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Review by: Jim Richmond
Published: December 11, 2003
Admit it. You’ve looked at the goings on in the world from behind the newspaper and said to yourself, “I could do it better than these yokels. If I were in charge.” Then you fill in the blank with masterful strokes of political and social engineering that would finally put the Earth right. After that, you wad up the remains of your McLunch and put the paper down, leaving it for the next guy. Well now you can show how much better the world would be with you at the helm in Paradox Entertainment’s Victoria: An Empire Under The Sun.
The storyline for Victoria is the contents of history between the years 1836 and 1920. You take command of one of the more than 100 countries from Abu Dhabi to the United Kingdom and lead your new territory to great superiority, or great ruin, through the decisions you make. As you direct your chosen homeland, events that shaped the world we know it today play out from the invention of the steam engine to World War I. Your leadership will dictate your place in history – good, bad, or imminently forgettable.
The playing field in Victoria is represented by a world map divided into more than 2,800 provinces and sea zones, which are delineated by the borders that carved up the land consistent with the time period. Each province has its own discrete population, livability rating, economy, infrastructure and political climate that needs your attention and care. The ultimate goal is to raise the prestige level of your country to be the highest in the world, because he who ends the game with the most prestige wins. Prestige can be increased by winning a war, sponsoring or providing a home for a critical historical event, gaining provinces in a peace treaty, or building canals. Prestige can be just as easily deducted by losing a war, dishonoring an alliance, causing a Great War, implementing unpopular social reforms, taking loans, or suffering a “humiliating peace” in which you get the short end of the truce.
On a national scale, furthering your country means paying attention to things like industrial development, military power, production, trade, politics, international relations, population growth and distribution, technological research, and of course, cash flow. Budgetary considerations usually rank in the forefront of your concerns as you tweak various options for income and outflow to not only balance your budget, but also try to gain a surplus in order to fund popular and prestige granting social reforms. Income is had from taxes on your populous and tariffs on trade. Taxes are levied by moving a slider left and right over the three familiar economic groups: poor, middle class, and rich. Cash is spent in slider adjustable amounts for education, crime fighting, social spending, defense spending, and army and navy maintenance as well as military unit creation and the aforementioned expensive social reforms. Both the income and the outgo of currency have an impact on your popularity with the people you govern, and doing too much of one or not enough of the other has lasting consequences that eventually affect the political climate in your country.
Individual provinces also have their own necessary management concerns. Fortifications, infrastructure, and factories need to be built and a good mix of the ten types of inhabitants should be represented for the most effective operation of the provinces. Citizen classes range from Aristocrats to Clergymen to Laborers. Each class does something that the others can not and all provide something to their fellow man that helps production or simply enables work to commence in the first place. For an easy overview, provinces are arranged into states and the default state menu gives an at-a-glance synopsis of local provinces so you can get an idea where your attention may be warranted.
Military management is yet another area for your administration skills. In the event of an attack you’ll want to be prepared. To do this requires raising capital, ensuring that proper supplies are available from factories, and creating leaders. Some facets of military superiority also rely on technological advances like the bolt-action rifle and military logistics. Defense is one thing, but if you are the president of Mexico and decide that you really would like to have Texas back, you also have to manage the declaration and administration of war. Declaring war can have a detrimental effect on your prestige but it can also benefit you in other ways like gaining resources you don’t have natively and increasing your tax pool.
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