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Crusader Kings II Review

Crusader Kings 2 is developed and published by Paradox Interactive becoming one of my favorite strategy game developers as I’ve yet to find a game by them I haven’t enjoyed greatly. Crusader Kings 2 is no exception. It’s is an immense strategy game that plays a lot like Risk. You start off choosing one of many provinces with choices spanning from Iceland all the way to Turkey.

There are manydifferent countries, provinces and Kings to choose. A few of these choices are, The Kingdom of Scotland (who I chose to play as) England, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, The Holy Roman Empire, The Byzantine Empire, Cumans, Bulgar and Turkmens among many many others to choose from. You can start the game in time periods between 1066 and 1337 (ED: the time of the leets) with the hundred years war. The Province you choose also determines the difficulty of your game, so choosing a bigger kingdom will provide you with more resources and land and hence make the game easier, but choosing a smaller province will make your game more difficult. The province of Scotland I chose is half and half on the difficulty bar.

The world map during your province selection allows you to change the map between various settings. These settings are, Geographic, Religions, Independent Nations, Counts, Dukes, Kings and Culture. Each map type shows various details about each Kingdom and province. There are many religions and religion plays a large role within the game. Being based on the warring religious nations, the religious choice you make will have affect on your game in various ways which I will cover later in the review.

When you finally choose your province and Kingdom, you will be greeted by a great number of panels and buttons to click on. These menus all hold various info on your province. The portrait of the character you’ve chosen (The King during that time period) shows various bit of information about your character, ranging from your family, your vassals, the members of your court, your allies and the members of your court who are abroad. Among these various tabs there are other menus in the character screen as well: your dynasty menu, your family tree and your realm tree. There are also various stats for your character as well which are, State Diplomacy, State Martial, State Stewardship, State Intrigue, State Learning, Wealth, Piety, Prestige and your Score. Your character as well as all other characters in the game have their own personalities and opinions. NPC’s actions are based on these opinions and personalities. There’s a really clever feature where each character within the game also has a link to Wikipedia telling about who they really were in real life and various other things about their rule as King.

The next window on the UI is the Council window, which allows you to appoint various members to your royal council. There are 5 different attributes that your council can have: Diplomacy, Learning, Martial, Stewardship and Intrigue. You can also send your council members to other countries to perform various actions; for example you can send the Lord Spiritual to a certain country to convert them to your religion. Council positions also affect how a character likes or resents you. Appointing someone to a council position will increase their likeness towards you but ejecting them from their position will make them resent you. There are also characters that have life long dreams of being on your council and appointing them will increase their given attribute by 1 and make them entirely grateful to you.

The third window from the left to right is the Laws menus where you determine the laws of your province as well as their severity. There are 2 main types of laws within the game, Succession Laws and Regular Laws. Succession Laws determine who the rightful heir is to the throne while Regular Laws are the laws of your government. Succession Laws can have a great affect on the dynamics of the game. Different groups of people within your kingdom will have very different likes and dislikes about your Succession Laws based on their chances of becoming the successor. There is also a special set of laws called Crown laws which affect your many vassals. The various laws within the game include Crown Authority, which dictates how much power your King has within your Kingdom. The nobility like a weak kingdom however. Investiture dictates who appoints bishops, The Pope or the Secular Liege. Feudal Levies determines how high your levies to be paid to you by your vassals are. Feudal Taxes are how high your taxes are for your feudal lords; the higher it is however the more your lords will dislike you. City Levies dictate how many troops cities are required to provide you with. City Taxes determine how high the taxes are within your cities. Church Levies determine how much the lords are obliged to provide the secular liege, and finally Church Taxes determine how much your vassals are required to pay the secular liege.

