The search for El Dorado has consumed many lives during the colonial era. Whether it was the Conquistador explorers sent into the jungles of South America to hunt for the mystical city of gold or Sir Walter Raleigh’s expedition, the allure of such great riches can be a strong one, and has seeped into many a film or video game.
At first blush, such wild goose chases around the globe might not seem to be a good fit for a grand strategy game that’s rooted in history, such as Europa Universalis IV is. Yet, when you think about it, the changes make a lot of sense, to allow you to have a somewhat secondary or ulterior motive as your explorers map out other parts of the world.
Exploration has been given a major boost in this expansion, to simplify and automate the process on two fronts. Firstly, you can send a fleet of exploration to a particular place that you have heard of, to chart a coastline, circumnavigate the world, and so on. It’s a rather direct and straightforward approach, that stands in contrast to the more nebulous hunt for a city of gold.
This sees you create an army somewhere in South America, put them under the command of a conquistador and send them off on the Hunt for the Seven Cities quest. Periodically, you will receive small reports on their progress, whether good or bad, and sometimes a course of action to choose based off those events. If your conquistador keeps on getting lost, you can decide whether to wait for him to be discovered or callously leave him to die and send a new explorer in his stead. Of course, there wouldn’t be much point to searching these lands if there weren’t even a glimmer of hope to finding the lost city of gold or the fountain of youth, and as such, you do have such a chance of finding a great wonder of this sort. But it’s only a slim chance.
Admittedly, this feels to me like a relatively small addition to an already expansive game that has tackled grand conflicts like the Thirty Years War, though this expansion does also add new ideas such as combatting the piracy and privateers that are raiding your trade routes and the inclusion of Hahuatl, Maya and Inti religions to flesh out South American nations further. For example, it sees the Aztecs regularly having to wage war, capture their enemies and make ritualistic sacrifices in order to appease the gods and stave off the doom counter, lest their civilisation crumble into civil war.
However, there is one more addition, which harks back to the Random New World generator from Conquest of Paradise, which generated random landmasses for the Americas – a quite ingenious move in its own right. The Nation Designer in the El Dorado expansion lets you create your own nation spending points to purchase territories, pick from various cultural backgrounds and technology trees and so on. You could have a small nation named Teletubbyland with a Japanese background and place it on the tip of India, if you really wanted.
While this has its own peculiar charm, its potential greatness comes from the ability to randomise the countries. This jumbles up all of the nations of the world and places them haphazardly across the map, putting Scotland next to a grand Incan empire, Germany on the Horn of Africa and so on. While there was a simple amusement at generating new maps and looking at where everyone had been moved to, it also adds another new layer of replayability to EU IV, with a completely unknown challenge ahead of you.
For those that have sunk hundreds of hours into EU IV, that’s sure to make for a refreshing change of pace, when the expansion arrives tomorrow.
This preview came through attending PDXCon 2015 in Stockholm, Sweden, for which travel and accommodation were provided by Paradox Interactive.