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Crusader Kings III Review

Crusader Kings III

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Release: September 1, 2020
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Paradox Development
Genre: Strategy
PEGI: 12+
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OUR SCORE

Excellent About Rating
           
 
9.5 - Gameplay
           
 
8 - Video
          
 
7 - Audio
          
 

Reviewing Crusader Kings III is no easy task. On one hand, you could base your score on the technical achievements: the thousands of events, the potential for unlimited gameplay and modding. On the other hand, you can build your thoughts on that one time you found out your son was carrying out an incestuous relationship with his mother, and you protected their secret before murdering them both in cold blood. Either way, this game is a winner.

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Grand strategy is a terrifying genre. It takes the length of almost any other game to even start to feel comfortable with what you’re doing. Crusader Kings III is no different – it has a learning curve, but it’s not nearly as rough as some other titles in the genre. Long-time fans of the franchise will have plenty to see as well, safe in the knowledge that improvements and quality of life updates will come over time.

Crusader Capers

Crusader Kings III is a game of two halfs but however you look at it, it has one simple goal: to have children. Just like your mother told you life would be the second you got a girlfriend.

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Whatever else happens, you have to sire an heir. You could lose almost every bit of land you own, and so long as you have an heir, you have the opportunity to claw it all back.

Beyond that, there are two ways of looking at this game. On one hand, you have all the strategizing, the intrigue, the necessity to think three steps ahead. You can’t just plan out your dynasty for the next 10 years or so¬† – you have to think about the world you’re leaving behind for your grandchildren. You have to sow the seeds so that they might be able to expand your empire.

In that regard, you have a ridiculous amount of options. If you’re up to the task, you can go out on the warpath, crushing your enemies underfoot. Or maybe you can marry the right person, amke the right friends – it takes longer, but it can be far more satisfying. Perhaps you just want to build up your riches, buying your way through life.

Tied into this is the other half of the game: the RPG elements. The choices you make raising your children affect how they will act when they’re older. The friends you make impact on who will come running when you call for aid. Epic stories are built as your empire rises and falls. On a minute to minute basis, this isn’t always at the forefront. But there will be times when everything comes into focus and you realise just how far you’ve come.

Living like a king

You have to love the two elements to enjoy everything Crusader Kings III has to offer. The two are closer together than my son and his mother. Luckily, unlike my son and his mother, they’re easy to love.

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The strategy is vast, and it gets vaster the more you play. There are so many ways to achieve your goals and, because of the nature of the RPG, you might find yourself changing tact every time a ruler dies.

On top of day to day kinging, you’ll also find yourself getting hit by events. This can range from funny little lines that boost or hurt your opinion of a character, all the way up to sudden death. That’ll be a nightmare for those who need everything planned, but it adds a kind of drama that pure strategy lacks.

The choices you make, and even the choices you don’t make, can impact on your dynasty for generations.

There are a few minor issues here and there. For instance, sometimes there is so much information to take in and its not always delivered in the best way. I didn’t realise one of my rulers was gay until he was in his sixties and had ten children. That happens in real life as well, I suppose, but in this case the character knew he was gay – I just hadn’t noticed the little symbol next to his name telling me.

For a game with such an epic feel, the stories aren’t collected anywhere. You can’t look back at your campaign, at your ancestors. This is something that needs to be added in.

Visuals and Sound

Sound and visuals are an underrated part of strategy games. People think because it’s not Uncharted 5 that it looks bad, but the feel of how these games look is just as important as elsewhere.

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Crusader Kings III looks great. It does its job in a pleasant way, while adding to the mood. Same can be said for the music and sound effects, which helps build the world around you.

Sometimes the UI feels a little bit too tightly packed, which can lead to you missing importanting information. That’s par for the course where there’s this much to see. It would have been nice to see Paradox overcome this issue, but ultimately it’s a minor one. More care and attention from the player makes it null and void, but it’s care and attention I’d rather not have to rely on.

Crusader Kings III Review – Conclusion

No one review can sum up everything Crusader Kings III has to offer. There are pluses and negatives that would be impossible to scrutinise in a sensible, readable space. To anybody on the fence about playing this – do it. Especially if you have Gamepass. Learning through the tutorial and then reading some guides online will set you in good stead. It’ll be well worth it.

One of the marks of a perfect game for me is when you reach the end and you look back and say “what a long way we’ve come”. I can count on two hands the amount of times I’ve felt that in the last few years. Crusader Kings makes every generation feel like that. Every few hours you look back at the life of your ruler and realise what you’ve packed into it. And then it all starts again.

Addictive, fun and challenging – Crusader Kings III is a game of a generation.

 

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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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Twitter: @matgrowcott