Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun is an interesting game covering the period shortly following the Napoleonic Wars, up to and including the era of the First World War. Western society as we know it now developed then. The concepts of liberalism, democracy, social services and the equal responsibility of the citizen to the state as the state to the citizen became ingrained in our culture. No longer were wars fought amongst kings with what amounted to personal armies. Now, nations engaged in life and death struggles. Western society eerily followed the words of Clausewitz as it mobilized itself more and more for total war – and like Clausewitz himself, it recoiled from the horrors it entails.
It is during this turbulent period, marked by the establishment of truly global empires, that the player is thrust into control of any nation he chooses on this world. Whether your ambition is to lead the United Kingdom in its mission to colonize every last scrap of unclaimed land and rule the waves, or if you’re merely satisfied trying to maintain independence as tiny Hawaii, Victoria provides you with the opportunity.
When we last saw Victoria, it was a game with a non-functional world market that led to exploits with which the average player could easily become the world’s dominant power… as Serbia. Later patches addressed this, but at the cost of making industrialization a frustrating process of hoping that machine parts could somehow make their way to the world market. The new expansion hopes to address the latter issue, while extending gameplay to 1936, and preventing new exploits from happening.
In many ways, Revolutions succeeds where the original Victoria did not. Nations can all industrialize relatively equally, though obviously their literacy rates, resources, and populations vary. The in-game liberal revolutions event, based on the Europe-wide revolts of 1848, highlights the costs and dangers of dramatic social change. Newly literate populations with access to media become politically active and even militant if their desires are not met. No longer are they content to be the tools of an absolute king, an oligarchic aristocracy or even the rich bourgeoisie. People demand universal suffrage, compensation for their hard work, benefits, a free press and the right to form unions. If you fail to provide these, you will see revolts and even a forced government change via revolution.
Governments and their policies are very meaningful. If you have a party with anti-military policy ruling your state, your military spending is considerably curtailed. If those thrice-be-damned pacifists are elected, your military spending is cut to half at maximum and, and worse yet, you cannot promote “pops” (groups of citizens in the same province with the same job/nationality/faith) to the military. On the other hand, if your ruling party is Jingoist, you’ll find it impossible to significantly reduce your military size.