Crusader Kings 3 Review – Mac – Windows – PS5 – Xbox

Crusader Kings 3 is a Paradox Interactive – developed medieval strategy game that takes place within the period of 1066 to 1453. It has been released thanks to an extended scope of development since its creation in 2012, This title is the sequel to the Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis series.

The basic concept revolves around the trials, tribulations and strife between European aristocrats and monarchs throughout this historical period. As far as historical strategy games go, this one is fun for anyone with even a minor interest in such titles or history in general.

Crusader Kings 3 Review - Mac - Windows - PS5 - Xbox
Crusader Kings 3 Review – Mac – Windows – PS5 – Xbox

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Crusader Kings 3 gives players much more freedom than previous iterations in the series, allowing them to play with a variety of new tools and mechanics. However, there are frequent pauses as the game executes what it needs to do, which at times can make gameplay feel slow.

Nonetheless, fans of grand strategy and empire building and shaping will find a lot to enjoy with Crusader Kings 3, and newcomers may find themselves harking back to Crusader Kings 2 again and again.

This review will focus on the war system, which plays out as an RTS (real time strategy) battle with you controlling your army to achieve objectives in real time. The game plays out on an isometric map and you have full view of your territory, as well as territories under both enemy and allied control. You are given the freedom to move in any direction that isn’t blocked off by enemy territory.

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When you reach an enemy border there will be a small pre-battle screen where you can position units and move around before the actual battle starts. Historically, I had no issue rallying my troops to support enemies in other locations which made it very easy to retake land from multiple factions in one campaign, even when outnumbered or without backup from allies. It’s easy (and important) to take into account what faction members may join you versus those that may side with enemies if you choose to attack another member of your faction, so you can plan accordingly.

Crusader Kings II, the game on which Crusader Kings 3 is based, won a lot of praise upon its release a few years ago. One of the chief criticisms of the game, however, was that it lacked an epic feel — that the world felt empty and uninviting. Paradox has addressed that concern in Crusader Kings 3 by launching you into a story with direct impact right at the beginning.

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The tutorial covers your ascension to the throne of your small kingdom in 1066, then quickly plunges you into war as France invades England and seizes control of your capital.

You’re now thrust headfirst into a conflict far greater than yourself or even your family or kingdom — one that will dramatically shape European history in just over 100 years (which is not nearly as long as Hamam’s legacy, by the way).

Gameplay

Crusader Kings has always been a series about how individual characters, and their interactions, shape history. Every new installment of the game takes a different perspective on human drama within a historical setting, with its predecessor focusing heavily on dynastic feuds and marriages.

In Crusader Kings 3 , you take charge of a medieval dynasty and attempt to forge it into an indomitable force through warfare, diplomacy, and careful intermarriage with other powerful families. The game begins after the death of Charlemagne at the hands of his sons in 814 A.D., seeing Europe divided among many small kingdoms in disarray after centuries of unified rule under the Carolingian dynasty.

Explore a vast medieval map stretching from the snowswept Nordic lands
Explore a vast medieval map stretching from the snowswept Nordic lands

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Like its predecessors, Crusader Kings focuses on the individuals within societies rather than their armies or monetary power. You no longer manage a realm but instead control a character, whether they’re a legendary king, queen, emperor, or pope, who must navigate their way through complicated interpersonal relationships while managing their domains.

Of course, you still have all of the other expected features of a Paradox grand strategy game such as castle building, recruiting armies, and neighboring kingdoms who may have the same bloodline for succession as you do.

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In Crusader Kings 2, wars were fairly easy to get into, but hard to finish. Controlling client states was hard because the AI wouldn’t recognize your claims or borders, and the execution of combat could be slow and sluggish. The Time Paradox team has addressed these concerns head-on by reworking the system from the ground up.

Crusader Kings 3 takes a tried and tested formula, polishes it even further, and fleshes it out with more content than ever. Multiple starting points, each leading to vastly different experiences, ensure that you’ll never play the same game twice.

