Review: March of the Eagles

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Paradox has always been known for their strategy games. The company’s primary strategy series began with Europa Universalis and has branched out into several other games. These have a reputation of being extremely complicated and having a learning curve like a brick wall, prohibitive to all but the most determined gamers.

I can personally attest to several tries at learning one of these games. and even after several hours, I still felt like someone was trying to teach me history and geography through a series of spreadsheets and business software. In the back of my mind, however, I’ve always known that if I could persist and finally get past the learning curve there would be an immensely rewarding game to be found underneath. To people like me, Paradox presents March of the Eagles, a highly streamlined game that melds their grand strategy engine with a focused war game based on the Napoleonic Wars at the beginning of the 19th century.

30 Second Review

(+) A great introductory to grand strategy.

(+) The game is well focused on the Napoleonic Wars.

(-) Interface can be a little confusing.

Ready to conquer Europe?

March of the Eagles is not unlike a very complicated version of the board game Risk. The game plays out on a map of Europe that is split into nations, and those nations into provinces. The object of the game is, depending on what nation is being played, to control a few select areas on the map to gain “land dominance” and “sea dominance” before the game ends in the year 1820. When beginning your first game, you are given the choice of eight specific major powers to control. You can also play as any of over two dozen minor powers included on the map, but the eight major powers are the only ones that have the potential of winning the game. Unlike many other strategy games, the playable nations are by no means balanced. March of the Eagles is historical, and gaining the necessary dominance as a country such as Sweden will be much more difficult than if you were controlling France or Great Britain.

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Once the game begins, there is a lot of information being fed through the game’s interface. This is where I have had the most trouble with the game. While Paradox has made huge improvements with tooltips and such, there is still a lot of information that leaves me scratching my head. Much of the data important to the player is depicted through numbers and symbols both on the map and in the menus. This is all ok. except that once in a while it is not immediately apparent how what I’m looking at actually affects the game being played. A prime example is when selecting what type of armies to train in a given province. The interface for this works much like a spreadsheet where each brigade is identified with a name and a row of stats such as attack, defense, speed, etc. Aside from these stats, there is nothing to indicate what types should be used in what situation or even if it’s better to have a lot of one type or to build multiple types.

To me, understanding how all of the mechanics in a strategy game work is essential in making the game enjoyable. If I’m making decisions that I’m not entirely sure how they are affecting the game, I become disconnected and lose interest quickly. Luckily in March of the Eagles these interface issues only crop up occasionally, and when they do, there are usually more than enough people on the Paradox forums to help out and share their knowledge of the game.

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Friends or foes? For now…

Luckily, from a high level the game plays pretty straight forward for the most part. In addition to the focus on combat, the diplomacy model plays a huge part in the game. There are a multitude of different messages you can send to another nation, from taunts to bribes and asking for military access to travel through their territory to battle with other countries that you don’t directly border. After playing a few hours of the game, it became obvious that simply declaring war on everyone is not a good idea. Picking your battles and knowing when to be friends with a neighboring country and when to turn on them are probably the most important decisions players can make. You can make this happen through war subsidies, tributes and granting military access. In addition, if you are one of the leading two dominant forces, you are considered a coalition leader and have the ability to recruit lesser nations to join your war for ultimate victory.

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I know that multiplayer has been somewhat of a focus by Paradox. To make this mode work for March of Eagles, it’s necessary to have a group of friends who can sit down for several hours at a time without distraction. Unfortunately, this does not fit my lifestyle at all, and I have not been able to give multiplayer a try for this very reason. As long as there are no technical issues, and I have not heard of any, I can see how this would be an entertaining way to play the game.

Now that I understand the workings of the game, I would definitely consider myself hooked and can see myself going back to March of the Eagles again and again in the future. On top of this, I have developed an interest in the series that makes me want to check out some of the other games such as Crusader Kings II and the upcoming Europa Universalis IV. For now, I’ll be keeping this one installed and checking in whenever I get the urge to do some conquering. March of the Eagles gets a 7 out of 10.

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