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Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Paradox Interactive
System Requirements: Windows XP/Vista/Win 7, 2.4 GHz Pentium IV/AMD 3500+ CPU, GeForce 8800/ATI Radeon X1900 graphics card, 2 GB RAM, 2 GB hard-drive space, Direct X-compatible sound card, DirectX 9, Internet connection for multiplayer, retail copy of Victoria II
ESRB rating: Teen
Release date: Available now
It’s been almost 18 months since Victoria II was released, and Paradox Interactive has decided that an expansion is in order: Victoria II: A House Divided. The expansion doesn’t add any additional time to the original game, which is still set from 1836 to 1936. Instead, it focuses on additional game mechanics and a scenario that starts at the beginning of the American Civil War. Rather than giving more of the same, AHD aims to add even more nuanced gameplay to a franchise that’s already very complicated. It’s a more ambitious expansion than its simple name belies, and, even moreso than the base game, it rewards strategy players for patient and thoughtful gameplay.
The biggest change in AHD is the economy. On the surface, it functions much as it did in the original game. POPs, governments and factories all buy and sell goods on the world market, with spheres of influence and prestige modifying who gets first access to a particular commodity. But unlike in the base game, the economy has been rewritten so that all resources are in short supply and factories are much more inefficient with the starting technologies in 1836. You now must pay very close attention to input goods and demand for produced items. Even simple resources such as coal and iron are in short enough supply that it might take decades for you to import useful amounts to fuel industrialization. This means artisans have really come into their own, since they’re much more efficient from the start than factories, but it also means for the first couple of decades, you’re obligated to tailor your industrialization along the lines of resources you produce. This impacts the entire game because you can’t industrialize super quickly anymore, and imperialism becomes much more important. If you need a resource, conquest could be your only option. These changes also balance out various technologies. The commerce techs are finally worth an investment, as input/output efficiency is vital, as well as administrative efficiency.
Diplomacy has also changed in small but important ways. Foreign investment is now possible. Subject to some restrictions based on politics, you can now build railroads and factories in other countries. Doing so helps them out, but it also amplifies your own influence. Great Powers can bind smaller countries to themselves very efficiently by indulging in foreign investment. Even more important is that it increases the percentage of goods extracted from a particular member of your sphere of influence. Since you no longer get 100-percent priority on your goods, foreign investment becomes a tool of soft imperialism, politically and economically binding smaller powers to you. But they always retain the option to nationalize these investments, making such activities subject to historical drawbacks.
Domestic politics has also gotten more interesting. POPs now have political options towards reform that go beyond, “Hey, I’m angry that I can’t vote. I will begin plotting a revolution in a few months if I cannot be satisfied.” POPs now join political movements that campaign for political or social reform. These movements are a peaceful preliminary step in agitating for political change. The Upper House recognizes these movements, and can sometimes be persuaded to meet their demands, allowing for peaceful reform without large-scale militancy. If you can’t pass the reform they demand, the movement turns into a rebellion with specific goals. The catch to all of this is your POPs can’t be fooled by granting them reforms they don’t want. If you grant a reform that doesn’t match a particular movement’s goals, the rebels radicalize further and come closer to outright revolution. Luckily for those feeling more repressive, it’s possible to suppress movements, providing a long-term strategic cost-benefit decision tree for players, as not every reform can be easily passed, and not every movement can be equally suppressed.
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