by Nathan Rowland
reviewed on PC
You will not have been old till you have been wise
There’s nothing quite so captivating as growing a strong and long-lasting dynasty. In real life, this sentence would be despotic and very troublesome. In Crusader Kings III, it’s the whole delicious cake - and one you get to eat. Emboldening its strategy chops, Crusader Kings III is the heir to a long legacy of historical grand strategy experiences, introducing many new and rewarding methods of ensuring a long and fruitful legacy for your royal house. Espionage, matchmaking, warfare, crusades, taxes & levies, heresy and much more - all tools to be plied in the act of creating your Empire, limited only by how far you’ll take it.
This all feeds into what is most liberating about Crusader Kings III: its lack of defined objectives. Anything in its world is feasible with enough grit and perseverance. Want to establish a new holy land in Iceland, you can try it. Want to form your own religion and convert the eastern hemisphere into a cult which praises the sun? You go Solaire. No area is beyond your reach, supported by the means of selecting any character from the outset, greater or lesser, they’re all playable. The game’s factions and associated tools which are quick to learn, prove to be deep and enriching when you invest your time into them, a quality that is essential for a grand-strategy to become your number one time sink.
Truly, the level of detail that Paradox get into sells this game’s realism, whereby only historical realms, counties and duchies can form if you so choose, adhering to strict sociological and political conventions when characters interact, accurate depictions of technological advancements from these eras and establishing a strong tone by including major dynasties from particularly hostile eras of history. And yet, all of this can be chucked out of the window should you opt for it - whole kingdoms can be predominantly matriarchal, clergy won’t accept men into their ranks, sects and courts can be made to walk around in the emperor’s new clothes if that’s your game! It’s liberating and enticing just how much potential there is in Crusader Kings III to place your best or worst foot forward on the medieval world stage.
A head fit for a crown
In the recent 1.2 patch, you can now create your own ruler and make your unique mark on the political landscape, which of course leads to hilarity (have a search for Emperor Waluigi) when it really comes down to it. In all of its fine clothing, when stripped away, Crusader Kings III is a family drama. One which you just cannot tear your eyes away from. But we’re not the passive audience idling by. Every decision, whether it’s who you wed your daughter to on day 1, to how many close relatives you can trust as vassals in your far-reaching Empire when its day 100, matters. This is principally down to the heir system, whereby upon your rulers death, your titles and lands transfer to your primary heir. But that can quickly get messy when you have vying interested parties, eyeing up your slice of the kingdom. Navigating the inevitable feuds and the fallout of power vacuums is where things really start to get interesting and tests your mettle as a capable and shrewd ruler.
The King is dead, long live Crusader Kings
Crusader Kings III is easily one of my favourite strategy titles of the year, if not of all time. The level of control that the game gives players, as well as the unprecedented level of outcomes and interaction it provides (emergent gameplay), is too fun to ignore. Paradox have always been known for the depth of their strategy titles, and Crusader Kings III continues the trend whilst keeping the game enjoyable to play.
Grand scale and unprecedented level of outcomes and interactions
Steepish learning curve