+ Deep historical strategy
+ New economic mechanics
+ More opportunities for war
+ Improved interface
- Difficult CSA start
- Some obscure mechanics
- Information heavy
Final score: 9 / 10
Controller support: No
Windows XP o Vista or Windows 7
Intel Pentium IV 2.4 GHz or AMD 3500+
2 GB RAM of RAM memory
2 GB free hard disk space
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 or ATI Radeon X1900 video card
Direct X compatible sound card
3 button mouse and keyboard
Internet connection for multiplayer
Requires Victoria II to be installed
A House Divided is an expansion for Victoria II created in-house at Paradox Entertainment, with the stated aim of putting the American Civil War at the core of the player experience while also improving pretty much all the aspects of the core release.
“The South shall rise again” is the rallying cry south of the Mason –Dixon line, the divider between the Northern and Southern states, and gamers who love their historical conflicts and their alternate realities can look to the new 1861 scenario, which allows for full control of the CSA and its independence struggle.
The Confederates start in a pretty bad position, with the North enjoying superiority in numbers and industrial capacity. Two great generals that can lead armies are the biggest asset for the South and their proper use is crucial.
After playing a few games up until the 1870s, it seems that the best way to survive is to get the King Cotton decision to fire or to create a killer stack in order to ravage the Eastern front and take Washington D.C. before the Union occupies Richmond.
The official forums tend to have more strategies for those who need them, but trying and failing this challenge a few times is an excellent way to reacquaint yourself with the Victoria II mechanics and the new additions of A House Divided.
Fans of the European theater of XIX history should not feel abandoned as the designers at Paradox Interactive have made sure to add a number of overall improvements and new mechanics to A House Divide, with effects that are clearly visible when using the old 1836 starting date.
Investment in other countries is the major addition when it comes to both economy and diplomacy. It makes it more interesting to create a sphere of influence and maintain it, and it gives big powers one extra way of making money.
It also enhances the Great Games that tend to develop in Victoria II, with two Great Powers often focusing on the same country and trying to use everything, from economy to armies and diplomacy moves to bring them into their sphere.
Victoria II also enhances the revolution mechanics and how it can affect a country a region. All movements that aim to get a social issue adopted will now have a clearer effect on the political make-up of the upper house and will try to get their own reform passed, even if this means turning to violence.
Radicalization, which is influenced by government reforms and by overall political structure, means that those popular movements enjoying high support can become active rebels, taking up arms and trying to overthrow the government.
There are also modifications to how war works. Violent conflict was never at the center of the Victoria II experience and some complained that it takes too long to get a reason to crush rivals. Now players can manufacture Cassus Belli against other states, at an infamy cost that is randomly awarded, which makes starting wars easier than ever for warmongers.
The same mechanics can push countries closer to the Bad Boy limit, where all other Great Powers attack because they are upsetting the world balance. In my experience, the new system makes it too easy to declare war and the Artificial Intelligence tends to abuse the possibilities of the system.
Another series of solid changes to the game are linked to the User Interface. Gamers, especially those who like to get immersed in the alternate history they are creating, can select which countries are interesting to them and get more information about how they perform.
There are also tweaks to how notifications, both important and minor, are delivered to the player. Both changes make it easier to see how the entire world is evolving rather than just focusing on the player nation and the other Great Powers.
As always when it comes to their expansions, the developers at Paradox Interactive have listened to the feedback coming from the community of players, which is smaller than for other games they develop but just as vocal, and have included options to get more information on POPs and on political trends at a glance.
I played quite a few campaigns already, most of them as the Confederates and the Prussians, and found that some problems remain. One-hand wars, especially those including at least two Great Powers, tend to devolve into ping-pong battles, where the actor with the biggest stack tends to win in the long run.
On the other hand, the world has a penchant for evolving towards an economic model where bankruptcies come often and have a big impact on the more advanced countries, especially after 1900.
Despite this I very much enjoy what Victoria II can offer and spend quite a bit of my free time thinking about possible strategies and tactical moves that can push my chosen country closer to world domination.
The expansion adds nothing specific for the multiplayer experience, but it seems that quite a few players are now coming back to the game, meaning that it is a perfect time to jump back in, especially for those who lack a regular gaming group.
Paradox Interactive is known for the long-term support it offers for its main franchises, with both Europa Universalis III and Hearts of Iron III getting at least two serious expansion each, which means that another expansion package for Victoria II is pretty much a given at this point.
All those who have long-term plans to play Victoria II and the mods associated with it need to update to A House Divided as soon as possible. The expansion manages to make the core game better while also offering a number of potential avenues for future development.
A warning to players who are unfamiliar with the concepts of the series: they are better served by picking up the original game and seeing how they react to it before paying for A House Divided.
They can also try out the demo for the original Victoria II, although they need to know that it has not been patched and might suffer from a number of issues that are no longer part of the actual game.