Paradox Interactive is undoubtedly the best and most well-known strategy game creator in the industry. With franchises like Europa Universalis, Crusader Kings, and Hearts of Iron, we could safely say they’re the foremost experts in providing comprehensive strategic experiences. With that said, it has gone to a point where players spend hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hours, looking at a map of the world or the galaxy.
However, if you’re planning to dive into the medieval world of CK3 or the post-Renaissance era in Europa Universalis, these games have a catch: they’re extremely difficult. Changing history or charting a path to humanity’s survival and dominance in the universe isn’t as simple as it sounds. Learning each game’s mechanics takes dozens of hours; to master it, you need hundreds.
Learning each game is like trying to get a degree
All Paradox games have one thing in common: learning each game is like going through a college semester.
Looking back, I was rather excited when I discovered Europa Universalis IV. On the surface, it’s just a map game where you do plenty of clicking. However, it is a comprehensive nation-building simulator wherein you use war, diplomacy, trade, and colonization to help your chosen nation thrive. I’ve spent more than 500 hours playing it, and even so, I wouldn’t consider myself an expert.
Paradox games have varying gameplay mechanics. Trade in EUIV is different from Imperator Rome, while wars in Hearts of Iron use the unique frontlines mechanic. Plus, each game specializes in something specific. For example, Crusader Kings puts you in charge of a dynasty focusing on managing character relations, arranging marriages, and diplomacy. Meanwhile, Stellaris is more of a space empire sim.
Thanks to their diverse gameplay mechanics, you have to learn each game from scratch. Having experience in most of their titles doesn’t mean you won’t have trouble understanding another. In my case, I’ve played Imperator Rome recently, and after 10 hours, I still have no idea what I’m doing.
Is it worth going through the tutorials?
Definitely, although we also recommend going through community-made ones.
The in-game tutorials are tailor-made to help you learn the basics. For example, Imperator Rome’s tutorial tackles how to raise armies, manage provinces, and interact with various characters within your nation. They use clear-cut instructions, but there’s still a chance you’ll get lost in the process due to the games not using visual cues to guide you through the interface.
As for community tutorials, you can quickly look up YouTube videos from acclaimed players like Quill18, BudgetMonk, AlzhaboHD, and One Proud Bavarian. However, going through these guides requires a fair bit of time investment, especially for games like EU4, which are relatively comprehensive. For example, Quill18’s EU4 beginner’s tutorial for a single nation, Castille, has eight videos with an average of 40 minutes each which is, well, insane.
Paradox Interactive games: which title should you start playing first?
Let’s say you’re a Civilization, Xcom, and Supremacy 1914 player, and you want to start easing into some of the Paradox Interactive games.
The easiest title you can dive into is Crusader Kings III, which is also their most recent. Thanks to its streamlined UI and relatively straightforward yet multidimensional gameplay, you’ll have an easier time here than its predecessors and other games like Imperator Rome and Victoria II. It doesn’t focus much on province, holding, and trade management, while putting a premium on diplomacy, realm stability, character development, and religion.
After CK3, we recommend playing Stellaris and Hearts of Iron 4 next. Unlike its peers, Stellaris is set in space, where your role is to guide your chosen race to survival and dominance in a galaxy full of other civilizations. You’ll research technology, build star fleets, and if you own the appropriate DLCs, destroy planets and form megacorporations. Meanwhile, HOI4 is a World War II simulator where you can play as various nations from around the world during the bloodiest war in human history. You can try to survive as Poland, change history as Germany by not invading the Soviets during winter, or do nothing like Switzerland.
With these in mind, playing Europa Universalis IV and Imperator Rome should come in a little later, given the degree of difficulty they possess.
The appeal of grand strategy
Despite being on the higher end of the difficulty spectrum, Paradox’s grand strategy titles have a mass appeal, mainly because:
- You can change history and entertain “what if” scenarios. For example, what if Byzantium survived and pushed back the Ottomans, or if the Mongols managed to reach the heartland of Europe?
- You can play as your own country. Paradox games let you play as various countries worldwide, like pre-war United States in Hearts of Iron 4 or break off from the Commonwealth as Canada. You could even resist colonizers and settlers as one of the Indian and Amazonian tribes in the Americas.
- It’s addictive to “paint the map” with your nation’s color. Painting the map is another term for conquest, and it’s quite addictive to see rather large areas of the map becoming yours. However, it’s always a bad idea to overextend, which is why it’s prudent to take it slow and steady by stabilizing conquered territories first.
Yes, despite the learning process being comparable to attempting to earn a college degree minus the student loans, playing a Paradox Interactive grand strategy game is worth it. Sure, the difficulty curve will appear insurmountable, but once you get the hang of them, you’ll end up spending thousands of hours changing history and achieving world domination.
In your case, have you played a few Paradox strategy games before, and did you have trouble learning any of them? Let us know your experiences down in the comments!