+ Historical focus
+ Tactic focus
+ Coalition mechanics
+ Expanded help system
- Some ping-pong battles
- One start date
Final score: 8.5 / 10
Windows XP or Vista or Window 7
Intel Pentium IV 2.4 GHz or AMD 3500+ or better
2 GB of RAM
2 GB of free hard drive space
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 or ATI Radeon X1900 video card with 512Mb graphics memory required
Direct X compatible sound card
Internet connection for multiplayer
Prussia against France is one of those classic 19th century military face-offs that I’ve been wanting to play since I was in the seventh grade and still learning about the complexities of European politics during the previous century.
Many video games have simulated the conflict, using various levels of detail, but I was never skilled enough to play most of them, and they also had a steep learning curve, especially given the limited time I can spend learning an entirely new game system.
Paradox Interactive is best known for its grand strategy titles, like Europa Universalis or Crusader Kings but, with March of the Eagles, they created a game that focuses on the Napoleonic Wars and has friendly enough mechanics to allow a mainstream player to re-create the conflicts he is most interested in.
France easily defeated me while I familiarized myself with the mechanics of March of the Eagles, but after a short while I became skilled enough to join the right coalition, choose the right army composition and tactics and then successfully defeat Napoleon himself on the field of battle.
March of the Eagles takes place from 1805 to 1820, a smaller time scale than Paradox Interactive has accustomed fans with, and allows players to control all nations in Europe as the biggest military conflict of the period, the Napoleonic Wars, takes place.
The setup at the start of the game is historically accurate, with France engaged in war against the coalition led by the United Kingdom and tensions are high all over the continent.
Story of a battle
As the game progresses, gamers have the choice to pursue a historical course and try to get their favorite nation to win, or they can choose to create an alternate reality in which, for example, Prussia conquers the whole of Russia and becomes the dominant power on the continent.
Paradox Interactive describes March of the Eagles as a sandbox mode, which means that gamers have complete freedom when it comes to their choices, but there are a lot of historical events that will take place, both providing the entire experience with flavor and educating gamers about the period.
The only limitation in March of the Eagles is the fact that only eight nations, Austria, Prussia, Russia, The Ottoman Empire, Spain, France, the United Kingdom, and Sweden are good bets for the overall win, and players who like minor nations will be somewhat unsatisfied.
March of the Eagles is very different from almost any other game that Paradox Interactive has developed internally, because it focuses on a narrow piece of history and puts the art of actually fighting wars at the core of the game.
The title is not overly concerned with diplomacy, although it does play a part in creating alliances and in starting wars, or in research, and there’s limited space for gamers to influence the politics of the nation they control.
But March of the Eagles expands on warfare and gives players a lot of space to influence the strategies and the tactics used by their forces as they crush or get crushed by enemies both on land and on water.
The focus is necessary because the period from 1805 to 1820 witnessed some of the biggest conflicts in European history, involving huge masses of men, innovations in both hardware and tactics, and a number of brilliant and inept commanders.
March of the Eagles simulates all that in a delightful manner and allows gamers to write their own history manuals and decide which country gets the upper hand on its rivals.
In order to succeed on a tactical and strategic level in the new Paradox Interactive game, players need to pay attention to three main elements: force composition, the leaders they choose, and supply limits.
Each type of brigade in March of the Eagles has different abilities and a place in battle, and players will need to make sure that they build a mix that’s adapted to their goals and to the abilities of their available commanders.
I like to play as France or Prussia and that means I like to create two types of armies: on the one hand, powerful elite formations with plenty of artillery and cavalry, able to use the assault move and then chase down enemy forces, and smaller forces, with line infantry, artillery and limited cavalry, designed to defend territory and deal with enemy fortifications.
Once an army is assembled, good commanders need to be chosen, keeping in mind what maneuver is the best characteristic for a flank leader and that the reserve can make or break battles.
On the strategic level, gamers need to choose a clear objective before launching a campaign and then focus on achieving it, taking into account the supply limits of the provinces they will capture and the forts that stand in their way.
In the game, players will also have to deal with diplomacy, especially coalition building and betrayals, technology advances and province development.
Dealing with fortification might be the most important part of March of the Eagles.
Armies occupy normal areas without any siege, but a good fortress with a solid garrison can hold up an army for years, sapping morale, introducing attrition or allowing a relief army to come in and save the day.
I failed a lot during my first March of the Eagles campaigns, relinquishing territory to the enemy and failing to beat big enemy armies.
This is a game of patience and small decisions that have big long-term consequences, and players need to make sure that they know exactly what they are doing when choosing and implementing a strategy.
Paradox Interactive has made it easier than ever for players to learn the mechanics of March of the Eagles, with an extensive hints system that explains all the features of the title, and a tutorial that quickly presents the fundamentals.
Graphics and audio
March of the Eagles is created using the Clausewitz engine that Paradox Interactive has been using since the launch of Europa Universalis III, with quite a few improvements in terms of quality and a huge focus on delivering more information to the player base.
It’s easy to use the map modes to get information, the models to distinguish between armies, and the user interface to understand the overall state of Europe and what one should do to move closer to eventual victory.
The colors are bright and cheerful even though this is a game about a series of wars that killed millions. However, March of the Eagles can be criticized for the lack of an actual identity, borrowing elements from Victoria and from Europa Universalis.
The music is suitable for the depicted period but, as usual, when playing such games I tend to resort to my favorite music delivery services and queue some classic tunes to accompany my victorious battles.
For Paradox-developed titles, multiplayer can be a problem because the matches take a lot of time to complete and there’s no actual end goal to reach.
March of the Eagles has a limited time frame, clear goals and only eight nations (realistically four: Britain, France, Prussia and Austria) that have a shot at European domination, which makes the experience suited to playing against other people.
The developers say that 32 players can share a game when playing on a LAN, and that around a dozen can do the same via the Internet, depending on the quality of their connections.
March of the Eagles also allows two players to cooperatively control the same nations, although it might take some time before they learn how to share their power and work in tandem.
Paradox also includes a Metaserver to give players who lack a regular group of players a chance to find other gamers and launch multiplayer matches.
March of the Eagles is closer to Hearts of Iron than any other Paradox title and is unique in its focus on warfare and clearly defined objectives.
This is a game that offers a lot of options, models 19th century battles in complex detail and gives players plenty of variety with eight major nations to fight as.
March of the Eagles creates a middle ground between grand strategy and the tactical level, and I quickly found myself spending hours planning my next strikes, creating armies that follow complex tactics and worrying about the geography of rivals and how it influences supply limits.
Paradox has also included manuals, tutorials and hints that make March of the Eagles their most accessible title for the general public, which might help recruit a number of new grand strategy fans.