The fourth window is the Technology window, which lists various technologies that your Kingdom can research. Each technology has five stars which indicate it’s level. you can switch technology learning at any time using the set focus button next to each technology. There are 3 types of technologies to learn: Military Advances, Economy Advances and Cultural Advances. Within the military advances section the technologies you can learn are, Bows, Light Armor, Heavy Armor, Infantry Melee Weapon, Cavalry Melee Weapon, Siege Equipment, Military Fortification and Tactics. In the Economy Advancement section there’s Farming, Trade Practices, Church Taxes, Castle Infrastructure, Town Infrastructure, Improved Keeps and Construction. Finally in Cultural Advancement there’s Noble Customs, Popular Customs, Religious Customs, Majesty, Spiritual Art, Cultural Flexibility, Religious Flexibility and Legalism.

The fifth window is the Military window, which lists your vassals and various fighting forces. This window shows how many members there are in your army and your navy as well as the mercenaries you have hired. This window also allows you to raise and lower the levies for you personally and your vassals. Any holy orders you have recieved from your religious leader is listed in this window as well.

After this is the Intrigue section which allows you to choose 2 types of actions for your character, Ambitions and Plots. Ambitions are goals for your King to complete and there are many to choose from. Plots on the other hand are the shadier side of the spectrum; for example plotting to assassinate an enemy King. This window also shows any threats, prisoners and known plots against you. Characters from rival kingdoms can also plot to assassinate you and your heirs destroying your dynasty and causing a game over.

The next part is for Diplomacy, which allows you to setup various marriages between other Kingdoms. The marriages you can arrange are a simple Arranged Marriage, a Matrilinnear Marriage, and an arranged Betrothal. Inside the Arrange Marriage screen is a long list of potential wives andeach woman has various positives and negatives which affect your kingdom. Some are kind while others can be greedy and deceitful. They each have their own personality and skills they are good at.

There is also a Religion window and this shows the current Pope and all of your bishops. You can also appoint a new bishop at any time within this window.

The ninth and final window is the Character Browser which allows you to search for any and all characters within your current game. You can also elect to give a character an honorary title which will boost their opinion of you. Characters within the game can also contract diseases and die, which can affect the line of your dynasty dramatically. Characters from rival kingdoms can also plot to assassinate you and your heirs destroying your dynasty and causing a game over.

Clicking on a province opens the province window. This window allows you to view various statistics about the corresponding province such as it’s culture, religion, supply of goods and the risk of a revolt. This window also shows the county taxes and county levies within the province as well as it’s advances in military, economy and culture. You can also build and view your provinces holdings, which are your basis for economical prowess.

Within the Holding menu there are various structures to build for the keep. These upgrades include, Town Palisade, City Moat, Primitive Militia Training Grounds, Militia Mustering Grounds, City Guard Quarters, Town Market, Small Harbour, and a Small University. This window also shows the current tax rate, the level of the fort, it’s garrison size and total levies as well as how many of the various types of soldiers within the holding.

Throughout the game you will receive various messages and events that you will require you to make a decision which will ultimately affect some part of your Kingdom. Your diplomatic relations are one example and your actions will change peoples opinions of you as well.

The game itself is very vast and goes incredibly deep with the actual history of the time period. On completion of your game or game over, the game gives you a read out and comparison of your dynasty in game with dynasties during that time period in history. Game over can happen in a number of ways. If you have no heirs to the thrown then it’s game over. You can also be defeated by another Kingdom. As you complete plots and ambitions for your character new ones unlock, opening up more possibilities to change your rule. One example of a plot that I received during gameplay was when my King hated the woman he got into an arranged marriage with. He had am elaborate plot to see her killed which I found rather funny.

Overall the game is incredibly complex and can be rather intimidating. It took me a little while to figure out what I was supposed to be doing myself, but once you start going the game is addictive and incredibly fun. While this game is definitely not to everyone’s tastes, I highly recommend the game to anyone who’s a big fan of Risk, or immensely challenging strategy games. I haven’t played a strategy game that has intimidated me as much with the sheer amount there is to learn in a long time. Paradox Interactive truly has made an epic strategy game, and from the many games I’ve reviewed from them they continually get better. Big props to them for creating such an ambitiously deep game. Thanks for reading and I hope this has shown some insight on how packed full of content the game is. Now its time to build your dynasty!

9 crusaders killing infidels out of 10

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