Crusader Kings III (PC) Review

By Ian Soltes 31.08.2020

Review for Crusader Kings III on PC

Crusader Kings III for the PC, is the successor to the incredibly popular, and detailed dynasty simulator, Crusader Kings II. Boasting many improvements, and solid mechanic choices the successor title is not only worthy but superior to its predecessor. A rightful heir indeed. Here's a look at this new entry that really shouldn't be missed out on.

Crusader Kings has always been an outright wonderful game series to enjoy. Set in feudal Eurasia and Africa, players are tasked with creating a dynasty that can withstand the test of time as well as, hopefully, become kings or even emperors. The thing is that the focus is not on military tactics, like many RTS or TBS game franchises, such as Total War but, instead, on realm management, politics, heir-making, and intrigue. It's entirely possible to go from a lowly count all the way to emperor without ever once declaring war. All the while the actual history of the land is playing out; but it won't follow actual history. Various things can happen from the mundane to the utterly insane. History may repeat itself mostly word for word, or the Mongols might form a new Empire down in Africa, and the only thing stopping them from taking over all of Europe is the Zoroastrian kings of Ireland allying with the Horse Emperor of Rome.

The prior entry, Crusader Kings II, hereafter referred to as CKII, had proven robust, but was also getting long in the tooth. Having been launched back in 2012, with a ton of expansions and dated mechanics, it was time for a new successor. CKIII is the successor title to the older game, and it features many improvements that elevate it to new levels. The starting map is huge, containing all of Europe, Africa, down to just below the Ivory Coast around to roughly where the Congo would be today, and the majority of Asia up to about the eastern most tip of modern India or so. Each of these places is rife with local lords and vassals, and all are playable.

Screenshot for Crusader Kings III on PC

While historical big-names can certainly be chosen as playable characters, absolutely nothing stops the player from picking some little-known lord out in the Balkans and playing as them. From the get-go, there are improvements with things such as a selectable difficulty level, and the ability to do things such as change the distribution of sexuality across the map. While heterosexuality is the default setting, nothing stops the player from changing it so that one of homosexuality, bisexuality, or asexuality is the norm, or that they are all roughly evenly split. Since this can heavily impact succession lines and marriages, this is easily an interesting feature to include in the base game.

Oddly, the ability to create a custom character is missing from the base game. This is strange seeing as one of the main draws of the last instalment was being able to create a custom character tailored to your desires and whims. Not only did this allow for plenty of fun, but modders enjoyed creating custom traits and the like, and did things like transform the game into fantasy versions of itself. While this feature may be included as DLC later on, its absence is notable and disappointing for now. That may be, however, because characters have been drastically changed in how they function and appear. In CKII they were little more than a still portrait of the face with several traits that modified stats, while in here they feature fully animated (if mostly stoic) bodies, and how traits even function has been reworked at its core.

New to the series is the concept of 'stress.' It works fairly simple. Say an event pops up, in which your character is confronted with a fight. A character who has the 'Brave' trait would not get stress from the fight (and may even lose it), but would gain stress from fleeing from the fight. Conversely the 'Craven' trait would make it so the character would gain stress from the fight, but not from fleeing. Players are free to act against their traits, but doing so results in stress. As characters gain stress they will eventually suffer mental breaks, which can cause problems.

Screenshot for Crusader Kings III on PC

Additionally character lifestyles play a much greater role than they used to in prior games. A player is given one of five categories, one for each of the primary stats, and three possible lifestyle choices within said affinity to follow. As the player progresses through events they will slowly accumulate lifestyle EXP that can be redeemed for perks and abilities within the lifestyle. For example, a player with an intrigue focus can gain the perk that lets them seduce others, which would be unavailable to someone who followed a martial lifestyle. This means each character is a much greater investment than in CKII, since, in here, it takes time and effort to unlock the more ideal traits and abilities. Each character can have his/her own personal journey and be more distinct.

No matter how well played, death will eventually come to a character; be it through martial exploits, intrigue resulting in a knife to the back, or simple old age. When this happens the character's heir will take over as the player character. There are a lot of politics involved in this, as succession can result in disputes, violence, and lands either leaving or joining the player's lands. Ensuring that the current character has ideal traits, has the right titles, and is married properly to ensure alliances, gain land, and so-forth, is a major aspect of the title. The mechanics have been streamlined here, and made more accessible, but are just as cutthroat as always.

There is a new mechanic known as 'Renown' to help heirs out. As you play you will slowly accumulate renown for various deeds you'll do. Once you earn enough, the current head of the dynasty (hopefully but not always yourself), can redeem the renown for a bonus that affects the entire dynasty. The 'Mostly fair' legacy, for example, gives a bonus of +5 Popular Opinion. Once picked up, everyone within the dynasty, for the rest of the game, will have that +5 bonus. This makes renown and legacy exceedingly important, since it can affect literal generations of characters.

Screenshot for Crusader Kings III on PC

Religion has received a massive overhaul as well. While it is set at the start, once players gain enough piety (and possibly holy site control), they are capable of reforming the faith, or making their own new faith. Each religion has three tenets from which there are a wide variety to choose from. For example, players can make one of their tenets 'Literalism' which promoted intellectual pursuits and makes intellectual-traits considered virtuous. Alternatively they could opt for a tenet of 'Tax Nonbelievers,' which results in more taxes from nonbelievers, more levies from followers of the same faith, but less levies from followers of different ones. There are plenty of possible tenets to choose from. Which tenets are selected will result in certain things being considered 'virtues,' and others being considered 'sins.' 'Sacred Lies' will take Honesty, and transform it into a sin while being deceitful into a virtue. This can both help and hinder, as it allows players to lie easier (which can help with diplomacy and intrigue), but also means other characters in the same faith will more readily lie to the player as well.

Finally, each religion has multiple doctrines involving things like crime and marriage. These can be adjusted as well to allow things such as making it acceptable to kill even close kin or completely unacceptable to murder anyone within your dynasty for any reason. The more tenets get changed, the farther the doctrines, the more piety the reforms cost. Nothing is stopping the player from taking their religion in a complete 180 in their beliefs, except for the massive amount of piety it would cost to do so. Well, followers of the old/original faith are also likely to try and kill the player, but that's beside the point.

Culture has also been changed and, interestingly, merged with technology. What this means is that every character belongs to a culture group. That culture group will have access to certain technologies, and will be focused on unlocking new ones that currently 'fascinate' them. This will receive bonuses based on neighbouring cultures, and which technology is currently pursued is determined by the current culture head; the most powerful member in the culture. This can be sped up by doing things such as developing lands within the culture. There have been many smaller quality of life improvements as well. For example, ships have been removed. In CKII this was a major annoyance since ships did not partake in combat, and were extremely limited in use at the best of times, except for transporting troops. Now, in CKIII, a flat fee is paid to transport troops across the water. This allows for much more flexibility, and much less headaches and annoyances around transporting.

Screenshot for Crusader Kings III on PC

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Crusader Kings III is a massive step up in all regards featuring many QoL changes and improvements. While some features, such as the character designer, are sorely missed, the major improvements, refinements, and the like, ensure that fans of the series will almost certainly enjoy the new title. While it is more welcoming to newcomers than prior entries, it may still be too dense for those not interested in the heavy political focus of the franchise.

Developer

Paradox Development Studio

Publisher

Paradox Interactive

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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