If you're a Civil War buff then you'll be drooling over the contents of this expansion, but even without the Civil War content there are still enough interesting changes to make this one of Paradox's best expansions.
Victoria II: A House Divided (PC)
Developer: Paradox Development Studio
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Released: February 2, 2012
MSRP: $19.99 (requires Victoria II)
The first thing you'll notice is that the UI looks more like Paradox's more recent games, such as Sengoku or Europa Universalis III: Divine Wind. It's easier to see the information you need with cleaner menus and tooltips. New map filters like RGO output and Sphere of Influence make it simpler to understand what's going on in the world. The whole wooden look from the original Victoria II is gone, replaced by a much more minimized interface. All of the unit icons are new, as well as all of the game's loading screens. Load times are shorter and moving around the map is smoother. Altogether, it's significantly more aesthetically pleasing.
On my first play through, I decided to play as the CSA. Winning the War of Northern Aggression wasn't terribly difficult, but building a new country was. I struggled financially for awhile and I had to disassemble most of my army and navy. Just as I was about to get things settled down, America decided that it was time to retake Tennessee. I was completely unprepared for this, and I surrendered Tennessee to the North in less than a year. Ten years later, the North once again declared war on the South trying to reunite the Union. This "Second War of Northern Aggression" led to the end of the CSA.
The way that the Civil War plays out is surprisingly organic and realistic. Sure, you can change history and have the South win the war, but it's all within the realm of possibility. You'll have to worry about things like supplies for your troops, social pressures about slavery, the rights of African Americans, the rise of the Democratic party, the global demand for Cotton, and many other little tweaks that reflect the period very well.
While the Civil War is the poster child for this expansion, it's hardly the only focus. Rebellions have been changed completely. Before, rebels were either raging armies or they simply didn't exist. There wasn't any way for you to have angry citizens pushing for reform in the country. Now there can be "Movements" inside of your country. Groups of people can become supportive of a political reform like the abolition of slavery; these ideas will gain popularity over time. You can choose to accept these social changes and make your people happy, or you can try and repress these movements. Be warned: repressing a movement can cause it to become radical. Once a movement is 100% radical, the people supporting it turn into militant rebels. As a result, rebellions feel dynamic and relate to actual political issues instead of just being a bunch of angry citizens.
In Victoria II, conservative voters would begin to accept reforms if people were unhappy. This meant that if people were upset over slavery, you could enact some radical new military reforms and they would accept it. This has been changed to be more realistic; conservatives will only accept reforms based on movements. So if the abolition of slavery becomes a popular enough movement, then conservatives will begin to see that as an acceptable reform.
While this of course has a huge impact on the Civil War scenario, it can also impact any nation in the world. I played as Madagascar once, and my people became resentful of the governments acceptance of western foreigners and their ideas. They eventually had enough and rose up in revolt.
Speaking of western civilization, you can now take an uncivilized nation and try becoming civilized. Picking a country like Madagascar means there won't be a whole lot to do at the start of the game, but over time, you can begin to adopt western ideas and political reforms. I started putting money into education, encouraging people to become clergy, and accepting westerners into my country. All of these things help generate research points, and while you can't research technology as an uncivilized country, you can use these points to unlock political reforms. Every reform that you enact brings you 10% closer to becoming westernized. Once you become a western nation, you can then build factories and become a part of the industrial revolution. One thing that would be nice would have been a later starting date, like 1880, to allow you to jump right into interacting with westerners since that's about the time that they start showing up in many of the uncivilized countries.
There are a few new diplomatic options, too. You can try and justify a war by creating a Casus belli. So let's say I'm playing as Spain and I want to declare war on France. If I can somehow create a reason to declare war on France, I can attack them without gaining infamy points for starting a war. Creating a cause of war takes time, usually around 120 days, and other nations can discover your attempts to create a war. If you are discovered, you will gain infamy points, and that can lead to other countries gaining a Cassus belli on you.
As a great power, you can build factories in smaller nations. This helps them earn some money, but you will also get a cut of the profits. Building factories in another country will also make that country like you a little bit better.
If you want to try a certain political party in your country, you can set a national focus to encourage that party type. For example, if I wanted to make more citizens become a part of the Communist party, I can now set that as my focus and people will slowly, very slowly, start to turn to my party of choice. This allows you to influence people to accept the ideas and reforms that you want to enact. It's a good reflection of the real-world spread of propaganda to sway the population's thoughts. This can be a lot of fun if you want to turn a country like England or America into a Communist country.
One last new feature that I want to mention is Rally Points. These allow you to mark a territory that newly made military units will head to once they are made. You can also have troops merge into one army once they reach the Rally Point. This makes it much easier to build and manage a large army quickly.
When you play a grand strategy game, it ought to feel indicative of the real world. You want to be able to experiment with history and have things respond in a believable manner. A House Divided makes Victoria II into a much more engaging game. It makes me want to see what happens when I try to suppress the Russian Revolution, establish the South as its own country, maintain British control of Africa, turn Australia into a dominant industrial power, or just see what happens if I try making the USA into a Communist country. The scenarios that you can imagine are endless, and A House Divided skillfully brings them to life.
It's cool to watch what happens to a country over time, but it's also a fun game to play thanks to less down time and additional interesting things you can do as a country. The new political reforms for both developed countries and uncivilized nations add so much depth and they make everything more believable. This is definitely a good expansion to an already detailed game.
It offers enough new content to make one play through enjoyable, and it has enough depth to make you want to come back for more. If you own Victoria II, you would have to be crazy to not want to pick up this expansion. If you don't have Victoria II, now would be a good time to start playing it.
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