austrian/Spanish blobs. Warring States is a clever little mod that does not alter mechanics but provides players with a brand new scenario, with major powers broken up and lots of fun new states to play as. (The header of this article is a screenshot of WS’ European setup.) This is a common trope in “alternate history” scenarios, like CK2’s Lux Invicta – some backstory is fine, but the main objective is to give players something new to do and make every start somewhat viable. In a similar vein is Europa Gooniversalis, a Goon-developed ‘balkanization’ mod with a focus on player choice and replayability. (Objectivity note: I am a developer for EG.)

Some mods focus on specific regions. Koro’s South American Nations, found here on Steam Workshop, replicates and expands on MEIOU & Taxes South American work but without adding a huge number of new provinces. There are many good words about Pax Sinica as well; it is developed by a pack of Sinophiles to make China and its environs fun to play. Their new map looks great, and the overhaul of the Faction system for China was sorely needed.

There’s a lot out there – a flavor of mod for any EU4 player – so enjoy!

You can find all these mods through the Master Mod List thread on the EU4forums.

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