Paradox’s Victoria 2 doesn’t create pseudoproblems. Or does it?

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Victoria 2 is Paradox’s massive spreadsheet strategy game about the 19th century, give or take. It’s the game I’ve been playing instead of Pride of Nations, since the “review build” of Pride of Nations is in really bad shape. The developers have their work cut out for them between now and their June 7th release.

So while not playing Pride of Nations, I was greeted by the following message in Victoria 2:

Scientists in our country have discovered Proto-Existentialism.

This was not a philosophical movement but disparate philosophers analyzing and discussing concepts and conceptions which they considered flawed. The general notion about things as Intuition, Time, Intellect, and Being had to be reformulated not do create pesudoproblems.

In terms of gameplay, it means my research had lead to an invention, which is an additional bonus that trickles out after you complete research. Instead of giving you everything at once — BAM! Now you can build granaries! or BAM! Now you’ve unlocked musketeers! or BAM! Now you can research the Apollo Project! — many research results dole out their benefits over time. In this case, Proto-Existentialism gave me a small boost to my prestige rating, which is a nation’s overall metric of success. This will happen some time after a nation finishes researching Idealism under the Philosophy category of the Culture tech tree. Even though it not a major gameplay twist, it’s a nice touch that many of the techs keep on giving with follow-up sub-techs.

But in terms of flavor text, it’s a brilliant combination of eternal wisdom, Paradox Interactive typos, and 19th Century philosophical earnestness. Proto-Existentialism is so hardcore that it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry! And don’t get me started on my discovery of Neokantian Idealism shortly thereafter.

The difference between Pride of Nations and Victoria 2 is pretty stark, even though they have identical subject matter and are played at identical scales. Victoria 2 is Paradox’s classic model of gameplay as data surfing, where you just ride the wave of history as it’s presented in a realtime sea of numbers, charts, lists, tooltips, and map displays. And since the game has been out long enough to have three patches and plenty of rough-honed mods, I’m almost dreading the release of Pride of Nations, which will have no such advantage.

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