As we haven’t had a bulletin last week, this week’s bulletin might bundle some topics and games together. But do not worry, there will still be plenty of cool stuff to read about! In this week’s bulletin, we discuss EU4, Imperator Rome and Paradox, Fantasy games and Medieval Europe, The Middle Ages in Modern Games Conference, LEGO Medieval Castle, Uncharted 4’s 5 Year Anniversary, Skull & Bones Delayed Again, Valhalla DLC Wrath of the Druids and Stories about Valhalla!

All things Paradox: EU4, Imperator and more

A few weeks ago, EU4‘s new DLC Leviathan was dropped. Reviews were bad, very bad. So bad, it was the worst release on Steam ever. In response to the backlash, Paradox have already ironed out some of the more pressing concerns. Aside from this, Johan Andersson (manager of Paradox Tinto in Barcelona, who work on EU4), has apologised (Kotaku) for ‘a long trail of low quality releases’. This ‘low quality of releases’ was trailed back to the Golden Century Immersion Pack. It’s release also wasn’t really smooth, to understate it. Doc Random’s hot (troll) take on this: ‘maybe this is related to how the Clausewitz engine does not do non-Western histories very well’ (Golden Century brought some non-Western stuff to the game). Basically, Andersson took the blame as the director and explained how they should have waited with the development of the DLC until enough resources were available. My hot take: this is what you get in an industry where developers are more and more pressed to bring out content (on time with schedule).

Image: EU4 Leviathan. Courtesy of Paradox Interactive.

Unfortunately, the recent EU4 fiasco is not where the hurt stops for Paradox. They have also announced that they’re shelving Imperator: Rome (Eurogamer) for the time being. With different Paradox studios being in charge of different games (for example, PDS Gold is in charge of HoI4), Imperator has not been given to any studio. This means no new content for the game, at least in 2021, but probably for some longer time. However, that isn’t necessarily a huge issue, as the game is actually in a pretty good state after the Imperator 2.0 update, especially in contrast to the release. With shelving Imperator, Paradox is making time and space to work on the development of other games and DLC. Are they working on a new big hit? Is Europa Universalis V in the works? Time will tell.

Bad releases and other troubles also influence the revenue of the company. Where Q3 of 2020 gave a big payday for Paradox (CK3 launch), and 2020 being the best year in regards to revenue ever, 2021 Q1 saw profits plummet. Paradox’ CEO Ebba Ljungerud says Paradox must and can do better (Gamesindustry.biz). Ljungerud explains how the pandemic has a great influence on the operation of the company, and that working from home isn’t necessarily promoting effectiveness. However, there are opportunities for Paradox to turn stuff around, especially with games such as Prison Architect and Planetfall becoming more and more part of the companies core portofolio (along side games as HoI4, EU4 and CK3).

Video: Imperator: Rome 2.0 Marius update

Closing off this mega-piece on Paradox with some more In Depth analysis of the games, and especially EU4. We’re those kind of people who like to discover the historical groundings of games. Well, so is Bret Deveraux, who works on a (quite extensive) analysis of the historical assumptions behind the game. Called Teaching Paradox, Deveraux zooms in on war and diplomacy in the second analysis of the core mechanics. It’s a bit of a read, but quite interesting if you’re into analysis of games workings and mechanics.

EU4’s Isabella I of Castile. Courtesy of Paradox Interactive.

Why are fantasy games so hung up on Medieval Europe?

This is something I never really realise (as I don’t play much fantasy), but many fantasy games are based on Medieval European History. The BlackGirlGamers discuss this in the video below. It not only has to do with the abundence (or lack of) source material, but also the accessabilty of this material and the people working at gaming studios. An interesting discussion for sure!

The Middle Ages in Modern Games Twitter Conference 2021

Staying with the Middle Ages, it is time for the Middle Ages in Modern Games (MAMG) Twitter Conference again! Last year’s conference was a huge success, so this year it is back for more. During four days (25-28 May) 45 speakers will have their say on the Middle Ages in Modern Games. As last year (Mega-thread), it will be held on Twitter, where speakers will summarize their papers in a couple of tweets. This years edition will host a plethora of topics, ranging from Religion and Faith to Anachronisms and Whiteness and Indigenity. Check out more in the thread below!