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Love, fight, scheme, and claim greatness.
Love, fight, scheme, and claim greatness.

It’s so confident in this fact that, where previous installments would allow you to bypass the tutorial and jump straight into the game, I was forced to follow a guided prologue that demonstrated many of the game’s complex mechanics before it allowed me to choose my faction (which incidentally is part of a much larger pool of factions than before). Often these systems can seem daunting at first but once you get into the swing of it they become second nature.

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For those who want additional guidance or wish to take their CK experience further there’s an extremely detailed manual that explains everything from determining your prestige as well as getting your treasurer up to speed on running your kingdom as efficiently as possible.

The real meat here is found in Westeros itself. You are no longer a super hero or one among many: You are a lord amongst many large political structures. The plots and intrigues of your fellow lords might be more dangerous than any opposing army or rival claimant.

But this isn’t a game that’s all about combat, no matter how certain opinion pieces may make it out to be. Diplomacy and politics still play a huge role in Crusader Kings 3, and are arguably even more important now than before. This is where the series has always shone brightest.

Take command of your house and expand your dynasty
Take command of your house and expand your dynasty

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The opportunity this presents for shocking consequences is even better realized than ever before, often giving you scenarios so dramatic and unpredictable, they feel like they’re straight out of Game of Thrones (the book, not the show) or some other grand epic of betrayal and backstabbing.

Whether you’re into the historical setting or not, the way that Paradox have implemented the macro aspects of your kingdom come across as incredibly well-designed, with each moving part working in tandem to move towards one common goal; to make your Kingdom great.

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Combining this with the effortless yet powerful tools that Paradox have given players to create their own experience will ensure that Crusader Kings III will never lose its replay value for years to come. It’s absolutely worth a look, even if you don’t normally play strategy games.

Wrapping Up

When it comes to most Paradox games, there’s a lot more happening under the hood than meets the eye. Crusader Kings 3 is no exception. Most of what you do in the game consists of clicking buttons and watching numbers change, but if you look closer you’ll find some intricate mechanics that let you do considerably more with your character than seems possible. As much as I appreciate streamlined gameplay, sometimes it’s good to know how all of the moving parts fit together and what makes them tick so you can make informed decisions about how to play your chosen character.

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Crusader Kings 3 is a complex and deep game that is certainly worth your time. The game provides countless hours of gameplay, and offers more content than ever before with the new character musings feature. PvP is overhauled in an attempt to provide a fairer experience while still maintaining some of its core elements. A number of improvements and additions make this game the biggest and most content-rich to date, making it well worth the investment.

Crusader Kings 3 understands that while a good story is way more exciting than a good set of statistics, it can’t ignore those stats either. That’s great news for both people who like the quieter gameplay and world-building elements, and those who want to grow their territory, army, and alliances as quickly as possible. It’s not perfect — there are some rough edges still — but this is easily the best entry in the series so far.

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All you do is plan, execute, and react to events and the choices made by your family members and enemies. Even though that could make for a rather dry game, Paradox has done their best to keep the experience lively with everything from entertaining event chains to cinematics so good they’re on par with Telltale adventure games.

Unfortunately, CK3 doesn’t build out the rest of its gameplay systems quite as well as it does character simulation – there are a lot of half-made features here like piety, trade and technology which feel like they should be fuller but don’t add much to the experience. It’s still one of the most engrossing strategy games ever created and one of my favorite Paradox games in years. If you can forgive some technical issues and mediocre AI, Crusader Kings 3 is an unrivaled way to experience history through the lives of your ancestors.

Crusader Kings 3 Review
  • Gameplay
  • Graphics
  • Storyline
  • Characters
5

Summary

Crusader Kings 3 is a medieval strategy game that allows the player to take the role of a 12th century monarch. The game is similar to Paradox Interactive’s other titles – Europa Universalis and Victoria – and more than holds its own against them. The game evolves over time, with events like crusades, plagues, and peasant revolts, leading to significant changes in the world. This review of Crusader Kings 3 will analyze the strengths and weaknesses of this strategy game.

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