To be a fan of Paradox products is not a kind fate. The company is head and shoulders above everybody else in its niche: grand strategy. It keeps coming up with the most interesting games. Want to build nations and colonize in post-medieval Europe? Europa Universalis is the game for you. How about a World War 2 game incorporating military, geological, meteorological, political, diplomatic and economic factors? Check out Hearts of Iron.
No, the problem lies in quality. Or, rather, its lack. I hear there is a thread devoted to raising money so that disgruntled players can travel to Sweden and personally [editor's redaction] to [libel redaction] with one or more pointy [editor's redaction]. Sideways. And then they'll do the same thing to the horse Paradox rode in on.
Paradox has also continued its recent trend of limiting the gamer to making unimportant decisions. As a bonus, if you make an important decision you cannot tell what effect your decision had. To complete the trifecta you will constantly be surrounded by rebels (and other problems) while having little idea why they exist and less about how to fix things.
Whew. I feel better now. Let's get back to the regularly scheduled review, yes?
The basic idea behind Victoria 2 is population management. Everything else you do - economic development, politics, warfare - is based upon, and designed to improve, the quality of life of your population.
To this end your nation is divided up into POPs - variously-sized groups of people that share a culture, a religion, and a job type. In fact, every POP has at least 17 different properties: size, job type, nationality, religion, location, militancy, consciousness, ideologies, issues, unemployment, cash reserves, life needs, basic needs, luxury needs, chance of rebellion, growth, and literacy. For example, one of my POPs is 38 Protestant Swedish soldiers who live in Bethel, Alaska. I have another POP that consists of 2 Sunni Kanauji fruit farmers who live in Monterey, California. Yes, the game will keep track of POPs that small.
Looking at my Swedish soldier pop, it turns out they are about evenly split between Liberal and Socialist politics. Their physical needs - life (e.g. clean water), basic (e.g. beer) and luxury (e.g. wine that doesn't come in a box) - are all taken care of. They all have jobs and a little money in the bank. As a whole, they are pretty happy with the way things are going, and, by extension, me. This is how I (as the guardian spirit of the nation) want everyone to be.
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