It's always been thought that strategy gamers are the smarter ones, the more relaxed and visionary ones, well, here comes a title that sufficiently answers to every strategy gamers' needs.
Europa 1400, as the name suggests, starts out in Europe in the year 1400, you take the role of a young lad and in the big picture, want to become an important figure in the city you're in. Europa is a mixed real-time and turn based system, every day is a turn, but cannot be ended by a click of a button, you'll have to play through each day at a time, having a lot of twists to deal with.
Gameplay is where this game shines: the game is very deep, you are presented with a robust economical system, various locations for buying goods as well as raw goods so you could produce your own, markets to trade your various items and make money as well as money lenders to try and help you push your luck.
As I mentioned the overall goal of the game, which is to become some kind of a celebrity, at some point you might want to run for office, the game features a fun political system where it gives the player the ability to run for office, and decide what rules can go through town hall, there are various jobs to be filled in the town hall, and the deception and bribery that goes on down there just makes you enjoy the 'realism' (isn't it?) that the game offers.
Bringing in goods is mighty fun, you send out a cart you own (or buy more), ask it to go to a mine or the market and you could easily buy some goods for your foundry or other businesses, that is if there are actual goods in the markets or mines, something I found challenging at times, you're not always presented with a sufficient amount of goods and quite often have to wait for hours, sometimes days, and especially in this game, you'll notice that “time is money”.
With all the complex yet fun system, you'd think, how do I learn all this? Well, fear not, as there's a very detailed, step by step tutorial system to help you in every aspect of the game, being quite detailed and having a narrator speak out what's written on the screen, makes it all more enjoyable.
Game depth is a very strong point for this game; you are presented with various upgrades for buildings, various unique jobs to take on, run businesses as you like, and in case of becoming more of a baron, you do not have to deal with micromanagement, as you can employ someone to run the shop or business for you, giving way for your evil plans to take over the city all the more comfort. Feature wise you can sabotage someone's buildings, spy on a city member to try and dig dirt so you could blackmail him in a nutshell; there are a dozen more functions that are fun to play out and are essential for becoming a leading competitor for the city's grace.
You'd be thinking now, graphics, it probably is low-end text based game, with a lot of menu's and puny graphics, HA! Nay I say, the game runs entirely through a 3D engine that strategy games all-over wouldn't be ashamed to use, supporting hardware T&L. the game looks great in every aspect, each section or house in the game looks quite different and unique than the others, making it a very satisfying experience to go and visit every corner in the game.
Audio wise, the voiceovers are magnificent, and although a bit repetitive, you won't get bored or annoyed (I haven't anyways) and it does help out in not reading every message you get in your mailbox by telling you what the message is basically about...
The game has Network multiplayer as well as support for DirectPlay, the game play is quite fun, though a bit slow considering the dynamics of the game, but these are classical issues with semi turn based games anyways, so nothing new over here.
If you want my honest, truly honest and extremely balanced conclusion, this is a game that you wouldn't want to miss; with a lot of business management, a lot of RPG after-taste and a whole lot of strategy, this game delivers what it is supposed to deliver: a fun, deep and rich experience.