Dynastic scheming and disgruntled courtier disposal simulator Crusader Kings 3 is finally out. It is of course a sequel to the legend that welcomed many newcomers to the world of grand strategy games back in 2012, and the first game since then to really cover the same ground.
Our Nate was pleased in his Crusader Kings 3 review, albeit reserved, because the sheer scale and ponderous nature of the game makes it a difficult one to review in the traditional way. “As boring as it is to say, I think Crusader Kings 3 is a lot like Crusader Kings 2, but newer and tidier”, he said, going on to note that the biggest changes are much less fiddly warfare and the new dynasty system, which formalises the ambitions of your ruling family as a consistent line, promoting the roleplaying element rather than just the random whims of the player. There are also lots of little improvements of the sort that become a single big improvement in aggregate, and a general focus on bringing out the personalities of its endless characters even more.
Despite Nate’s early impressions and previews, the release of Crusader Kings 3 has snuck up on me. This is rather fitting, as CK2 was often a game about blinkering yourself to the looming empires and gathering threats while you took care of local matters you actually stood a chance in. It was already a unique and life-consuming classic before Paradox added one piece of DLC for every person on earth, so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of opinions people will form in the coming months.
All signs indicate that it is, perhaps inevitably, an iterative sequel rather than a revolution. You pick a ruler within the medieval Old World (Australasia, the Americas, and everything South of Benin are left out, but considering I spent 70 hours playing CK2 in under a quarter of Iberia, this is still an astonishingly vast simulation) and use their skills, personality, and relationships to pursue whatever goal you think makes sense. Military conquests happen, but most of your time will be spent scheming, feuding with whole families, and alternating between nice calm reigns of consolidation, and desperate panic as your dynasty is pulled apart from six directions at once. One time in CK2, I fended off the biggest empire on the planet by marrying off my mother, in a plot that also put my grandson in line to inherit three kingdoms, just so long as one specific character had no children. There’s really nothing like it. Until now.