Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Crusader Kings II....It's Not a Tank, Honest

I've finally managed to pull head out of my cupola to dive into one of the numerous games cluttering my hard drive and I'm certainly glad I did. Crusader Kings II is one of the first games in a long time that pulled me in fast and hard (hmmm...that sounds a bit dirty). It's been awhile since I've played long, long into the night. I was so tired that I took my eye off of what was happening and at about 2:00 AM, ran out of money, which resulted in my entire invasion of Normandy coming to disastrous end due to the desertion of my mercenary armies. Not to mention, at the time, that poxy Dublin was revolting. Fecking Dubs for you! Thank God for the save option. And cheat codes. But I digress.

I have a bad habit of writing a quick review of a game, and then either abandoning it (Cities XL I promise I'll be back), or getting so anxious to play it that I neglect to post (LA Noire). I am sure that if you are interested in a proper review you can, like me, Google 'Crusader Kings II review' and find some good ones. There are a couple You Tube videos up as well which run through some game-play. I will do a brief review but I wanted to try something a bit different, so I'm going to attempt a gaming diary for this one kind of like what I did with Wurm Online. I feel that following along on my adventures may give you an idea of what the game can offer better than a nuts and bolts review of the basics.

My preferred way of commuting to work.

Now for the nuts and bolts review of the basics! Crusader Kings II is a Paradox Game and I'm already a fan of their work. I played a lot of Hearts of Iron II, and certainly attempted the third installment but found it overwhelmingly difficult during a period of shrinking free-time. They are also doing one of the only upcoming MMO's that I'm actually interested in playing, Salem (a perma-death sandbox focused on crafting). I don't like all their stuff, but their focus on the often-overlooked aspects of strategy gaming has always interested me.

Crusader Kings II is, essentially, a grand soap opera played out before you and influenced by your actions. It is more of a simulation than a strategy game and the focus is on relationships, family, diplomacy, alliances, and covert empire building. There isn't much here for the war-game enthusiast but I assume that if you wanted grand war strategy you'd head over to the Total War Series. In Crusader Kings II if you have the most men, you win, simple as that. Getting those men is quite difficult, however, and all down to the relationships that you build with your vassals. That is, of course, assuming you're not a vassal yourself.

I am a fan of the virtual sandbox and this game appeals because of the endless choices offered and available. You can start, for instance, as a king, or a courtier. If you fancy working your way up and building an empire, as I did, you can start out as a lowly Duke, or some-such, and see what happens. I began my play as a minor Irish Duke with my self-declared ambition to take over the whole bloody island (it's my island).

It isn't easy because wars need a valid reason to be launched (the game won't let you declare war on just anyone no matter how much you think that Limerick City should be razed to the ground), and then the man-power to persevere can be hard to get. Money is tight and armies are raised through vassals or mercenary hire (which is expensive). Upgrading your localities also costs a lot of cash so economies and military technology can take a while to build.

What's really important, and is the focus of the game, are the people around you. Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children, grandchildren, vassals, courtiers, Kings, Dukes, Barons..... you name it and it exists. You can even appoint someone as your Court Jester to humiliate them if you like. You need to worry about succession and the happiness of those around you. Intrigue is rife as plots are hatched, uncovered, and foiled. Assassinations, political slander, executions, wars, Crusades, invasions..... every event can have an impact on you and those around you. My poxy second wife was plotting to have my first born son (from my first wife) murdered so my son with her could inherit when I died. I gave her every chance in the world to change but eventually I had to have her jailed and then, sadly, executed. On the plus side I got a new wife: Huzzah!

Crusader Kings II is a rich world filled with interesting people and that's a great thing to be able to say about a virtual world. The characters within it all have their own agenda and the AI seems to be very good at handling all of this in a believable manner. That son, from my second wife, eventually became obsessed (like his mom) with killing my rightful heir and he too had to be imprisoned. He died there (of natural causes) which actually made me, as a player sad. I had initially preferred him to my heir because he had better stats in diplomacy, learning, and administration and so I was, for a time, turning a blind eye to my wife's machinations in the hope she would succeed (sorry son). The plotting-son eventually got the trait 'obsessed' and 'insane' which made him less desirable as an heir. That is the reason I stepped in and stopped their plotting.

Look at me, I'm the King!

Oh, and did I mention that I married my eldest daughter to a Prince and now she's the Queen Consort of France?

Having your children succeed is one of the options available. Unfortunately for her, her husband has the trait 'homosexual' and is later known as 'the fat'. None of that, however, will stop my grandson from becoming King of France!

There is so much to do in this game that I am glad that the economy and strategic-warfare elements are pushed to the background. I have access to plenty of the economic/strategy/war games. I'm ready for something different. The game is scored upon completion and all games end on 1466 (that's 400 years of game play). Much like at the end of the Civilization games, you get a score and a little report card to say how you did.

My next posts will detail my first adventure in Crusader Kings II. I hope that by reading along you'll get an idea what the game can offer and convince you to try it. If not, come along for the ride anway. There will be plenty of intrigue.


  1. Colour me intrigued, I want to hear more :)

  2. These games require far too much thinking for me. Please play them for me. Thank you!

  3. No problem....now about the matter of my invoice.......