I don’t know what is with this year that every game I thought would be released next year is actually being released on this one. Crusader Kings III was one of those as I could swear it was going to be released in the beginning of 2021 but released this month.
Not that I am complaining. I loved Crusader Kings II despite being terrible at it. Mostly because of all the insane stories that were created as I played the game.
That meant that for Crusader Kings III my expectations were pretty high. I wanted enough simulation to make crazy stories as my dynasty tries to climb up the ranks of feudal european society while at the same time hoping the sequel would sand off a lot of the rough edges that plagued Crusader Kings II.
As of the time of this writing, I have about 19 hours played in Crusader Kings III according to Steam. Hence, this is more a first impressions of the game than a proper review.
For anyone that wants the TL;DR version it is this: If you loved Crusader Kings II, then this one is worth every cent. It is like Crusader Kings II with almost all the DLCs but better.
If you never played Crusader Kings II then you might want to wait for a possible free weekend or watch a YouTube video or stream of someone playing the game to see if it is for you. The game doesn’t feel like it has a near insurmountable mountain of a learning curve like its predecessor but it is still a very steep hill.
To start with the tutorial in Crusader Kings III is vastly improved over is predecessor. It makes the player start up as Petty King Murchad mac Donnchad of Munster, Ireland a.k.a. “Tutorial Island” for players of the previous game.
It got is nickname because in Crusader Kings II it was was a pretty easy place to start learning the game. All your neighbors are relatively close in power to you while the geographic location made it mostly insulated from the big power struggles going on in mainland Europe. So it just made sense that they would officially make use of it for the tutorial in Crusader Kings III.
The tutorial itself does a pretty good job of teaching most of the basics of the game, from marrying your character to pressing a claim on someone else’s title and waging war over it.
I still feel it left out a few important information pieces though, like how to forge a claim on someone else’s title if you don’t have a legitimate one. Or the Culture Development focus or the newly introduced Dynasty Legacy bonus.
They aren’t super hard to figure out but it would certainly be nice if there was an explanation about it in the tutorial, even if it was just to point out that it exists.
In case you forget anything or doesn’t know what a term means, it has an in-game encyclopedia which you can look through for explanations on game concepts, individual units and so on. Again, it is not perfect but it is there.
Another cool thing is that you are not limited to play only a feudal european/catholic character in Crusader Kings III. If you want to play a muslim character you can. If you want to play a mongolian character it is also possible. If you want to play a viking the option is there. Among other options.
In the previous game you had to buy DLCs to play any of those cultures. I honestly didn’t expect them to be available in the base game with Crusader Kings III but I am not complaining either!
Also, unlike its predecessor there aren’t vastly different mechanical differences, it is mostly religious or cultural. For example, if you play a catholic character then they can only have one spouse. Having a relationship out of wedlock is considered a sin and any bastard children needs to be legitimized for them to be able to inherit titles.
While a muslim character can have multiple spouses and all their children are considered legitimate regardless of circumstances.
You can of course, always try to convert your character to a different religion or reform an existing one. There will of course be consequences to doing so.
Culture determines mostly what kind of technological development and units are available to you. It is also something that develops over time. Like religion it is something that, depending on circumstances, your character can convert to a different one as well.
Even if they aren’t all that different in terms of actual mechanics between different cultures and religion there is still enough difference between them to stimulate you to play characters from different regions in different ways.
Another returning feature with improvements from a DLC of the previous game, are the lifestyles. They are basically an area of study that your character chose to focus on their lifetime: it can be martial, diplomacy, stewardship, learning or intrigue. Each gives a small bonus to stats related to them and over time allow you to unlock perks that lead to new traits and in some cases new decisions.
Each also comes with some random events that depending on your decisions may reward an increase in stats, new traits or change your relationship with one of your vassals.
Plots also suffered some changes. Now there are two types: the intrigue and the personal one. The intrigue plot is still the usual one where your character conspires to murder someone else. There is also a perk in the intrigue tree that allows you to try abduction instead.
I think it might also be possible to conspire to create a claim on your liege’s title but I haven’t tried it yet.
Personal plots are pretty much like spending time with someone else to improve your relationship with them. It can also be used if you want to seduce someone else and take them as your lover.
In both cases there will be events that depending your choices may advance or create complications for your plot.
Crusader Kings III isn’t just about taking existing systems and making it better though, there are new ones too. One of those are the hooks. They are basically like favors that other characters owe to you that you then can use for things like changing feudal contracts, forcing them to obey a decision of yours or get them to join one of your intrigue plots.
Some of the hooks can also come from finding dirty secrets from someone else, like if they are cheating on their spouse, or if they murdered someone or they are an heretic, among other possibilities. You can then use those kind of hooks either to blackmail them or expose it to damage their reputation.
Of course, this is a two-way system meaning that other characters can have hooks on you too.
Another new mechanic is the stress level. As your ruler lives their lives there will be certain events that cause them stress. Some of those are just part of the job while others are from doing actions that goes against their personality traits.
In terms of game mechanics stress levels go from 1 to 3. The higher your stress level the more it affects your character’s health, until the point where in level 3 they get a mental breakdown. I haven’t gotten that far yet in the stress levels but I am almost tempted to do it just to find exactly what happens.
There also ways to lower stress levels, like holding a feast, calling for a hunt, among many other options. The availability of some options will also depend on the personality traits of your character.
Overall I haven’t found it too hard to manage the stress levels so far. But it still an interesting mechanic to not only show the toll that your decisions have on your character but also to make each more distinguished from each other.
And this is all just the tip of the iceberg. I am sure as I play more of the game there will be a lot more that I will discover about it. Most importantly though, it is still a pretty fun game to generate all kinds of crazy stories as your dynasty tries to thrive and gain glory throughout the centuries. 🙂