Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun

snap18_1It was 1914 when war broke out in the heart of Europe. It all started when France brutally invaded Spain, prompting Prussia and her allies Norway and Great Britain to retaliate by… oh wait, that can’t be right. Or perhaps it is, since Victoria does allow such alternate realities to manifest. It also isn’t confined to Europe, as it lets you empire-build through the entire world as a number of countries between 1836 and 1920. It’s also your chance to indulge your inner masochist, courtesy of the game’s bugs and abstract strategic depth.

If Victoria taught me one lesson, it’s that running a country in real time all by yourself isn’t easy. You’re responsible for everything, including diplomacy, fiscal and economic policy, domestic affairs, and the military. Control freaks will be in heaven, but this game may be a bit overwhelming for most people. Even at its slowest speed setting, Victoria moves along at a brisk clip, with momentous events transpiring both domestically and abroad every few seconds. You’re notified of these events via constant pop-up alerts — often, a new alert will appear before you’ve even finished reading the last one! Fortunately, many of the more innocuous announcements can be disabled.

The byproduct of Victoria’s massive scope is an incredible level of depth. You could play this game for weeks on end without exploring everything it has to offer, and much of it is really addictive once you get into it. Even at two in the morning, it’s hard to resist the temptation to deliver one last crushing blow to those arrogant French. And the excellent background music does a great job of setting the mood, be it for legislative deliberations or an imperialistic war.

snap24_1Unfortunately, getting into it isn’t easy. Figuring out how to play Victoria is comparable to learning to use Linux when you’ve spent your whole life on a Macintosh. For starters, the manual is inadequate, and there’s no in-game tutorial. Also, the interface is poorly designed and in dire need of better button-labeling. Bugs are another hassle, including a tendency for the game to crash every so often. And even after combing through the manual, you’ll likely need to give Victoria hours of play before you’ll start having fun.

System Requirements: Pentium III 450 MHz, 128 MB RAM, Win98

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