Crusader Kings 2 (PC, Mac, and Linux)

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The King is dead and it’s your time to rule. Choose from a Kingdom across Europe and take control of its monarch. Consolidate your power and, essentially, do whatever you wish. Do you want to be the king of Ireland? Go for it. Simply wish to amass wealth? Nothing wrong with that. The one thing you must do is manage your family because continuing the game is not about the persistence of your nation. Instead it is based on the persistence of your dynasty — and the last thing you want is that blithering idiot, Michael, on the throne.

History

Crusader Kings II was created by the Paradox Development Studios and published by Paradox Entertainment. They’ve been known for publishing and creating other Grand Strategy games. Uhhh… sorry, no trivia today.

Crusader Kings II was released on February 14th, 2012. It’s competition was The Darkness II (PC,PS3, and XBox 360), Dear Esther (Mac and PC), and Alan Wake (PC).

Experiences

I won’t lie, I have a hard time keeping track of the members of my dynasty and my children. To remedy this I name all my children silly things based on their randomly generated names. I mean, who could forget about DRAXX and his brother NACHO. NACHO’s son, NACHO II, was good with money from a young age, he made a great Steward on the council. DRAXX’s sons didn’t work out so well. His third son EON OF AGES thought that he was better suited to rule and tried to lead a revolution. It failed and DRAXX had to watch his son EON OF AGES rot in the dungeons for several decades.

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ALL HAIL MOTHRA! QUEEN OF THE MONSTERS!

Gameplay

Crusader Kings II is a Grand Strategy game which basically means it’s a gigantic menu-fest where each menu has value imposed on in from a series of stats and numbers. It’s a very slow burn game where master strategies get built up until they culminate in a master stroke. It’ll seem like nothing has happened in years and then France ceases to exist and has been divided into 13 feuding mini-kingdoms.

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Oh goodness, those two mini-Frances almost make a whole France.

You play as a King, Duke, or Count who vie for power internally and externally. Your character is based on the Diplomacy, Martial, Stewardship, Intrigue, and Learning statistics which are influenced by the characters traits. Traits include things like being Zealous, Ambitious, a Genius, a Leper, or Slothful. Traits also effect how different characters feel about each other and certain choices become available to characters with certain traits.

It’s difficult to fully express how many different menus there are and how they interact with the world around you but I’ll cover the most important menus with the most activity. Those would be the character panel, where you can see your stats and choose your ambition, see your family, and check on various loyalties. And the other is the council where your most trusted –hopefully– and skilled –also hopefully– advisers do your bidding. These are the Chancellor, Marshal, Steward, Spymaster, and Court Chaplain.

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Seriously, that game has so many goddam menus. They do become familiar over time.

The big thing that differentiates this from games like Medieval II: Total War is that diplomacy is mired in ancient laws and traditions. It’s impossible for a character to declare war on someone else unless they have a just cause to do so. This is where the intrigue and skullduggery comes in. Where diplomatic marriages and bribes are used to fabricate or create claims on someone else’s territory. Which allow a declaration of war and subsequent invasion.

The Gush

The ruler designer is one of the greatest pieces of DLC ever imagined. Normally you have to choose from one of the currently existing rulers of the age but the ruler designer changes that. It allows you to insinuate a new ruler with stats and traits of your choosing as the ruler of whatever county, dukedom, or kingdom you choose. I’m personally fond of strong, lustful, hunchbacked, midas touched, lepers. Overall the designer is a great opportunity to try different things and see what suits you.

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All he needs now is a dumb name in all caps so I remember he’s mine.

The writing in this game is really good. The descriptions of traits, the phrasing of letters, the responses to random events are all witty, pithy, and simply fun. It fills the whole game with flavor and personality.

The Kvetch

This game doesn’t have a difficulty curve, it has a difficulty wall. It took me going through the tutorial twice and watching a lot of guide videos on Youtube before I was able to make heads or tales of what the hell was going on. It was a pretty big investment and I don’t regret making it but it’s something that did suck.

Too much DLC. Wanna play Venice? Gotta buy the DLC. Wanna play a Muslim Monarch? Gotta buy the DLC. Want some new different music? Gotta buy the DLC. It’s just really frustrating to dish out $40 for the game and then $5 or $10 more again and again for so many little things.

Fucking look at this shit

Look at this shit? There’s so much! And it just keeps going!

Sometimes RNJesus will hate you and bad shit will happen. Only 5% chance of getting maimed from a random event choice? Oops, now your character’s got no legs and everyone calls him stumpy. 26% chance yearly to fabricate a claim on a county? Takes 10 years to come through.

The Verdict

If a Medieval, Byzantine, Draconian, politics simulator sounds like something that would interest you then this game is really the one stop shop and the only shop at that. I cannot think of another game that goes as in depth as this one. It’s a largely unique experience that’ll keep you switching gears between teaching children one minute and dispatching troops the next. It’s a little pricey at $40 but since it’s the only game of its kind it can command that price. That being said, it’s on sale quite frequently so you can save some cash by being patient.

Next Week: Lisa: the Painful

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