One of the key rules of any game designer is the KISS rule: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
This does not apply to the Europa Universalis series.
EU has no mercy on beginners. It’s tough. It doesn’t care that your flimsy human brain can’t cope with so many opaque mechanics going on at once. It’s up to you to invest the time and effort to fully understand the game. It took me about a month to finally go “Oh! I see!”. But the payoff is totally worth it.
In an age where most games are basically spoon-feeding their players, it’s nice to see someone catering to hardcore players that don’t mind an unforgiving challenge. It’s not for everyone, I must say. But if you loved Civilization, and you’d like more depth and veracity, this is the game for you.
Graphics are austere, but they do the job. It does the job in the same way that many great board games get away with simple graphics and complex rule-books.
It brings a new wave of how far you can go with complexity in game design and still get away with it. It does have a personality, as it is seen in Paradox’s other games, such as Victoria (which I personally prefer) and Hearts of Iron. Maybe you’d even like to check all of them out before purchasing, as they are based in different historical times and focus on different aspects of strategic gaming.
As a rough guide, Europa Universalis is more of a diplomatic game, whereas Victoria is more of a industrial/political game, and Hearts of Iron coming in as a more of a militaristic approach.