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Tacticular Cancer reviews March of the Eagles

Tacticular Cancer reviews March of the Eagles

Review - posted by Trash on Sat 2 March 2013, 16:29:38

Tags: March of the Eagles; Paradox Interactive

Straight out of the trenches we send our very own Oscar to go and re-enact some good old fashioned Napoleonic warfare with Paradox's March of the Eagles. Did he enjoy it or found it to be as much fun as marching all the way back from Moscow to Paris?

The horrible, horrible ‘ping-pong’ warfare of earlier Paradox games has returned with a vengeance. This is when a defeated army endlessly retreats, with your army requiring an insane number of victories to actually destroy it. Recent Paradox games have addressed this problem by seeing armies that stand no chance against you in battle instantly annihilated when you win. But here it’s worse than ever with enemy armies managing to retreat through your armies into your own provinces even when core provinces owned by them are available. I’m no military genius but I imagine that when an army is defeated they don’t “retreat” deeper into enemy territory. This is exacerbated by the game registering provinces without fortresses as instantly captured when an enemy army arrives. While this realistically represents the rapid manoeuvre and speedy advances of the Napoleonic Wars combined with this ‘ping-ponging’ of defeated armies, warfare can quickly take a turn to the ridiculous. In my game as Prussia, the Russian invasion into the east felt more like un-coordinated bandits bouncing around the frontier (a small invading Russian army of a few thousand soldiers managed to retreat all the way to Berlin) than any serious military threat. The game left me feeling more like I was playing whack-a-mole via mouse click instead of organising a desperate defence against the vast Russian tide. While the AI was faring poorly against me in their war score, they were certainly winning the fight against my patience. Thankfully the developers have put fixing this on their to-do list, but as it stands combat is more about your capacity to endure tedium than your tactical prowess. The diplomatic AI seemed little better, with Britain forming and then dissolving its coalition against France every few months.​

Sacré bleu! Read the full review here.



March of the Eagles stands as Paradox’s most recent and ambitious attempt to convey the grand clash of the Napoleonic War. It's a popular setting for wargames with colourful uniforms, daring cavalry charges, bold strategic maneuvers and iconic figures such as Nelson, Napoleon, Murat, Wellington and Blücher. Indeed, this is territory that Paradox has covered before with their Napoleon’s Ambition expansion for Europa Universalis III (which was recently gifted to all Paradox forum members) way back in 2007. However this game is very different in intention and design (yet in some aspects, all too similar) to the EU series.


In the off chance you’re reading this and have never played a Paradox game, they are grand strategy games that tend to come with a specific focus. Warfare (blitzing your way across the Second and early Cold War in Hearts of Iron), Economic (raging at your capitalist’s endlessly building unprofitable cement and factories in Victoria I and II), feudal and mixed ones that have a bit of everything (the Europa Universalis and Crusader Kings series). March of the Eagles firmly comes down upon the warfare side of the spectrum.


This means that the economic aspects of this game are very limited. Provincial improvements are available that convey bonuses, but these seem quite poorly thought out. Upgrading my province from ‘Developed’ to ‘Civilised’ costs 1000 ducats and all I get is a paltry 5% manpower and tax bonus from that province? In a game that is only 15 years long? Yeah right. For the same amount I could produce six ships-of-the-line and 50,000 good quality infantry. The short time period of the game seems that most of these infrastructure improvements seem a shoddy investment where you’ll be lucky to even recuperate your investment, let alone actually benefit. I can’t help but compare this to the previous game I’ve reviewed, Commander: The Great War, where having to carefully hoard and wisely invest your limited resources was always a tough strategic dilemma. In March of the Eagles, all that seems to matter is manpower since money flows quite freely and the expensive infrastructure upgrades are virtually worthless.

[​IMG]
All the big names of the Napoleonic era are represented

This brings us to the meat of the game, the combat. Anyone who has played a Paradox game will be able to pick it up in about five seconds. You create army stacks, throw in some artillery and cavalry, try to keep them below the province’s supply limit, attack when you have a nice numerical or superiority yadda yadda yadda. I can’t help but wish there was a bit more to warfare in this game. While there is a nice unit variety (light marksmen infantry, home defence militia, elite guard units, hussars etc etc), it’s still the same old “my stack vs your stack” business I’ve been playing for years and doesn’t bring anything new to the table. In addition, many of the units don’t seem to serve a specific function and seem to have been included simply for flavour. I found myself wondering what the difference between hussars and uhlans when both have the exact same statistics and price? It’s a similar story with the British highlander soldiers who have the same stats as any generic guard unit. This is a shame as giving each major nation a different combat roster could have gone a long way to giving each nation a different ‘feel’ and different military strengths.


