As a fan of history, and the backstabbing ways of Medieval Europe, Crusader Kings 2 is a game that has been installed on every system by default. There is something oddly satisfying about building your monarch up, sorting out the politics of the time, and slowly building your seat of power though dealings, marriages, and good old fashioned warfare. So when Crusader Kings 3 was announced I was very excited and eager to hope into the next instalment. Now that I have spent some time with the game, I can safely say that the developers know what players enjoy about the series, and have streamlined most aspects that used to get in the way of living your Medieval despotic dreams.
Much like previous instalments in the series, you don’t necessarily need to rule Europe with an iron fist, cutting down anyone who opposes you. You can be a chivalrous and pious ruler but that is simply not my style. Instead, I enjoy diving into the covert methods of control. To undermine my enemies as I slowly rise through the ranks, making deals to seat myself as the most powerful ruler in the land. ThankfullyCrusader Kings 3 makes all play styles possible, and while it feels familiar to fans of the series, there is enough new here to make it an exciting instalment in an already fantastic series.
Crusader Kings 3 feels like an evolution of where Crusader Kings 2 and all its expansions left off. All the systems are in place that players know and love, but there is a coat of polish that makes the full experience feel fresh, new and exciting. From graphical improvements throughout the game to the additions in gameplay and systems, Crusader Kings 3 feels like it was built with love, and has additions in place to bring new players into the fold without alienating ones that know and love the games up to this point.
Right from the start, it’s clear to see just how many systems and concepts are at work within Crusader Kings 3. Thankfully, Paradox has blessed us with tool-tips aplenty. Whether it’s menu items, buttons, or even a system or concept, there will be a tooltip to guide you through what it does and help you through the myriad set of options that lay at your mouse pointer.
Once you run through the tutorial and get a feel for how the game plays, the best thing to do is just dive in, and get your hands dirty. There are many ways to experience Crusader Kings 3, and many ways to rise to power, but it all feels closely tied to the lifestyle system. Similar to a tech tree, or class in an RPG, this system guides your ruler and gives bonuses as you slowly progress into one decided area.
Each monarch you pick will have a predefined character, and while you can ignore this, and choose a lifestyle completely different and against their nature, the game rewards players that direct their leader into ways they are best suited to. If you are a born fighter, you will probably want to avoid the peaceful traits, as you will lose bonuses the more warlike lifestyles will grant.
And as with any Crusader Kings game, you can play with the systems and build a leader that best exemplifies you. You can choose a focus that is far and away not connected to your lifestyle, and you can also change these choices midstream. But since your character is an amalgamation of life experience and choice, they will carry their old choices with them as they go forward on their new path.
Your leader also carries all scars and experiences that they get along their path to domination. If they are injured in battle, they may heal but will have scars or even be less mobile moving forward. It all works to make characters in Crusader Kings 3 feel organic, and alive. And something that makes every choice matter, and gives every decision weight, even it may seem trivial at the time.
Crusader Kings 3 more than ever before in this series is a game about choice, and there are countless ways to build your empire. From new choices like religion and founding your own faith to concepts of having affairs or simply crushing your enemies through a long and complex series of alliances, Crusader Kings 3 gives you the choices to be as pious or malicious as your dark little heart desires.
From rallying troops to the day-to-day activities of building your kingdom, Crusader Kings 3 feels a much more fluid experience compared to past instalments. From the overall feel of the UI, to the way the game guides players through the many systems, this is a much more welcoming Crusader Kings. Urgent matters will have more direct alerts that call the player’s attention, while less pressing matters are there when you need them, and can be ignored if you don’t. While the overall goals and gameplay feel the same as past instalments – arranging alliances, backstabbing, scheming and war – it is presented in a cleaner, more direct way. It feels akin to a medieval Alexa ready with alerts, ensuring that arranged marriage you have been plotting goes off without a hitch.
But the core drama that Crusader Kings 3provides is still alive and well even with the changes, new systems and options. This is a game that makes Game of Thrones seem reserved. From underhanded plots, religious uprisings, to the extramarital affairs, Crusader Kings 3 lets you live our medieval soap opera of your dreams.
Now I should make it clear that I played through a beta build of the game, the full release is not launching until September 1, 2020, so there are a few bugs and other odd aspects that need polish. What I did see felt solid for the most part, although there are a few obtuse issues such as the tutorial that I hope the team at Paradox addresses, just to ensure all the new players don’t feel overwhelmed jumping into a game with so many systems at play.
While it’s still early, Crusader Kings 3 is shaping up to be an exciting experience. From the accidental war I started, to the time I somehow got blinded in battle, it’s clear that the series continues to be jam-packed with drama, action and intrigue, in a way only the Crusader Kings series can deliver.