Paradox has added another flavor to its large catalog of grand strategy, this time focusing on Europe in the early 1800s. March of the Eagles acts as a bit of a light version of the company’s usual offerings, cutting out a lot of the politics and empire management parts, and boils it down to war and diplomacy.
The game looks a lot like Crusader Kings II, and the time period is also covered in Paradox Interactive’s flagship series, Europa Universalis, but March of the Eagles manages to break down the conquest of Europe into something that can be done in six to ten hours. One thing that disappears with the missing complexity is the learning curve. Being mostly about war, the game feels like it would be much more approachable for someone new to the grand strategy genre. Finally, the game sets conditions for you to “win”. Key territories you must claim for victory will end the game early, something the other games haven’t offered. The rest have simply ended at their predetermined time, and you could judge your own progress from there to decide if the game was a success.
While the game focuses on war, diplomacy is still there, and especially in multiplayer, backstabbing your allies is common. Peace is often used only as a chance to build armies for more war, of course. The options aren’t quite as deep as a game like Hearts of Iron, a series built around World War II, but offers more tactical options than a typical grand strategy game. Battles are not fought directly, which is typical for these games, and the focus is on a higher level, moving armies instead of individual troops.
As usual, not all countries are equal at the beginning; your game difficulty is set by the country you choose. France, for example, is a bit of a powerhouse at the start of the game; as the game is set just before the Napoleonic War, this makes sense. Any of the major powers will have an easier game, while small countries are an option for someone wanting a challenge.
You can tell that the game shares a lot of visual similarities with Crusader Kings II, which is to be expected. You can only dress up a map of Europe so much, and graphical features just aren’t the genre’s strong point. A bonus is that the similar UI and map make it easier for Crusader Kings II players to get into the game.
With less complex gameplay comes a much better multiplayer experience. As the game has essentially become a giant game of Risk, multiplayer feels familiar and accessible. Of course, games are still rather long. Because the game isn’t truly turn-based, hotseat or play-by-email options aren’t possible. Multiplayer matching was buggy, and we managed it through exchanging IP addresses. It’s annoying that we had to do it that way, yet the option is a welcome sight when so many other games force us through digital platforms that prevent LAN play.
With March of the Eagles, Paradox has given us a light edition of one of their normal games, but if you love managing an empire at war or prefer a shorter experience, it is definitely worth a look.
Pros: Easier to learn, faster games
Cons: Less complexity