A few months ago, I previewed Paradox Interactive’s Crusader Kings II: the strategy simulation title which places you in control of an 11th Century to 15th century dynasty of monarchies and pretty much lets you run your domain for as long as you can. The preview was an exceedingly good time but was still quite rough around the edges. How does the final product measure up?
Crusader Kings II is not a game for those who lack patience. In this title – depending on where you start – you will have to have some pretty complex planning in order to keep your kingdom running, your dynasty going, and possibly expand to new lands. You have the choice to start as a Count, Duke, King, or even Emperor, but if you choose one of the larger more powerful classes expect to have a lot to manage. Additionally, you can choose someone who is an independent or a subject of another ruler – the latter of which means you may need to start a war to achieve independence. This title allows you to not only assume control your starting character but also to control whoever is the direct dynastic inheritor of most of your titles when you die. Just like in real medieval times, what land you own is entirely dependent on your title, relation to your lord or your relationship with your subjects if you are the ruler. In this world, there are several ways in which you can exert your influence upon the surrounding areas and your own kingdoms.
State intrigue and managing your public appearance is very important in how powerful your army is and how the world and the church may perceive you. Succession, county laws, taxes, and alliances will all play important role in how long your dynasty will last and how prosperous you will be. After your ruler dies, most of your prestige and Piety (two of the games scores) will be added together to equal your score which determines (if you manage to last till the end of the campaign) how you rank compared to your opponents. Speaking of opponents, this game’s AI is quite complex and world events will unfold with little influence from you all across the map of Europe from crusades to Muslim jihad and conquest.
Your military at the start is mostly made up of county levys of volunteers (or people obligated to serve and fight for you), but you can also purchase mercenaries and eventually recruit holy orders from the pope. Crusader Kings II also features random events that determine your ruler’s stats and abilities at times. Your stats as a ruler are determined by how you were raised, your outlook on life (traits such as cynical or lustful), and also the abilities of your advisers and wife. People can get injured; your ruler can discover new loves, hatreds or grow ill. Plagues and sickness can randomly generate over areas dynamically. Crusader Kings II truly feels like the real medieval experience on your PC. Along with single player allowing you to play any Christian nation (or Muslim if you have the expansion) each ends up having very different conditions and cultures which effect how you expand and relate to those around you. Along with all this is online multiplayer which is quite fun.
Graphically the game’s map and units are very good for their purpose. Different filters on the map in different colors show you all sorts of factors such as revolt risk, who is related to who, what religion people are etc. Each character has a face and a coat of arms which are for the most part historically accurate. One of the things many people appreciate about Paradox is their attempt to strive for historical accuracy. The music in this game is exceptionally good for a strategy title and it never really grew old for me.
Crusader Kings II is not a strategy game you sit down and play a quick session in. It is a game that is super involved and takes lots of focus and careful planning to exceed in. However, it is also one of the easiest grand strategies to pick up and learn how to play as compared to more difficult titles such as Pride of Nations. I myself am not amazing at this genre of games, but find them extremely fun anyway. That said, if you are a fan of grand strategy or medieval history you should definitely pick up a copy of this game. If you are not a fan of grand strategic planning or medieval aesthetics I would steer clear of this and many other grand strategy titles.
- Lots of diversity and different kingdoms to play.
- Wealth of historical and geographical information (you may learn something)
- Extremely involving and compelling gameplay with amazing intrigue and interactions between people.
- Hours of gameplay
- Can be slow paced at times and especially when starting as a smaller power.
- High learning curve.