LEGO Medieval Castle Revealed

This will be the last piece on Middle Ages, I promise! Or will it? Anyhow, if you like LEGO (and let’s be real, who doesn’t?), and the Middle Ages, you will most definitely like the new LEGO Creator set which was announced: a Medieval Castles! The 31120 Medieval Castle includes over 1500 pieces and multiple minifigures. With those pieces, you get to build a very nice casle, including a drawbridge and a water mill and a decorated throne room! There are also alternate builds for the set, with a tower and an outpost. With the Medieval Blacksmith already on the market, the Castle’s launch on June 1st will be a popular addition to the collection of Medieval LEGO fans! Read more on Brickfanatics!

Image: LEGO / Brickfanatics

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End: The 5-Year Anniversary Retrospective

It has been five years since Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was released. In that time, over 37 million people have downloaded and played the game (I haven’t, so I have no idea what this is all about, but most people of VALUE have). To celebrate this milestone, Naughty Dog released a Retrospective article, looking back at 5 years of plunder and looting (I had to mention this). Even though the article doesn’t necessarily provide any new insights into the game, it is a good trip down memory lane. Read the entire piece here!

Image: Naughty Dog

Ubisoft’s Skull & Bones delayed, again

Tuesday Ubisoft revealed that their pirate game Skull & Bones was delayed again. It will now be released somewhere in 2022-2023 (which is as vague a timeframe can get if you ask me). The game, which was announced at E3 2017 was supposed to launch in 2018, but multiple delays saw it being pushed back again and again. In 2020, Creative Director Elisabeth Pellen wrote that the delays had been due to the necessity to create a ‘new version’ of the game (meaning next-gen?) Anyhow, the game builds on the success of the naval warfare in the Assassin’s Creed series, especially that of ACIII and ACIV: Black Flag. People loved that so much, Ubisoft decided to create an entire prite game without all of that sneaky stabbing conspiracy stuff. Read more on the delay on Kotaku!

Video: Skull & Bones E3 Trailer from looooong ago

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids

Staying with Ubisoft, the first DLC for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was released this week, and the reviews are actually quite positive (yeah, shows how much I was expecting from a game which still has a game-breaking bug). Called Wrath of the Druids, it is set in Medieval Ireland (told you we weren’t done with the Middle Ages). Eurogamers Tom Phillips got his hands on the game and wrote a quite extensive review of the game. Conclusions: it is actually pretty good and adds a good 15 to 20 hours of gameplay to Valhalla. That said, if you don’t want more Valhalla, don’t get the DLC! If you’re in to Irish history, definitely get this though! Read the entire review on Eurogamer.

Video: Ubisoft

Valhalla: Leescoalitie

So this is a piece for you Dutchies out there. Ubisoft has partnered up with the ‘Leescoalitie’ (Reading Coalition), a Dutch initative to help as much people with reading. The Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library) is also partnering up with Ubisoft. Now you might think, what has Ubisoft got to do with this? Well, in context of the program to promote reading (especially under youths) two Dutch writers (Ronald Giphart and Margje Woodrow) have written stories based on the characters and world of Valhalla! Accessible through the Ubisoft Specials-App, the stories are accompanied with visuals, images and sounds of the game. Readers are also linked through to other books and stories through the app. Pretty cool if you ask me! Read more here (in Dutch).

Omar ‘oomzer’ Bugter is a recently graduated Cultural Historian from Utrecht University. Since interning at VALUE, he’s stuck around, mainly working on the Interactive Pasts website and the weekly streams. He wrote a thesis on Sid Meier’s Civilization VI and mods, so knows this game very well. He likes many other games, including F1 2020, Hearts of Iron, Mount & Blade and Crusader Kings III. He’s also still looking for a job, so tweet to him at @oomzer if you want to know anything about Civ or have a job for him.