Games · Strategy Games

Europa Barbarorum and History in Games

I have a huge passion for history. I followed the subject for many years at university after all, giving me huge practice for turning out blog posts in writing and it was largely because I just love learning about what we know of the parts of our history that we know so little about and have to piece together from small bits of writings, architecture and inscriptions. The other thing I love that’s relevant in this article is video games, of course, who doesn’t love them. But specifically I count a commonality among a large majority of my favourite games. This group all involve playing as a group of people or a nation from some point in history, and leading them to conquer whatever you see fit. Most of them involve you starting in a historical position and moving from there. Total War, Europa Universalis, Crusader Kings, you should be aware of the sorts of games I am talking about. I can never get enough of that. Incidentally, this will lead to me starting two new categories on here, strategy games and history, as I don’t think this will be the last time I want to talk about it.

I haven’t played any Total War for quite a while so I’ve been getting the itch to reinstall it and load up some of my old campaigns on Rome 1, which was something I played for hours. Which is something I haven’t done yet but hopefully will do soon. Particularly on one of its most complete and well-known mods, Europa Barbarorum. After taking your clean R:TW install through a torturous installment process, the game that had a good engine but at its heart was a cartoony representation of warfare across latter antiquity in Europe was completely changed. Unit descriptions contained full researched historical contexts with up-to-date historical and archaeological research. Cities and faction buildings were presented in the original languages, such that you would learn bits of Ancient Greek and Latin just by playing. Many of these concepts would later show up in my university classics classes where I would feel very satisfied upon hearing lecturers talk about concepts that I’d learned from this new mod. Particularly what sticks out to me was one professor who had a love for the Bactrian Greeks, who of course make their appearance as a new faction in Europa Barbarorum as the map moves east, at the expense of the unorganised Numidian tribes, who are demoted to rebels.

One of the strongest features of EB was the limited unit recruitment. For most games of this type, a weakness they often fall prey to is that your armies can be recruited from any province you hold. That’s fine, it makes the game simpler. But when a properly implemented system that forces you to choose how integrated each province is within your empire, affecting the types of troops that can be recruited, with the addition that you can get different types of regional troops to serve as garrisons or accompany your armies far from their homeland, it adds the immersion of history that this mod tries its absolute best to showcase as much as it can. For instance, in this systeem, Ioudaioi Taxeis, Jewish Spearman, can only be recruited in modern Israel for whoever controls it, while if you move into Gaul, or the East, no matter who you are playing, you can train some, limited, regional troops for your use. Of course different factions have their own rosters and some can make far more use of an area than others can but this different army building, without the use of mercenaries enhances the historical feel of the game and made me fall in love with history even more. It might have even been a strong factor in my decision to do history at a higher level. Now if only the auto-resolve feature was reliable, I’m not a fan of Total War battles that, with this mod, can take up to an hour in some extreme circumstances, it’s why Paradox’s similar games have enamoured me more in recent years.

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