Europa Universalis IV: Leviathan Review (PC)

GAME REVIEW

Developer: Paradox Interactive

Version Tested: PC

Yes, there's a Leviathan expansion for Europa Universalis IV too, not to be confused with the Stellaris expansion by the same name. So what does this latest invocation of Thomas Hobbes' big fish metaphor bring to Europa Universalis' already burgeoning banquet of grand strategy?

First up, American native tribes have nearly a hundred new provinces to their names as well as a load of new flavour events, which should bring new life to an otherwise slightly neglected continent. This is all available in the latest free update, and you don't actually need to pay to spice up the indigenous Americans.

The DLC proper introduces a range of new mechanics, the most prominent of which is the new favour system, which massively increases their utiltiy beyond preparing for war. There are also new ways to earn favour, which allow smaller and less aggressive nations to jostle for power without being constantly embroiled in warfare.

You can now curry favour via diplomacy by hiring diplomats and tasking them with chatting up foreign governments. How successful their charm offensive is depends on your diplomatic reputation and opinion, and the more powerful your allies are, the more impressive your diplomacy will be. In practice, this means it's easy to improve your relations with already friendly nations, but not particularly easy to build relationships to neutral nations and practically impossible to get enemies to nod along.

Where you would typically use favours to ask allies to help you out when waging war, there are now new ways to spend your favour in peace time. For example, you can ask for half of an ally's annual income, manpower or sailors, which can be quite a a boon if your allies are powerful enough. If you don't need to beg for alms or your allies are crushed by debt, you can spend a bit of favour doing trade instead.

Pillaging isn't just for hordes

Carry enough favour, and you can start to really throw your weight around. For example, you can make your allies revoke alliances – extremely useful if you are looking to expand your territory into lands your allies have sworn to protect. Messing with the bonds that bind different nations is also a great way to fan the flames of conflict and making sure conflicts develop to your benefit.

There are also more peaceful uses for favour. You can request the return of a core province, which allows two allies to co-exist a bit more easily, and you can trade heirs with your allies which potentially puts you in control of their state if you play your cards right. Why steal the throne when you can simply inherit it?

States and provinces also work slightly differently in Leviathan. First of all, states can be centralized and their governance cost decreased at the price of reform points. This meshes well with the infrastructure expansion feature, which allows you to add building and manufacturing slots to a province in exchange for greatly increased cost of governance.

And that's not all: You can also concentrate development, moving it from a territory (but not a state) and into your capital. It's not free and you lose a bit of productivity in the process, but it helps you consolidate and develop your core territories, ensuring that gains stay within your empire even if you lose territory again.

Speaking of territory control, armies can now automatically carpet siege, which allows them to besiege an area without engaging in combat, just like you can ask your vassals to do. This helps micromanage conflicts in war time, and while it's not always useful it can really make all the difference if deployed at the right moment.

Another convenient feature is locking forts. If you lock in a fort, they can not be mothballed, which allows you to quickly cut costs by mothballing your forts without losing your most important defensive bastions. Saves a lot of otherwise tedious micromanagement and mental overhead.

Underwhelming Monuments

The final big change in Leviathan is the monument system, which adds dozens of special locations similar to the wonders in Crusader Kings. You can spend huge amounts of money to upgrade them, and smaller monuments can be transferred to your capital. If you capture a province with a monument, its level is reset and the province will be more expensive when negotiating the peace treaty.

Many of these monuments will most likely need a bit of rebalancing in the future, since some are essentially worthless while others are spectacularly powerful. For example, the Versailles monument's final tier grants the owner a 20% global tax income bonus, which is pretty astonishing considering how powerful France already is.

Like always, the expansion also introduces a few new bugs. The AI is still not great at balancing budgets, although slightly less profligate than before. It also seems like separatism keeps blocking culture conversions even after the effect has expired, and there are some minor graphical glitches in the trade hub pie chart.

Overall, though, Leviathan is a considerable improvement and holds a lot more promise than the earlier Europa Universalis expansions. The favour and development systems make peaceful, diplomatic gameplay more viable and introduce entirely new ways to play the game. It's well worth the investment if you play a lot of Europa Universalis, and a good excuse to pick up Paradox's new subscription service, which gives you access to all expansions for their games.

PROS:

  • Favours finally have a purpose and no longer depends on war
  • New development features allow more freedom in growth
  • Carpet sieging saves so much micro-management

CONS:

  • Monuments are hard to find and either underwhelming or overpowered
  • Introduces a fair share of new bugs
7.5/10Good