General Game Infomation Crusader Kings II is a “Grand Strategy” game (a genre in which Paradox Interactive are solely developing) in which you take control of any Christian family dynasty in medieval Europe. The game lasts 400 years from 1066 to 1466, allowing you to start from several date choices, earliest being 1066, just before the battle of Stamford bridge during the Viking invasion of England and the latest being in 1337 at the start of the 100 years war between England and France.
Game play revolves around managing your territory, whether you own a small island in Denmark or emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, using diplomacy, espionage and military tactics to expand your dynasty is the main aim of the game.
Sound Crusader Kings II takes the talents of Andreas Waldetoft who has produced the vast majority of music in Paradox Interactive strategy games, the typical high quality produced by Andreas shines yet again in Crusader Kings II with a fantastic medieval-esc soundtrack, a total of 24 tracks are included in the game itself, also available are downloadable content are French and English themed music packs which also continue on the fantastic ability of Andreas.
In-game sounds are typical clicks and event notifications, nothing really stand out as being unique about it, apart from perhaps the Character/Dynasty selection screen, sounding off several harp notes on each selection, joining together to create an interesting, and strangely addictive tune.
Gameplay As said previously the game revolves around your dynasty (blood family) and the rise of power of it, however, the game does not make general game play easy on the newcomer to Paradox strategy games due to the unique nature of them, while the game does feature a very large amount of tutorials, totalling 27, even going through them all you will still be wondering how to do certain functions or what certain messages mean. Its highly recommended to have the tab to the official forums for the game opened, they are generally quite active and helpful to newcomers to the series. Once you grasp the basic of the game it becomes highly addictive, with so many different ways to play and random events in a sandbox environment, anything can happen, in previous paradox interactive strategy games I have found myself simply letting the game play itself, just to see what happens with the world, and the same can be said of me in Crusader Kings II.
Military actions take up a large portion of the general game play and uses the same system as other Paradox Interactive strategy such as Europa Universalis and Victoria II, although not as technical as Hearts of Iron III, the movement and general strategy needed will be daunting for newcomers, although the tutorial does do a good job of introducing the player, I recommend experimentation, seeing how best to move and position units in a war time situation.
The combat information screen, an abundance of combat and battle info
The major attraction of Crusader Kings II is the dynastic system, you are not playing as a nation or kingdom as such, but a character in charge of a nation, kingdom or vassal. The goal of the game is to continue your dynasty through royal marriages and having children to take over once you kick the bucket, it is of course not as simple as just having children.
Your actions and random events will determine how your court, children and family members will perceive you, and this can lead to a successful European wide dynasty, or even to civil war in your kingdom. Throughout history, family has not been a barrier against conflict, family have been trying to eliminate each other since the human race began and it wasn’t any different in medieval Europe, you could have a brother with enough power within your kingdom to mount a challenge for the crown and civil war breaking loose, of course before all this happens, you could attempt an assassination to deal with such annoyances.
The dynastic system is very fun and addictive, and will consume a lot of your time in game, the added ability to name your children also adds a sense of personalisation and you do start to care about them and there actions in game, there is nothing quite like seeing your son who you named yourself rise up and declare war against you.
Assassinating children to preserve your dynasty, fun times
Graphics and Presentation
Presentation wise, the game does a very good job of placing menus and icons in logical and non confusing areas, the sheer amount of information available to you would make this a very hard task for a lot of developers, but Paradox Interactive's experience in such a vast amount of information in there previous games makes this an easy task for them, places of the older games will find information, bars and icons in there usual places. For newcomers going straight in will be very daunting, however the tutorial will go through each button, menu and bar and give good detail on the functions of each.
The in-game menu is also excellently presented in a clear way, now including a button to directly access download content through digital retailers and the 'social media' buttons which seem to be all the rage these days. Included in the game is the ability to be linked to wikipedia articles by clicking on an information button on certain screens such as historical rulers and dynasty, should you wish to find out more about the real history of them.
A crisp and clear menu with discreet social buttons
The world map will be a similar sight to players of the total war games, a three dimensional detailed landscape is the backdrop to the game, although there is no rotation option within the game which came as a surprise as Paradox's previous game Sengoku (Feudal Japan game, very similar to Crusader kings 2) did feature a rotation option.
Unit sprites and character portrait models are also unimpressive, while still an improvement on Europa Universalis III and Victoria II, they still have not reached modern standards. Portraits are randomly generated and at this point in time, random generation doesn’t seem to produce great results across gaming in general, this is also Paradox's first attempt at such a mechanic so there is definite room for them to improve this.
While sharp, the quality of military and diplomatic units could be better
Final words Overall the game itself is an engrossing, addictive experience, the presentation is sharp and well thought out with an endless supply of information. However, the learning curve is very high if you have never played such a game as this from Paradox and model quality hasn’t yet reached modern standards. If your looking for a alternative from the usual strategy games out there, purchase an older Paradox Interactive title first, such as Europe Univeralis III or Victoria 2, these two are fantastic games in the own right and much cheaper now as they are a few years old, if you enjoy these two, purchase Crusader Kings II.
Notes This is my first ever review, i havent really attempted such an article before and would like feedback, good or bad. :)