Crusader Kings III: A Masterpiece of a Medieval SandboxNov 29, 2020 | 0 Votes by Mikhail - rate Crusader Kings III is the latest successor to Paradox Interactive’s medieval grand strategy franchise where you secure power and influence for your dynasty.
Crusader Kings III was released earlier this month and since then, it has gained overwhelmingly positive reviews, gaining a whopping 91 on Metacritic. It’s even safe to say that it’s one of the best grand strategy games in recent memory and the greatest Paradox game ever released. With dozens of hours under my belt, I can attest to this: it is a deep and engaging experience that immerses you to the courtly intrigue and war-torn battlefields of medieval Europe, Africa, and Asia.
For those new to the franchise (and grand strategy games in general), CK3 looks daunting and incredibly difficult. Well, it’s no secret that it is, but once you get the hang of things and know how the game is played, you’ll be treated to a sandbox and strategy experience like no other.
It’s a worthy successor
Its predecessor, Crusader Kings 2, is, without a doubt, fairly immersive and is rich with content. With over eight years in development, it’s even safe to say that it has more content than its successor, thanks to dozens of DLCs and modifications on the Steam Workshop. However, Crusader Kings 3 is without a doubt, the best heir to CK2’s throne. The base game already has many elements of CK2, including the old Way of Life and Holy Fury DLCs. Although it could benefit with more content - like culture-specific events and more of the Byzantines - it has enough to keep you preoccupied for dozens of hours.
Moreover, CK3 is already a major upgrade. The most prominent reason why is due to its characters’ portraits. Whereas CK2 has stationary faces, the characters in CK3 look and feel like realistic versions of The Sims, with their own facial expressions, clothes, and bodily features. You’re not playing as a picture of a character anymore. Instead, you’re navigating the courts of the medieval world and waging war as a real person who visibly reacts with every move you make.
For example, you can now see how terrible your characters look if afflicted by the plague or syphilis, or how thick they are if you let them binge-eat. This makes you want to actually care and do the best for them unless if you’re roleplaying as someone befitting of their current traits.
Roleplay and insanity
Speaking of roleplay, CK3 provides infinite opportunities to do so. Examples include playing as a pious and pacifist ruler or playing as a bloodthirsty Norse warlord bent on conquering England and the entirety of Western Europe. Some players even went as far as conquering the city of Rome, taking the Pope prisoner, and sacrificing him in the name of Odin. Don’t even get me started with the romance possibilities, since you can essentially seduce almost everyone in this game.
Filling in an empty medieval history book/sandbox
Much like CK2, Crusader Kings 3 is like an empty history book and you’re the one writing the entries. This doesn’t sound exciting, but think about it: history is at the palm of your hands. You can not only decide the fate of your character, but also the entire world. In one way or another, you can rewrite history according to your whims.
For example, you can make it as if the Eastern Romans never fell to the Ottomans, while Harold Godwinson managed to win against William the Conqueror, securing the English throne for the Saxons. Meanwhile, you can turn an obscure count to a powerful medieval king or an obscure dynasty in the outskirts of the world into the most feared and renowned clan in the time period. You don’t have to fulfill your goals through war alone, since you can get things done by acquiring allies and favors, as well as intrigues and conspiracies.
Marriage and race are Crusader Kings 3’s most-loved and most comprehensive aspects. You can actually marry off courtiers and your family members to secure alliances and take advantage of positive congenital traits. In a way, it’s like you’re actually breeding characters and successors to help you secure the future of your dynasty. If you want to breed a family full of beautiful geniuses, better find characters with these traits, and have them marry you (or your kids!)
Plus, the game creates biracial characters seamlessly. An experience that I had involved marrying off my Italian king with golden-blonde hair to a Turkic lady to secure an alliance against a common. The fruit of their marriage resulted in a dark-haired lady (shown above) with narrow almond-shaped eyes. Many of their descendants also had this trait and though blonde hair is a common trait in the dynasty, many had ebony-colored ones throughout the century.
Overall, Crusader Kings 3 is a fantastic strategy game where you can do almost anything that was being done in the medieval world, depraved or otherwise. It’s a strategy sandbox where you hold the power to do anything you want and even shape the world according to your whims and preferences. With many DLCs and future content along the way, the game’s future looks incredibly bright.