Crusader Kings 3 from The Paradox Development Studio has deepened and expanded upon most of the key elements that made Crusader Kings 2 work. Fundamentally, it’s a game more about people than things – and that focus is what makes it truly special and memorable. The stress system, which led our merry matriarch Hamam to find solace in the bottom of a bottle, is emblematic of this. Crusader Kings 3’s system doesn’t feel as broadly fleshed-out as its predecessor’s, which has had the benefit of seven years and hundreds of dollars worth of expansions, but it’s well on its way. The marriage of the personal and the political, the grand and the intimate, is nothing short of glorious. It’s the perfect combination for a grand strategy game with a social element that’s just as important as the game’s strategic aspects. The Paradox development studio has also released an iPhone and iPad version of the game.
Drinking, fighting, or frequenting the brothels provides authentic-feeling character development in Crusader Kings 3. Religion is customizable, from the role of the clergy to views on witchcraft and homosexuality. Combat is still fairly simple and hands-off, but the ways it can have repercussions have been greatly broadened. A close but bloody battle, even if you emerge victoriously, could end with all of your adult children, your most trusted counselor, and your best friend dead or maimed. The addition of Knights gives individual, named warriors a bigger role to play in turning the tide in battle . The possibilities are practically limitless, and allow you to customize your experience and leave your mark on the world in very satisfying ways that were never possible in the previous games, says reviewer Tom Charity. “It feels rewarding and viable to work solely in the shadows, building your base of power through trading favors, manipulating the careless, and assassinating those too inconvenient to your schemes,” says Tom Charity . The game’s religion system is in-depth, due to the in- depth, free-form new religion system, you can always bid farewell to a religious doctrine that no longer suits you.
The survivors will be left to return to a completely changed political situation and atmosphere at court. All of your armies arrive at a designated rally point as a single force, rather than raising dozens of small stacks from their home counties. The new DNA system allows children to be a believable mix of their parents’ features. The graphics don’t need any polishing though. This is easily Paradox’s best-looking game to date, across the board. . The campaign logistics of conducting a campaign of conquest could still use some work. The game has fully 3D, animated character models that help the world and stories come to life. The story is more nuanced than you’d probably expect, in that you get to see your characters age gradually year over year in complex and realistic ways . You can pass on everything from hair color to nose bridge width to ear lobe size in Crusader Kings 3 . It makes an absolutely massive difference over Crusader Kings 2, and it’s more than a game-changer.
The historically-inspired clothing is a joy to look at, from the roughspun tunics of a Swedish commoner to the elaborate, embellished court dress of the Byzantine Emperor. The map is gorgeous, fading seamlessly from era-appropriate parchment mode to highly detailed and striking close-ups of terrain at the lowest ones. The interface is generally clean and well-organized, using a dusky but not depressing color palette. It can get a little busy at times, though, due to the fact that Crusader Kings 3 seemingly wants to avoid overlapping menus as much as possible. The game’s hand-painted backgrounds enhance the atmosphere and sense of place, from a chieftain’s smoky tent on the Eurasian steppe to a Sultan’s elaborate, ostentatious palace grounds. I do wish there was a little more regional variation – my pharaohs were stuck with fairly generic Arabic-looking outfits, for instance – but that’s something I’d bet strongly on getting more of in updates, mods, and DLC down the line.
The soundtrack and sound design is also a new high for Paradox Development Studio. Ambient sounds like a bustling market or the clash of swords in battle at the lowest zoom levels are crisp, layered, and effective. Lifestyles come with three talent trees that open up entirely new playstyles. Each new ruler you inhabit might be a fresh start in terms of lifestyle points, but you’ll always be accumulating dynastic progress. It’s really satisfying, and one of those things I’m now realizing was painfully missing from Crusader Kings 2. The new lifestyles system takes the ideas of Way of Life and expands on them into the base mechanics, making the game even more fun and enjoyable. It has yet to be revealed whether or not it will include the in-game currency, which is expected to cost around $60.
The new technology system is another great example of improving on this idea of long-term progression. Crusader Kings 3 is a superb strategy game, a great RPG, and a master class in how to take the best parts of existing systems and make them deeper and better. All of the engrossingly flawed characters and stories of love, war, triumph, and loss feel like just the beginning of something legendary. If I had to pick only one game to play for the rest of my life, the decision wouldn’t be that difficult. Long live the king.