The newest entry in the Crusader King series has finally arrived, but was it worth the wait? All this will be answered in our Crusader Kings 3 review!
A New Take on an Old System
Crusader Kings 3 allows players to play as a medieval ruler and help to guide their family through the centuries; starting from either the Age of the Vikings, in 867, or just before William of Normandy’s conquest of England in 1066. Your options are not just limited to Europe however, with large parts of Africa and Asia also playable, each region offering various different potential playstyles and experiences.
Gameplay-wise Crusader Kings 3 plays very similarly to the previous entry, with some very significant improvements. The most notable changes include the game’s visuals; both the characters, as well as the map itself feel more vibrant and alive, fully immersing the player into this old world. Characters are animated, showing emotions and reacting to events. The new and improved UI also assists this greatly; instead of simply listing the names of characters like a spreadsheet, we can see them interact within event pages.
RPG meets Grand Strategy
One of the most impressive features that veterans of Crusader Kings 2 will immediately notice, is just how fast and lag-free the game runs, compared to other previous Paradox Games’ titles. Upon launching the game, you’ll be into the menu, selecting your character, and jumping straight into gameplay, all within seconds. Gone are the days of watching the game engine grind to halt in the late game. It’s improvements like this that really make the Crusader Kings 3 an addicting experience.
Skill trees provide players with options on how to grow their characters. While you gain a bonus picking the same path as your character’s education focus, it is completely up to the player how they want to expand on their character’s strengths.
Along with the character’s personality traits, these additions encourage the player to role-play as their characters. While most options always remain available to whoever you play, the effects of these choices can vary greatly. For example; a shy character will gain stress from picking social options, while a sadistic character will gain bonuses from the torture of prisoners.
God, Family and Country
Crusader Kings is a series about family. The new Dynastic and House head mechanics help the player to invest in this aspect of the game. The strongest member of the dynasty will be given the honour of heading the family, allowing them to influence other members of their family and choosing powerful dynastic bonuses. New cadet branches can also be created, giving players greater control over how their family tree develops.
Religion has seen similar enhancements, giving the player the ability to reform and customise their belief systems, assuming their character has the piety required to do so (as well as the ability to protect themselves from the surrounding heathens). Each religion plays differently, some, like Catholicism, giving the player the option to request gold from heads of faith you have good relations with. While the Old Norse religion of Ásatrú gives the option to sacrifice characters to your gods in exchange for piety and other bonuses.
Warfare was a big part of medieval life, being reflecting in Crusader Kings 3. Units are split into 3 main types; Levies, these are the main cannon fodder of your armies, taking the brunt of the damage, and protecting the more valuable units. Next are the Men-at-Arms, these are more specialised units (and expensive) that you will have to choose and recruit, such as Bowmen or Pikemen. These units should be recruited based on the terrain you will likely be fighting in, as well as your available finances. Finally, Knights, these are the named characters in your court that will fight for you in combat, they can do considerable damage, but of course, can be killed, so you might want to be careful before allowing your unskilled heir take part in your wars.
It’s not just the visuals that are impressive in Crusader Kings 3, sound and music also greatly immerse the player into the world. The music of the game adapts and responds to the actions of the player, from the deep drums after declaring war, to the melancholic pieces that play after a close relative’s death.
I was first introduced to Grand Strategy games after playing Crusader Kings 2, all the way back in 2012, being blown away by the sheer amount of content and attention to detail. I can say without a doubt that, Crusader Kings 3 is now the standard in which all Grand Strategy games will be judged; taking what made the previous entry such a long-standing masterpiece and improving on it in every way it could.
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Crusader Kings 3: Review
Crusader Kings 3 does the impossible. It makes the excellent Crusader Kings 2 almost unplayable, improving on it in ways that no one was expecting.