The Empress Hamam has done great things during her 71 years. Coming from a small tribe of what would be modern Sudan (east of Africa), she reintroduced the organized worship of the ancient Egyptian gods and cemented the authority of a new dynasty of Pharaohs in the valley of the Medieval Nile, ending centuries of foreign rule. However, her pride in life was her 12 children, some of whom had lived as full rulers. Raising so many children can be stressful, it is true, which made her sink into a penchant for alcohol and glitzy parties, further improving her image with her friendliest subjects. And this is just one of the countless human stories that have emerged from over 100 hours spent on Crusader Kings 3. The marriage of the personal dimension and the politics, of the greatness and intimacy, is absolutely glorious.
Crusader Kings has always been a series about individual characters and how their interactions shape history and this third installment finds new and intriguing ways to show that. Like its predecessors, Crusader Kings 3 lets court dramas, dynastic feuds, or alliance marriages influence the more familiar tasks of typical strategy games like building castles, researching technology, and wars. A personal disagreement between two neighboring heads of state can plunge an entire region into bloody chaos worthy of a great historical novel, while a well-prepared engagement can forge a powerful alliance and lead to the unification of kingdoms under one crown. Basically, the game is about people, not things - and that vision makes it really special and memorable.
Paradox Development Studio deepened and extended most of the key elements that made Crusader Kings 2 run. The stress system, which made our cheerful matriarch Hamam take refuge in the bottle, is emblematic of this policy. In Crusader Kings 2, the characters had personality traits that affected their stats, but that didn't really impact their behavior. For Crusader Kings 3, a cruel character will build up stress if you are too kind to your enemies, while someone honest will complain about shady deals being made behind the scenes. It encouraged me to play those character traits rather than seeing them as just digital modifiers or living with the consequences of suppressing their natural tendencies, which is also a lot of fun. It's true that Crusader Kings 3's system doesn't seem as fleshed out as its predecessor, which benefits from seven years of development and hundreds of dollars in expansion, but that's just the start.
Stress encouraged me to play these character traits rather than seeing them as just numbers
Stress never seemed to force me to adopt a specific behavior, however. Accumulating too much stress causes collapsing behavior in any case, and the game offers you, two mechanics, to choose from to deal with the burden of responsibility of a medieval kingdom. Whether it's drinking, brawling, or lust, every possibility allows for believable character development and introduces new opportunities for drama and conflict. Hamam's love for alcohol allowed him to make new friends among pundits who shared the same hobby. But getting a temper can make you stick one with a priest and anger the Pope, which is usually a bad idea at this time.
Of course, because of the new system of free and deep religion, you can always say goodbye to a religious doctrine that no longer suits you. For example, you can create a new heresy within Catholicism that advocates cannibalism, believes in reincarnation, and allows women to become priestesses. Everything is customizable, from the role of the clergy to views on witchcraft and homosexuality. The possibilities are almost endless, and allow you to customize your experience by leaving your mark on the world in a very satisfying way that did not exist in the old games.
Master of whisperers
Managing medieval dynasties would be nothing without a bit of stealth and stabbing, and this is one area where Crusader Kings 3 has let loose. A new system of secrets and connections allows you to gain influence from other characters, for example by uncovering an extramarital affair that you threaten to uncover. You feel efficient and rewarded when you only work in the shadows, building your power with a game of favors, manipulating the most reckless, and assassinating those who interfere with your plans. These kinds of results were possible in Crusader Kings 2, but the way to get there is much richer and more personal now.
The Art of War brings up some great new ideas too, way beyond the perk bar which clearly shows you who is winning the battle at all times (a big improvement over the complex and inaccessible figures in Crusader Kings 2). Combat remains tactically simple and not very interactive, but the possible repercussions after the fact have been broadened and deepened beyond simple victory or defeat. The addition of Knights gives individually named warriors the role of changing the tide of battle, with even more opportunities to create personal stories amid the clash of guns. In addition, the risks of massacre include far more serious consequences for sovereigns than the loss of an entire army. A lover in your personal guard can sacrifice himself to save you from a lost arrow. A bloody battle of narrow victory may end with your grown children, your most trusted advisor, or your best friends dead or injured. The survivors will return to a disrupted political landscape, the atmosphere at court being able to sink your current avatar into a spiral of anger and debauchery.
The logistics of a conquest campaign could be improved. In order to limit the micromanagement that sometimes plagued Crusader Kings 2, Crusader Kings 3 made all your armies arrive at a selected point as a single force, rather than grouping together dozens of small groups drawn from their counties for them. assemble later. The problem is, the game doesn't always send troops where they're needed, robbing you of the fine-grained control needed to plan an effective invasion. Preparing multiple rallying points is supposed to divide your forces roughly evenly when raising your army, but I've never seen it work in practice. Typically, one rally point will spawn a small contingent of troops, and the rest of the army will spawn at the other. This is very annoying, because having too many troops in one location will cause you to lose men and resources through attrition, and in a multi-front war it leaves one or more positions largely understaffed. In the end, you find yourself doing just as much micro-managing your soldiers, manually separating them into small contingents to lead them through the realm, as we did with the old system.
This problem is partly mitigated by the fact that there is so much more to do in the game than piloting his troops one by one, and everything else is done very well. But this is clearly one of the major points that I hope to see improved, and I take comfort in the idea that Paradox has proven in the past that they are tweaking their games years after launch.
The most beautiful Paradox game to date, across the board.
Graphics don't need to be improved. It is clearly the best looking Paradox game to date, in every way. I didn't expect 3D and animated character models to help the world and the stories so much come to life, but it clearly makes a big difference with Crusader Kings 2. And it's way more nuanced than what you think, because you can see your character age from year to year in a complex and realistic way, instead of suddenly going gray-haired and wrinkled at a pre-determined age like we could see in the previous game. In addition, the new DNA system gives children believable physic by mixing the features of the parents, from the color of the hair to the bridge of the nose to the size of the earlobes.
