Victoria 2: a Review

  • PC Game
  • Paradox Interactive
  • Release-date: 13 August 2010
  • Price: E 39,95
The Paradox
Seven years ago I played the first instalment in Paradox Interactive's Victoria series. I didn't play it for much longer then a few games and put it away rather quickly; bored and overwhelmed I did not like the game at all. Playing Victoria 1 did feel more like being at work, accounting, then playing a game: relaxing and being entertained. Naturally I was a little apprehensive when Paradox announced Victoria 2 just over a year ago. And even though having read a portion of their 'developer-diaries' I didn't look forward to playing this game all that much. To be honest I almost declined writing about it at all.
Even though I am a long time fan of Paradox games ever since Europa Universalis came out in 2000 I have to admit Paradox does not have earned themselves a reputation of delivering a well-polished and bug-free product at release with their last few games; Hearts of Iron III in particular. Combine this reputation with that of Victoria 1's: steep learning-curve, micro-management to the max, and you can understand why a lot of people won't be all that enthusiastic with this title before even having played it. They however, will be left out on a good, perhaps in the future even great, gaming experience.
Victoria 2
Victoria is a grand strategy game which “allows for the player to take control of and manage a 19th Century nation-state including its political, diplomatic, economic, military, and technological aspects.” Where other Paradox games, like Hearts of Iron cast you in the role of an armchair-general or an armchair-king in Europa Universalis, in Victoria 2 (V2) you play the role of a nation's prime-minister. This can be any of 200 nations; from uncivilised and isolated Sokoto, to dominating great power Great-Brittain and everything in between: the declining Ottoman empire, the soon to be 'civilized' Japanese or the emerging United States.
Nations in V2 come in four categories: uncivilised and civilised countries, secondary powers and the big eight, the Great Powers. Your natural goal is achieving a position in the last category.
The Learning Curve
When you start your first game in Vic.2 you have two choices: jump in straight away or take it slowly and play through the tutorial (at least).
Jump in straight away as a powerful Great-Power - and if you are not a post-graduate in computer-science and logic - blunder about and fiddle a bit with the sliders, techs and the budget. Quite soon you will think there is hardly anything interesting to do in V2 while you possibly run your economy into the ground and the POPulation into rebellion.
There is another option: take it slowly and realize V2 is a game altogether different from games like the Europa Universalis series. The good tutorial (a play-through before you start a campaign is recommended), manual and strategy-guide will help you understand the interface and game-mechanics before you start your first game. Due to the steep learning-curve playing Japan, which starts in 1836 as an uncivilized nation 'closed' to the west, is perhaps one of the best choices. You won't have all the countless additional options an European Great-Power has and they will leave you alone for now. This is perfect to learn the first basics of gaining prestige, handling the military and managing your budget. Within two or three decades you enter a different face as Japan opens like a blooming flower and civilizes; factories are build and the country industrializes from the ground up, step by step and slowly. Soon your population will become conscious of their plight and have demand you to address their issues. Keep them happy, not demanding too many reforms, and employed, make sure your economy runs like clockwork and your nation diplomatically independent. You'll soon know how to efficiently run a country and dissipate the initial vagueness of the game-mechanics. Except for trade perhaps which was I left to the AI to sort out.
In V2 everything you do revolves around the different groups of population, POPs for short. There are several categories: farmers, artisans, clergymen, capitalists, soldiers etc. and all of them have their own relgion, ideology and dominant issues. Many of those will conflict with the needs and wishes of another group of your population. The conservative poor-strata will often demand completely different reforms, and less reforms then the more liberal and upper-class. The same can be said for the middle-class, all have their own issues, their own daily-needs and their own goals in life. And if you don't give them what they want they move to another province, another country or rebel in an attempt to overthrow your government. Compared to 99% of the games there is little “action” in V2 but a lot of “monitoring” and “management” instead.
The consciousness and militancy of your POPs changes over time, when you make a decision or by event. V2 has a lot of fine historic and flavour events which make every play-through different.
Historical Simulation vs a Historic Game
Keep in mind however V2 is not a historical simulation but a historic game. We will have to agree no game-engine can ever represent unrealistic things like a player attempting a world-conquest nor should a game-engine put you in a historic straight-jacket. In Europa Universalis3 Paradox had, in my mind strayed a bit too far from the path of history making the game into a complete sandbox game after the very historical EU2. With V2 they have chosen for to take a bit of both and this works out very well.
The AI governs its countries well, altough it sometimes has some problems with the revolutions in the later part of the game. The AI fights with acceptable, but not superb, skill and performs all-important naval-invasions. Rebellions are far more realistic then in any previous games and less haphazardly. Some areas of the game could be fleshed out a bit more such as the reaction of your POPs to a massive war or big change in government-policy. The game might be too easy for those gamers who will try to play V2 as quick and hard as possible. Some balancing through future patches thus has to take place and the AI needs a bit of imporovement to keep down the rabble. If you keep pace with history, the current build of V2 already is a great experience so this can only become better.
What's left out and should or could be in
V2 has too many facets and options to name in this review but there are also some things which are not there and which I miss.
If you play it well you won't have to take up arms once during your entire game. When you do however, either as an aggressive European power or to wage a colonial war, you will see the military aspect of V2 is quite abstract in comparison with other games of it kind. This is understandable and not altogether bad because the game will quickly be boring if you play it EU-style. Nevertheless I would have applauded some more focus on this aspect, more variety in units, and unit-types and best of all the HOI3-Semper Fi order of battle organiser.
At the moment there is only one starting point:1836. According to a statement on their forums Paradox have made this decision as it was hard enough to code the entire population for one grand-campaign, let alone several starting points. An expansions will certainly mend this but it will take some time before that will be ready.

V2 is a splendid game which looks really great; the zoomed-in map is detailed and zoomed-out version looks like a map from an atlas. Like HOI3 was it is not plagued by bugs and crashes (I experienced none at all) and everything feels very solid. O yes, there are some things which do not work as intended; China is a weak nation and huge casualties during war are not really reflected in a decline of your POPs and population, for example. Next to that I experienced some weird things in the later part of the game. This time around however, patches will not have to mend a 'broken' and instable game but merely make it better and more balanced.
An alternative campaign-start and some scenarios, most importantly the American Civil War, are not part of the game. Re-playability of the 1836 start is good however; nations are very different from each other and every game will be a different experience. After some time you will have had enough of the obvious course of the 19th century -industrializing, revolutions etc- but by then the first expansion will probably see the light making this game even better.
The good
  • Genuine Grand-Strategy
  • No more mind-numbing micromanagement
  • Good tutorial manual and Strategy-guide
The bad
  • Only one starting point-1836
  • Steep learning curve
  • Some gamers might deem V2 to easy as it is now
Score: 86%


  1. Google led me here. Which makes me apprecative, since I just picked up Vicky 2 but had no idea what country to leap into playing.

    As a EU3 fan, Vicky2 is a whole new beast. I'll give Japan a go.


  2. Hi Glen,

    Hope you enjoy the game as much as I did. Some of the problems I mentioned have been solved by the lates (1.2 iirc) patch so the game is improved since I wrote this.

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