Sons Of Monarchy: Crusader Kings II

What? That's not enough land for you, The Catholic Faith?

Paradox are currently running a closed beta for Crusader Kings II, their medieval dynasty-builder, but if you’re not blue-blooded you probably didn’t get an invite. The next best thing to the beta is this not-live recording of yesterday’s live demonstration with executive producer Johann Andersson. It’s a proper play session rather than a glossily edited together showcase, which makes it more instructive, particularly as Johann fields some decent questions from the internet audience. It’s split into five parts, in the first of which nothing occurs for ten minutes and fourteen seconds. So, skip forward probably.

I have been playing the beta and will share some impressions when time permits. Short version: still not entirely sure about the new interface but the game has me in its gauntlet-clad grip. Pleasing.


  1. Chris says:

    The big problem with Paradox’s beta testing is that it is conducted by three monkeys, all Paradox fanboys, one that can’t see, one that can’t hear, and one that can’t speak.

    Also, I can’t really see the point of live gameplay footage.

    • Quirk says:

      Yeah, the original Crusader Kings had some seriously broken bits.

      I started with the Scottish kings, and an early ruler of mine lived a long time and built up quite a lot of prestige. Random states in Europe started offering themselves as vassals. Accepting them led to a domino effect, with more prestige flowing in, more states wanting to be vassals, and ending in controlling a huge patchwork of territory across Europe (all of Holland, the South of France, Serbia, most of Ireland, various other places). Prestige in the first CK is rather broken – there’s no good reason for a random count in Serbia or the South of France to suddenly decide that he wants to be ruled by Scotland, particularly if he’s landlocked and can’t even get reinforced by ship if he’s attacked, but with the magic of prestige, anything is possible.

      Of course, when your ruler dies, the prestige of your empire isn’t passed on to the next of kin. You can attempt to build the heir’s prestige up by giving him lots of titles, but the AI controlling him might just blow it on manufacturing some absurd claim (this also happened, docking my heir of carefully built up thousands of prestige). If he arrives on the throne and doesn’t have similar prestige to the actual ruler, revolts erupt from many quarters.

      Without a province finder, having something between a dozen and twenty declarations of war from states that haven’t existed for centuries and which take some effort to find on the map is pretty much game-breaking. At that point micromanagement makes the game close to unplayable.

      An obvious escape from this is not to let your leader’s prestige build too high, but given that having most prestige is the victory condition (easily lost, as well, should your leader randomly die and have the heir inherit within sight of the finish date) this doesn’t seem optimal.

      In short, while the game was in many ways quite likeable, the central mechanic was a terrible mess. If they haven’t fixed this in CK2, or a similarly large issue exists, I really hope they have beta testers who get the scale of the problem across to them. Fixing interface glitches is much lower priority than getting the core of the game to actually work.

    • mike2R says:

      The issue with random people swearing to you from all over Europe is fixed in the most up to date patch (a beta patch).

      There is a province finder. I always forget which key, it might be ‘/’…. Diplomacy view is also good for finding enemies, and understanding vassal relationships. I tend to spend most of my time in that rather than the political view I use in other Paradox games.

      It is a bit rough round the edges, I don’t think anyone would really disagree, but if you know how it works it is still one of the best games ever made IMO.

    • Peptidix says:

      Quirk, it sounds like you played Crusader Kings with the Deus Vult expansion but without the beta-patch. That patch (available on the forum since 2008, and never officially released) fixed the pledging problem.

      Personally I never played to ‘win’ but for the experience.

  2. MrThingy says:

    Can’t wait for this. Been addicted to EUIII: Divine Wind for yonks now and wish I’d got in on the CK2 beta round. :(

    Pity about the video quality, Johan sounds like he’s snorking.

  3. mike2R says:

    More of this sort of thing! Definitely interesting, and some good questions and answers. I can’t wait to just dive into this game when it is released.

    Some reports from the beta would be extremely welcome…

    Incidentally Mr Smith, are you following the development of Magna Mundi at all? Would seem to be right up your street…

  4. Soulstrider says:

    Watched this live yesterday, I even managed to have 3 of my questions answered, the game looks pretty promising I can’t wait for it.

  5. Kandon Arc says:

    Interesting to hear you aren’t sure about the new interface. From watching last night, the interface looked really good. I suppose you have to use it to really tell though.

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      Adam Smith says:

      It’s more than likely because I only just stopped playing the first Crusader Kings and lots of things are in different places now. Makes me think they’ve vanished until I find them anew.

  6. ReV_VAdAUL says:

    Not too interested in CK2 but always glad to see a Sons of Anarchy reference.

  7. wodin says:

    Only cross bearing nations can be played. So no Pagans or Muslims.

    Also I’d have hated to be the one who was sent to watch 1 hour of someone playing CK2 and had to make it interesting for viewers. It’s hardly a spectator game.

    Finally could Johann look anymore like a middle aged geek?

    • mike2R says:

      Heh, as a long term fan of nerdy strategy games, that is _exactly_ how I want the man making my games to look :)

      Is a shame about no playable Muslims, but they have hinted about doing them for an expansion. I can see their point really – in a game about feudalism, and character and family relationships, adding a non-feudal culture, with completely different character and family relationships, is not a small matter.

      Better than just shoehorning them into a western feudal system… there will already be enough compromises made in using the western feudal dynamics to model some of the eastern Christian realms.

  8. Vinraith says:

    This is a day 1 purchase, barring incident. I’m also really pleased to see RPS covering it so well.

    • Zwebbie says:

      Is a day 1 purchase really worth it, though? Paradox games always improve massively with their patches and expansions, even the later games with proper Q&A. Victoria II is much better now than it was at release a year ago, and even Sengoku got better with its marriage and back buttons patched in. That’s not even considering the expansions, because the various expansions to Europa Universalis IIIHeir to the Throne in particular – make the game much, much, much better, and A House Divided looks like it’s going to be very worthwhile too. I think the better strategy with Paradox may be to lag behind a couple of years and get the games with expansions and patches. They’re not necessarily rubbish on day 1, but several times better on day 1000.

    • mike2R says:

      This is all true, but for me, I’ve had so many hundreds of hours of playtime out of Paradox games that the actual amount of money I pay them for it seems almost trivial. Hard core fanboy POV sure, but someone’s got to do it if you want these polished masterpieces down the road :)

      And anyway CKII is special. I mean just look at it… Even if it gets ten times more awesome with patches and expansions, the initial game is still going to be absolutely amazing.

    • Gormongous says:

      Unfortunately, if everyone decided to wait until the games were patched up to their current brilliant state, Paradox would probably have folded years ago. For wonky experiments like EU: Rome it’s probably okay to wait, but I will be wanting to play Crusader Kings 2 no matter what, so I might as well give them my money now when it does them best.

  9. Darko Drako says:

    Despite having worked as a games tester for a number of years I didn’t get invited. Arse! Looks great.

  10. Gaytard Fondue says:

    I’m really looking forward to the patches I’ll have to pay for. Za rodinu!

  11. Pijama says:

    Well, to be honest, Paradox seems to be tackling the patching issues better with every new release. If they stop trying to do 342 games at once and focus all manpower in a couple of games, hell, they might become THE superpower for grand strategy gaming.

  12. RyuRanX says:

    I’m strangely excited for this game, but I could never getting into the Grand Strategy genre. I hope the tutorial system is detailed enough to help me.

    • Natus says:

      Me, too. I don’t consider myself an idiot, but Paradox games are usually a level or too more complex than I can handle.

  13. ahluka says:

    They’ve been removed? WHAT.