Clothing taken from historical reality is admirable, from the coarse tunic of a Swedish peasant to the elaborate and decorated court dress of a Byzantine empress. I would like a bit of regional variation - my Pharaohs got stuck with rather generic Arabian outfits for example - but I bet that will improve with the updates, mods, and DLC to come. And the portrait tool can even model things like battle scars, weight gain from overeating wine and feasting, athleticism, or even the typical buboes of our favorite disease. Characters have always been at the heart of Crusader Kings mechanics, but bringing them so visually prominently in new and effective ways greatly improves the overall game.
For $30UDS more, you can get additional outfits for Muslim Abbasid caliphate that dress characters from the general region of Arabia and Mesopotamia. But, more importantly, you'll get an Expansion Pass for the next three DLCs. We don't know yet what it will be, but given Paradox's history of DLC introductory prices, $30USD for three is a good deal even if medieval fashion in Baghdad doesn't interest you. Typical expansions vary from great to just okay, but they've never existed for the previous game that I would have advised against purely. It's definitely worth the cost if you plan to buy DLC individually, unless you're waiting for sales on old DLC, later.
The map is just as beautiful, going unloaded from a sort of parchment typical of the time to very detailed terrain and with impressive close-ups when you zoom in on it. It is very easy to navigate to spot the position and boundaries of hills, swamps, and other forests without having to use the interface, which improves immersion and tactics during a campaign. Using the different zoom levels rather than on and off map modes (although there are still a few to be found) allows you to access the information you are looking for much faster and intuitively at any time.
The interface is overall clean and well organized, with a dark but not depressing color palette, pleasing to the eye and instilling a medieval vibe without making the whole thing spooky. Hand-painted landscapes for event and character screens reinforce the atmosphere and sense of space, from the smoky tent of a tribal chief on the Eurasian steppes to the ostentatious palace of a Sultan. The interface can get a bit busy at times, as Crusader Kings 3 tries to limit menu overlays as much as possible. If you open the intriguing screen, for example, it will push everything that is normally right to the left instead of going over it. If you have a lot of open menus and notifications simultaneously, you may end up with the postage stamp card and feeling claustrophobic. Too much information on the screen is not always a good thing, you better learn how to manage it.
Every music track is excellent and effective.
The soundtrack and audio design set also reached new heights for Paradox Development Studio. Ambient sounds like busy markets or the clash of swords on the battlefield when zoomed in are rich, clear, and effective in bringing the place and the action to life. All the music is excellent and to the point, whether it is a serene flight of strings or the energetic and thunderous breakthroughs that one hears when one declares the war or for the departures in a crusade. Even the little clicky feedback from the options menus is cool. These kinds of details can make all the difference.
All of this is sealed with quality wax from the new Life Train System, which takes ideas from Crusader Kings 2's best add-on, Way of Life, upgrading them to excellence as it is integrated into the core mechanics. Characters can choose to devote themselves to one in five areas: warfare, intrigue, learning, diplomacy, and stewardship. Each domain has three distinct and equally extensive subdomains. Is your conspiratorial duke going to use murder or seduction? Both serve the same purposes, but in different ways. And each lane is rife with events, most of which won't mean anything to those of us who have already sanded Crusader Kings 2 to death. And since many of them are domain-specific within a train. life, I imagine it will take a long time to see them all at least once. I've played a hundred hours, I always have new elements popping up in my backyard and I feel like I've only scratched the surface.
Power and progression
Lives also involve three talent trees that don't just give you boring skill modifiers, but rather open up new playstyles for you. A seasoned diplomat, vassal of a greater ruler, can for example unlock the ability. to claim the throne of his lord even if he has no blood rights over it. Extreme plotters can learn to kidnap other characters and take them, prisoners, even if they are kings and popes! In addition, you will accumulate Fame for your entire dynasty, which unlocks bonuses, such as giving all of your offspring a better life expectancy or being more likely to obtain positive genetic traits like "Strong" or "smart". If each new ruler you play has no health point, you still benefit from the accumulated dynastic progression. It's very satisfying, and you painfully realize how much that's missing in Crusader Kings 2.
The new technology system is another great example of improvement on the idea of long-term progression. If the Crusader Kings 2 system multiplied the uninteresting modifiers - a little prestige bonus here, an increase in heavy infantry efficiency there - almost every reality-inspired innovation in Crusader Kings 3 adds something new and exciting on the game board. This is how you unlock a series of laws that consolidate power at an heir level, rather than having your kingdom split among all your children when you die. This latter approach makes the start of the game chaotic and difficult, and when you've managed to get rid of it, you feel like you deserve it. You will also unlock buildings, military units, or abilities related to cultures from all corners of the map. Mongols offer mortal archers on horseback. Nordic ships make it possible to travel on great rivers, not just at sea. In a tapestry where the diversity of regions is not the most successful element, these little touches really help each location in Crusader Kings show its differences.
Crusader Kings 3 is a great strategy game, a great RPG, and a master class of how to take the best parts of existing mechanics to deepen and improve them. I have thousands of hours on the previous game, and I intend to spend just as much on this third opus. All of these fascinatingly imperfect characters and tales of love, war, glory, and loss that have already dynamically emerged from my games seem like just the beginning of a legendary era. In fact, if I had to pick just one game for the rest of my life, the decision wouldn't be that hard. A new king of historical strategy has just been crowned. Long live the king.
For more information regarding this game, make sure you check out the Crusader Kings 3 website. Thank you for reading my Crusader Kings III Review.