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Crusader Kings II


Crusader Kings II

ESRB: Rating Pending - RP
Platform: PC Games
Category: Real Time Strategy, Simulation, Strategy

At first, I thought I was doing badly. My army was pathetic, my research similarly so, and only my prestige and piety showed I was on the right track. And then it happened. All of a sudden, I owned medieval Castille. All of it. And for a good few minutes, I had no idea why. Then it hit me. It was all due to a marriage I'd made at the beginning of the game. 5 hours ago. In another 5 hours of play, I'll probably own Leon too. I just have to play my cards right...

...And that's just one part of one game of Crusader Kings 2. In a nutshell. It's big, it's often confusing, but providing you plan ahead, you can win. And how...


Crusader Kings 2 uses an updated game engine that makes the maps fairly shiny, but the UI is still... well, cluttered. There's a lot to take in, but thankfully, the beautiful map covers most of the screen unless you're doing things. Which you won't be, unless you're going for extreme micro. The unit sprites are fair, and, in short, nearly everything does the job it's meant to do, while the map looks pretty, and tantalises you with the land you could own... sometime.


I will say that I was impressed by the music of the game, it was, for the most part, very uplifting, and it fit both the mood and scope of the game. Grand chants, choirs, horns... if you've played any of the more recent Paradox titles, you'll get the idea. The sound effects, as usual, are merely utilitarian, but they do their job, so there's no real complaints there.


As always, the meat of a Paradox title is the gameplay, and CK2 is no different. Or rather, it is, but in the different focus of the game. See, earlier Paradox games had politics as an option, but your military and economic power were your primary means of waging war. In Crusader Kings 2, politics is king, especially internal politics and alliances. Marry into the right family, keep your vassals happy, insult just the right people while placating others, and you may well end up owning half the map. This does, however, result in a tradeoff... trade is nonexistent, and building your country up takes a stupidly long time unless you're one of the bigger countries, in which case you have other problems to worry about.

Essentially, though, it's much like every other grand strategy from Paradox: Pick your goals, work towards them. Some goals may take you decades to fulfill, some may take longer than your rulers are going to live (which makes them unachievable), but they're all worth something. My own personal goal in my current game is to own Spain. I expect to do that sometime around my twelfth ruler, and in the meantime, I'm racking up Prestige (half of the game's scoring system) like there's no tomorrow with festivals, feasts, hunts... oh, and the occasional holy war. Which leads to a certain point...

...There's a reason that Crusader is in the title, namely, only christian nations are currently playable. This may change in future DLC, but for now, try not to take offence, as the entire point was to simulate what a bunch of backstabbers the medieval european nations were. Believe me, we declared war on everyone. A good example would be the first historical campaign: Norway, France, and Scotland versus England. With a dose of the Holy Roman Empire picking on everyone nearby, calling crusades on all dry and sundry, and... yeah, while politics is your primary goal, don't expect to avoid war either. And for god's sake, don't plonk yourself next to pagans (like Poland is) unless you enjoy hard games, as pagans get a huge army boost in the first ten years (read: around 5 hours at speed level 3) for anti-blobbing reasons. What's anti-blobbing? Well, basically, making sure no super nations exist in the first ten years. Apart from the HRE, which starts tearing apart quickly enough.

One thing that I will criticise CK2 for, as I have every other Paradox game, is that it is not newbie friendly. I'm not joking when I said I had no idea why I suddenly owned Castille. Because I wasn't looking at the pretty borders, I was looking for a notification. The one that finally clued me in? A “minor” notification that the king of Castille (my king's brother, no less) had died, and that I had succeeded him. It also took me a while to notice the question marks that told you what you required for goals, which was, I'll admit, pretty shabby of me. But they are pretty small on a decent monitor...

The thing is, Paradox, despite not making many games that are friendly to new players of Grand Strategy (a genre Paradox dominates, game wise), make good, open games, and this is definitely one of their better products. Less complex than Europa Universalis 3, or Pride of Nations, but slightly more nuanced than Sengoku. If you have the patience to learn the ropes, and be a scheming little git, then this game is definitely for you. Long running Grand Strategy fans might find this a little simplistic, but I'd still say this was one of the better Paradox games out there. Give it a go, and when your dynasty reaches the top, the satisfaction you'll get will have paid for the game.


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