Victoria 3 has become a meme and an urban legend in the strategy community over the last few years, as speculation has run rampant about when we’d get a proper sequel to 2011’s Victoria 2. The franchise sits between Europa Universalis and Hearts of Iron, simulating the technological leaps, ideological movements, and political shifts that shaped the modern world from the Industrial Revolution right up to the eve of World War II. And from what I’ve seen so far, it looks more than worth the wait.
While a lot of Paradox’s other strategy games have come to resemble something more like a board game (Europa Universalis IV) or an RPG (Crusader Kings 3), Victoria 3 is billing itself as a deep, less abstracted historical simulation. Using a system of POPs – Parts of Population – it represents all one billion people who lived on Earth in 1836, from a subsistence farmer in rural China to a loyal soldier in Prussia to a wealthy captain of industry in Pennsylvania. Most grand strategy games tend to focus on warfare and conquering as much territory as possible – “map painting,” as we call it in the biz – but Victoria 3 wants to make you pay more attention to economics, internal politics, and international diplomacy. [ignvideo url=”https://www.ign.com/videos/2021/05/21/victoria-3-announcement-trailer”] You can play as any of over 100 countries, from the heavy hitters like Great Britain and the Qing Dynasty of China, to local and regional powers like Siam or Switzerland. They’ve done away with Victoria 2’s problematic “civilized” vs “uncivilized” distinction, with smaller countries outside the European sphere of influence instead being “unrecognized.” This basically means that the Great Powers of the era don’t see you as an equal, and can bully you without causing so much diplomatic fuss.
But you’re not inherently worse at discovering new technologies or winning wars just because of that label. The conditions in your country, such as having a mostly rural subsistence economy and limited bureaucracy, might make it harder for you to catch up and compete with the big guys. But you won’t face any arbitrary, added challenges to doing so. The one exception is what Victoria 3 calls “Decentralized Countries”, such as the tribal societies of the inner Sahara. They won’t be playable at launch, but Paradox wants to change that in the future when they can give them the unique mechanics and distinct playstyle they deserve.
Internal politics in Victoria 3 will be handled by Interest Groups, in which the various POPs in your country will come together to pursue shared goals. Rich capitalists will often join the Industrialists faction, for example, which will push for reduced government spending and privatizing institutions like education and healthcare. Meanwhile, the Devout will oppose any laws and policies that go against the traditional, religious morals of your society. Inviting these groups into your government will be the main way of changing your country internally, allowing you to make anything from a ruthless absolute monarchy to a worker-run anarchist commune.
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The other big addition is the new system of Diplomatic Plays, which borrows from Victoria 2’s Crisis system. When you want something from another country, like a piece of their land or for them to open up their markets to your goods, you can present that demand to them with a diplomatic proclamation. They will then be invited to propose a concession they would like from you. At this point, you enter a maneuvering phase in which you can offer spoils of war to other countries to get them to back your claim, or mobilize your armies as a show of force. Either one side will choose to back down and their opponents will get what they asked for, or the timer will run out and war will be declared, with potentially many different countries and objectives being on the table. Paradox doesn’t want every minor border dispute to turn into a World War, and they’re balancing this feature accordingly. But the more concessions you ask for, the more your rivals and the Great Powers will see you as a threat and consider backing your opponent to maintain the balance. You won’t even necessarily need to throw your weight around on the world stage in Victoria 3, though. It’s being billed as a kind of game where “tending the garden” of your nation can be just as engaging and effective, industrializing and modernizing your lands while creating a prosperous and free society that will attract immigrants, investors, and lucrative trade deals. There’s always a possibility of danger from within, though. If you can’t keep powerful interest groups happy, or your workers start getting educated and reading books by guys with names like Marx and Engels, you may have a full-blown revolution on your hands. But since everyone likes an underdog, Victoria 3 will let you pick your side at the onset of such a conflict. You can fight to maintain the status quo or join the workers to seize the means of production.
There’s no release date for Victoria 3 yet, as Paradox wants to really take their time and only ship it when they feel like it’s done. That seems wise, given the buggy and unsatisfactory state of some of their more recent DLC releases and 2019’s Imperator: Rome. But you can already check out the trailer, along with our round-up of all the big news from PDXCon Remixed!