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Europa: 1400

Developer: 4Head Studios | Publisher: JoWood Entertainment
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 11/18/02 | Genre: Strategy

Europa 1400 is different. It is a very different way of portraying game that follows the life a person during the High Middle Ages (around 1400) and follows them through events like the Reformation and the Wars between England and France. The introduction does an excellent job of setting the game up your (the character's) place in this new world as he leaves for town to find his future. It is a game of RPG skills and resource management. There is not another game on the market that matches this particular program's unique design and gameplay.

Immediately after the introduction you will have a chance to build your characters skills and lineage. This is as easy as selecting a town to start in, then picking several people from a crowd (see picture) as your parents. Their professions transfer skills to you such as blacksmithing and thieving. You must extensively read the game material before playing (difficult) or follow the tutorial with good intent. This is not that the game is difficult, but like I said, it is different and requires a different way of approaching a video game than just moving tanks or shooting bad guys.

On my test of playability is running the game without any pre-reading. This is mostly to test the player interface and determine if the impatient player will give up before the game gets good. Then, I back out, thoroughly read the material and run the tutorials. This is one game where you should start with tutorials. Most players will not be used to this unique style of play, and be frustrated before they learn what a fun game this really is.

The game is true to its intent. You really do build a life in the Middle Ages, complete with historical events active. The player can develop their business, get married, and have a family. I was most impressed with characters aging around you. It takes place in "real time" so as you work and do events, you will age and eventually die. Which means it might be a good idea to have a family and pass along everything to your heirs. I thought this was a nice touch beyond RPGs that just focus on accumulating wealth or prestige (although you do that too). So, the player does truly develop. In your business ventures the character will get to train all manner of apprentices that will eventually become necessary to your business. There are also opportunities to buy your way into the upper regions of the government.

The environment is pretty well done. The graphics remind me of other recent JoWood titles. Some items will be stunning, such as the townscape, while an image of an apprentice is less defined. The movies are pretty good, but the real beauty of Europa 1400 is in the player environment. With good AI, and a new person simulation environment, it is really a gem for those hunting such an experience. There is intense competition, believable graphics and an interesting backdrop for such a RPG that delivers a truly unique game. The game has plenty of options for the developing character but is a tough environment to learn quickly.

By Jay Waschak - 02/28/03
ESRB Details: Mild Violence
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Screenshots for Europa: 1400

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