Tobold's Blog
Monday, December 12, 2022
Victoria 3 - Second Impressions

I have finished my first game of Victoria 3, playing through a whole century from 1836 to 1936 as Belgium. Following the "Learn the game" objectives, I ended up doing colonization, despite not really wanting to. I also annexed Luxemburg and the Netherlands. In the early 20th century I rose to the top prestige rank, but I ended up at rank 8 in the world. The problem was internal strife, leading to revolutions, which then wrecked my economy. As far as I hear that happens to a lot of people. My country also progressed a maximum towards a modern democratic and multicultural state with its laws, resisting both communism and fascism.

Overall, I had a lot of fun, and spent over 40 hours playing Victoria 3 for just one complete game. And I can see myself playing some more. Victoria 3 is principally an economic simulation, and I do like economic simulation. The fact that this involves a lot of micromanagement is okay with me, but is admittedly not for everybody.

Having said that, the economic user interface isn't perfect. Information is sometimes very hard to find, being hidden somewhere, or not available at all. But the domestic political user interface is a lot worse. You'll see some numbers like x% of turmoil in one of your states, but it is very hard to find out what is behind it. And often impossible to fix, getting you into a situation where all options lead to a revolution. That has to do with the fact that you are a "shadow ruler", you don't play the head of government or state. And by introducing progressive laws, you diminish the power that you have to control the country; for example the introduction of Free Speech makes it impossible for you to bolster or suppress certain political groups. Any economic downturn ends up radicalizing your population, which quickly ends up in a death spiral to revolution. And that is not just your country, but pretty much everywhere. You constantly get bombarded with diplomatic events where "revolutionary X" split away from country X and they are now fighting each other. In the process that tends to mess up your trade with country X, which is annoying. And if you have a revolution yourself, weird stuff happens with your economy, where you simultaneously have lots of unemployed people and lots of open jobs, without the two getting together, even if it they are the type of worker that you would need.

I researched everything in all three tech trees. That turned out to be a lot less advantageous than I would have thought. In Victoria 3 it is very hard to be ahead of the technological curve, because you rely on some things getting imported. In my game the world market for oil even in 1936 wasn't big enough for me to enable switching from coal to oil, which made the invention of things like plastics, automobiles, or tanks not very useful. My conquest of the Netherlands was mostly motivated by Friesland having some oil, which I needed very much.

The reason why countries are likely to get into an economic death spiral is that the game simply doesn't have the possibility to reduce certain things that cost a lot of money or tools to reduce political tension. You can't reduce the size of your standing army, for example, which is why conscription is the much better option. And the bigger your economy gets, the more fragile it becomes. The first revolution I had, where either enacting or not enacting a certain law led to a revolution, got me from having maximum financial reserves to being in default. Despite me having a huge investment pool stored up, default meant that I couldn't build anything anymore. So in the last phase of the game I simply didn't have any good plays, neither economically nor politically, and could just watch my downfall.

I think that in an echo of my Hearts of Iron IV game, I will try to play a full game of Victoria 3 as neutral Switzerland next, without colonies or warfare. The colonization and warfare systems aren't much fun anyway, and I would like to see whether I can have a stable economy and politics throughout a whole century.

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