The exclusive warfare focus of the Hearts of Iron games work because the engine is designed explicitly for combat and allows neat things like encirclements, envelopments, strategic pockets and supply chains which reward the player for planning ahead and exploiting errors. By comparison, March of the Eagles feels a little mindless with limited player input into the battles beyond selecting the best generals and marshalling around reinforcements. While this is no different or inferior to games such as Europa Universalis or Crusader Kings, those games offer lots of other things than just warfare to occupy your attention (trying to maintain the stability of your nation and looking for wives with good genes for your good-for-nothing son respectively). Now obviously I’m not claiming (nor do I wish) that March of the Eagles should include eye-wowing Total War-esque 3D battles but if they’re going to make March of the Eagles solely about war, with elements such as politics, intrigue and economy stripped away, then it stands to reason that we deserve combat that’s been spiced up.


The horrible, horrible ‘ping-pong’ warfare of earlier Paradox games has returned with a vengeance. This is when a defeated army endlessly retreats, with your army requiring an insane number of victories to actually destroy it. Recent Paradox games have addressed this problem by seeing armies that stand no chance against you in battle instantly annihilated when you win. But here it’s worse than ever with enemy armies managing to retreat through your armies into your own provinces even when core provinces owned by them are available. I’m no military genius but I imagine that when an army is defeated they don’t “retreat” deeper into enemy territory. This is exacerbated by the game registering provinces without fortresses as instantly captured when an enemy army arrives. While this realistically represents the rapid manoeuvre and speedy advances of the Napoleonic Wars, combined with this ‘ping-ponging’ of defeated armies, warfare can quickly take a turn to the ridiculous. In my game as Prussia, the Russian invasion into the east felt more like un-coordinated bandits bouncing around the frontier (a small invading Russian army of a few thousand soldiers managed to retreat all the way to Berlin) than any serious military threat. The game left me feeling more like I was playing whack-a-mole via mouse click instead of organising a desperate defence against the vast Russian tide. While the AI was faring poorly against me in their war score, they were certainly winning the fight against my patience. Thankfully the developers have put fixing this on their to-do list, but as it stands combat is more about your capacity to endure tedium than your tactical prowess. The diplomatic AI seemed little better, with Britain forming and then dissolving its coalition against France every few months.


The ‘Ideas’ system is something I feel I should comment on. This game allows you to research things like volley firing, banking systems and ship tactics. The big boys gain unique national technologies with things like Prussian discipline, British pressgangs and Russia’s conscription-based manpower reserves helping to spice up the differences between each nation a bit. One interesting innovation here is that fighting helps you accumulate these points, but actually losing the battle often gains you more than winning. This is a nifty system that simultaneously allows losing nations to help catch up against stronger ones and represents the historic reality of how Napoleon’s foes despite many early disasters eventually defeated him by studying his strategic innovations and imitating them (and in some cases even exceeding him in their appliance). Sadly a lot of the ideas seem poorly balanced or useless. A 33% reduction in the price of artillery is ridiculously weak compared to a bonus to infantry initiative or manpower increase.

[​IMG]
Richard Sharpe would be proud

The shorter time period of March of the Eagles and its military inclinations seem to predispose it to multiplayer. Grand strategy games generally aren’t known for their bustling multiplayer scenes partly because few people have the patience or time for the many hours a single game can take and partly because there’s a fraction of the people playing these games as there are playing the latest Call of Duty or FIFA game. Yet March of the Eagles seems well suited for multiplayer. The short game time (fifteen years compared to the four hundred of Europa Universalis III) and presence of firm ‘goals’ required to win the game (even the concept of in-game victory is a rarity amongst typically sandbox and open-ended Paradox titles) mean there is a bit more direction and focus that could see this game serve as a more accessible title for multiplayer than most of its kind in the genre.


Ultimately I think the warfare in this game is simply not entertaining, challenging or strategic enough to carry the game forwards. This is exacerbated by the fact that the AI, if anything, seems a step-down from that present in existing Paradox titles such as Crusader Kings or Victoria II. While Paradox games have a long history of improving themselves via rigorous patching, DLC and expansions and the game is tailored towards fun multiplayer, as it stands there isn't all that much to recommend here as a single-player experience.


+ Smooth, accessible interface
+ Easy to grasp combat and production
+ Well suited for multiplayer with Risk style back-stabbing
+ Interesting research system
+ A few new bells and whistles for combat (reserves, supply units and forced march options)
+ Nice soundtrack (suitably ominous)


- Weak AI, both militarily and diplomatically
- ‘Ping-ponging’ has come back from the grave
- Same old Paradox stack combat
- Little of the charm, humour or flavour of other Paradox titles leads to things feeling a bit dry and soulless

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