Guest Author - James Shea
A highly detailed medieval strategy game, "Crusader Kings 2" allows players to take the role of a noble in the medieval world and climb the ladder of success by any means necessary.
"Crusader Kings 2" is a game by Paradox Interactive that puts players in the shoes of a European noble during the medieval era. The player can start as anyone from a lowly baron to a king or emperor, but the goal is the same: get as much prestige and money as you can, no matter how you do it. As a ruler, you'll have vassals, courtiers, and advisors who can help you accomplish this, though staying in the good graces of your superiors, your inferiors, AND your neighbors is still no easy task.
Crusader Kings 2 prides itself on its complexity and detail, most notably the in-depth system of feudalism present in the game. This is the core essence of the game's concept: arranged marriages, childbirth, and succession are incredibly important, giving you social links, alliances, potential inheritance, and cause-for-war in the name of claiming one's "rightful land". However, the player must also be mindful of the ambitions of others, not only from other lands but from your own court and family. Characters will scheme, plot, form alliances, and make assassination attempts if it suits them.
Paradox Games is known for making incredibly complex, but also incredibly hard to learn, games. However, CK2 is probably the most accessible game they've made thus far. While it's still certainly complex, CK2 has simplified your means of interacting with the world to make it all a bit more understandable. As a noble, you have a council of five characters, who control your diplomacy, your military, your economy, your religous standing, and your espionage. These five characters can be assigned to different tasks, both domestic and foreign, and serve as your primary means of interacting with the world. Your other main form of interaction comes from diplomacy - arranging marriages, giving gifts, bestowing titles, and other things necessary to keep people happy. Other parts of the game, such as the military and the economy, have basically been made automatic; you can make decisions about them, but for the most part they take care of themselves.
What gives Crusader Kings 2 a lot of its detail and vigor is its character system. Characters possess traits, gained through game events or random events, that define who they are and how they act. Whether they're proud or humble, shy or outgoing, warlike or peaceful, lustful or chaste, all affects how they act as characters and gives the player more of an understanding of what's going on in the game's narrative. While the game tends to throw a lot of characters at you (courtiers, mayors, bishops, etc.), it's still neat to see the development of one of your children, or tutor a courtier's son so that he can grow up to be your marshal, or something along those lines. Of course, you'll have to make hard decisions, too - if a rival family is in a position to usurp your dynasty, you may just have to take them out. These events, and the realism latent in them, help to define CK2 as something more than just a game system.
The only bad parts of CK2 is that, despite the great advancements in gameplay design, the game is still kind of complex to look at. There's so many baronies, duchies, kingdoms, and empires on the game map that it becomes hard to tell who's who, despite the ability to switch between different filters on the map. Similarly, there's so many characters in your court that it can become hard to pick out who's who and manage them all. This is sort of an inevitable problem with the level of detail that CK2 has, though, so it's not necessarily their fault.
Overall, CK2 is a great experience if you're willing to put in the time and the effort. It's not totally hard-to-learn like many other Paradox games, and it offers a lot of detail and gameplay. Definitely worth picking up if you're interested in the period or interested in strategy.
We purchased this game with our own funds to do this review.
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