Showing Ankles Is Scandalous!

HIGH Using careful planning and strategy to rise through the ranks.

LOW AI behavior and performance can be all over the place.

WTF The insane amount of alt-history that occurs, even without my meddling.

Victoria 3 is the long-awaited sequel to a cult classic in the grand strategy genre, so there were a lot of expectations from its fans — such as me. While I don’t think it lives up to Victoria 2 in every aspect, it does offer quality-of-life improvements and ends up being a more approachable title for new players.

Victoria is a real-time grand strategy series where players take control of one country in the Victorian Era, which goes from 1836 to 1936 in-game. Players direct their country via multiple systems (managing their economy, fine-tuning their military, playing diplomacy with other nations, etc.) and steer it towards whatever their goals are.

While there is a ranking system of prestige for countries which updates in real time throughout play, there is no real winning or losing. However, with careful planning and good diplomacy — along with a healthy amount of luck — A small country could become a regional power, even if global domination is out of its grasp.

That’s what I enjoy most about the series — every session is what one makes of it and goals can be self-directed. For instance, I’ve done campaigns where I unify Scandinavia, challenged Prussian supremacy as Austria, and formed the Soviet Union in the 1800’s before causing global chaos. It’s easy to set one’s sights on something and have a great time doing it.

For reviewing V3, I played Belgium with the “Learn to Play” mode enabled. This gives useful tips and guidance, although the player is free to ignore them and do as they please. These tips are nice additions, especially given how overwhelming the systems can be to new players. Also, as with other recent Paradox titles, hovering over certain key words will also give a pop-up window containing definitions and additional info.

A major focus in V3 is on the economy. A country’s GDP is a key factor in their prestige, and players are given a wealth of options to affect it. Each province has industries represented as buildings which have a number of trackable metrics, can be directly upgraded in size and modified, all of which impact profitability. Trade is also a major factor. Players can establish trade routes for resources they need, enter into trade pacts or customs unions with other countries, or blockade countries they seek to economically punish.

One of the new systems introduced is the “Diplomatic Play.” Instead of declaring war on other nations, players can declare a demand (or multiple demands) via a diplomatic play. This allows for a grace period during which each nation can gather allies, make declarations on one another, and barter a deal for peace before a war even begins.

The system certainly encourages more diplomacy between players, but at the time of review, the AI responded to these predictably. Anytime I declared a play, I would convince a much larger country to join, and the other country would almost always back down to my initial demand before a war.

If war does occur, then we get to witness the most disappointing aspect of V3. When countries go to war, players can mobilize their troops by clicking a couple buttons, then select a front for them to go fight in. From there, war is essentially automated. I was able to be AFK for several minutes during major conflicts with no consequence. The utter lack of depth or any real player control boils down to waiting on some dice rolls to play out — it’s a bummer.

In a technical sense, V3 takes a big hit to performance once a campaign reaches its later years since so much is going on and being calculated as economies and nations scale unendingly larger. I was still able to play fine on an RTX 2070, but a friend with a weaker PC had to pause every time he wanted to make a decision. As of writing, accommodating people with lower-spec computers will hopefully be addressed.

Another series of technical issues are limitations and irritations with the UI. Especially late-game, I was receiving an endless deluge of pop-ups for so many countries and events that had no impact or effect on me. Thankfully, most of these are relegated to the bottom-right corner of the screen, but when I received a dozen or more at once, it took up a lot of screen space and ultimately made me ignore pop-ups altogether, though some were helpful.

Ironically, despite so many pop-ups, there were many times where it took serious detective work on my part to figure out why I couldn’t take an action. For example, sometimes I was unable to make diplomatic plays against countries even though they were in an area I had declared an interest in, and there was no clear reason for it. Offering more relevant and focused tooltips to explain things (“relations too high” or “existing obligations” perhaps) it clear many things up for the player.

Overall, Victoria 3 offers a lot of play for those interested in grand strategy, with a number of detailed and complex systems to learn over time. It’s also a solid entry point for people newer to the famously complicated genre, but experienced vets looking for engaging wars or more historically-focused titles should either keep an eye on future updates or look elsewhere.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10

— Mitch Z

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Paradox Interactive. This game is available on PC and Mac. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 30 hours of play was devoted to the single-player mode. Approximately 5 hours of play was devoted to multiplayer mode.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is T for Teen due to Mild Blood, Mild Suggestive Themes, Mild Violence, Partial Nudity, and Use of Drugs. This is a strategy game in which players manage a Victorian-era nation to economic and social prosperity. Players develop their nation’s economic growth, engage in politics, and make policy decisions on varied topics (e.g., slavery, treaties, warfare). When nations engage in warfare, a top-down view of bases/encampments firing upon each other is depicted on a map. Some political decisions reference violence in text (e.g., “… use of mustard gas against a civilian population…”; “An ardent abolitionist died in a fire fight with a pro slavery mob.”), with still images of characters shot and civilians beaten. One still image depicts a whale harpooned, with small splatters of blood. The game contains brief references to suggestive/sexual material (e.g., “Police have shut down a notorious male brothel”; “This character has caught Syphilis…”). Some female characters are depicted partially topless, with exposed nipples. One still-image shows a man smoking opium.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized. (See examples above.) Sound cues are not required for play. This title is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. There is no control diagram. The game is largely controlled via mouse, with some keyboard shortcuts to open menus or execute tasks. Map view can be moved via ‘WASD’ controls.

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