Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Paradox Development Studio
System requirements: Windows XP/Vista/Win 7, 2.4 GHz Pentium IV/AMD 3500+ or better CPU, 2 GB RAM, 512 MB GeForce 8800/Radeon X1900 or better graphics card, DirectX 9.0, 2 GB hard-drive space
ESRB rating: Not rated at press time
Release date: February 18, 2013
Last year, I got a chance to see March of the Eagles up close during the Paradox Strategy Tour. The game depicts the Napoleonic Wars, with the help of developer Paradox’s Clausewitz engine. I recently received a preview copy, and I’ve been marching my armies across Europe for the past couple of weeks. It’s shaping up to be a fine strategy title, offering you a very realpolitik experience on top of its emphasis on warfare and military campaigns.
Set from 1805 to 1820, March of the Eagles lets you take control of major European and North African powers and lead them to victory. The game opens in 1805, with France and the United Kingdom already at war. Each of the countries, or at least those that aren’t already satellite states of a major power, can choose to join either the French or British coalition. Want to play Spain and reclaim Spanish dominance of the oceans? Join Napoleon in his quest to defeat the British. Want to crush the French and remove them completely from Germany? Take control of Prussia, join the British coalition and face the French in battle. Or take command of France yourself and attempt to dominate the entirety of Europe. Perhaps you can even start a war with Russia and try to do better than your historical counterparts.
But to call Eagles a game of the Napoleonic Wars is a bit of a misnomer. Each of the major powers has a set of provinces that they need to conquer to achieve land and/or naval dominance and win the game. This encourages each major power to act in its own interests. Sometimes it might make sense to get involved directly in the Napoleonic Wars, especially since the French start out as the land-dominant power, while the British rule the waves. However, just like in the history of the period, there are plenty of other conflicts you can fight. The Russians and the Ottomans have conflicting dominance provinces. Prussia needs to kick Sweden out of Germany and seize control of the Baltic. Austria is caught in the middle with potential enemies on all sides. Even Spain needs to defeat both France and the United Kingdom to fulfill its dominance conditions. I found that backstabbing, forming alliances of convenience, and having a willingness to declare war on any major power that appears to be in trouble are all a part of the game’s strategic depth. Just to give an example: As Spain I managed to seize naval dominance from the British. While preparing to backstab Napoleon and France to gain sway on land, I’m told that France has lost land dominance — to Russia. I hadn’t been paying attention to what was happening in Eastern Europe, and in 1812 I was in the position of being in a rivalry with Russia, a major power I had no hope of defeating by myself. History books were in danger of being rewritten, only now they would talk about how Spain and Russia plunged Europe into an even bigger war than any of the conflicts fought between Napoleon and the various coalitions.
Army composition and leadership are a big part of March of the Eagles. Various types of troops contribute to portions of combat in a number of ways, but leaders can only select tactics that fit the current composition of the army. For example, if you want your leaders to select the up-the-guard tactic, you need a certain percentage of guard and light infantry. Certain leaders are more proficient at certain kinds of warfare, but all leaders improve in skill and gain traits as they fight. And this leads to the game’s secondary hobby: grooming leaders through combat. Since just about any leader can substantially improve his proficiency after fighting in various battles, it pays for most countries to train their leaders in conflicts with smaller powers before challenging the other major powers of Europe.
March of the Eagles is a faster-paced strategy game than some of Paradox’s other titles, and I see a lot of potential in its multiplayer mode. It’s set to be released on February 18th for $19.99. For more details about this game, check out the Let’s Play video feature at the top of the page.