I reviewed Crusader Kings III in August 2020 and was about as bright as ever about a video game here on Kotaku.com. Yet after previewing it and then playing it to death for review, when I was done I gave up on the game and haven’t been back since.
It’s not an affront to the game, it’s just how I’ve learned to approach the big Paradox releases over the past few decades. From Hearts of Iron to Stellaris, these games tend to launch in a pretty decent state, then morph over the years through constant patches and expansions, and to best gauge each game’s progress over that trip, I’ve found that instead of just playing them all the time, I come back every year or two and see what’s going on.
That’s exactly what I did here, because Crusader Kings III just got its first major expansion, the Royal Court. It was my first time reviewing the game since launch, and also its first big update, I thought it was a great opportunity to see how it was doing 18 months after release.
I don’t want to shock you here, but it looks very good indeed. Royal Court is an odd expansion, at least by Paradox standards, because unlike most of the company’s offerings for its big strategy releases, which tend to make their way into existing systems, Royal Court deliberately stands out. of the main Crusader Kings experience.
It does exactly what its name suggests and adds a literal royal court to the game, a screen you can visit at any time that’s separate from the maps and menus that previously made up the entirety of the space in which existed. a Crusader Kings campaign. Through it, your inner circle of children, advisers and courtiers are represented in the flesh; the crowds gather and whisper, you sit in the center of the room on your throne, and whoever addresses you will do so on their knees.
This part is not a static object; the people in it will change over the years/centuries as they die/move away and are replaced, just like your player character, but the room itself also has room for artifacts, items that can be built or won and displayed as trophies. You can hang banners on the wall or have swords threatening your guests from pedestals next to you. The state of your throne room quickly becomes the physical representation of the health and personality of your kingdom itself.
It sounds like a totally pointless exercise in vanity, but it’s not, because it’s not really a new idea. Something nearly identical to this attempt at immersion could be found in early Civilization games, which let you upgrade your palace or throne room, translating political power into aesthetic delights.
I loved this diversion, and many other fans did too, which is why people still modify throne rooms in modern Civilization games today. And I loved it for the same reasons I love Royal Court. Crusader Kings is a game that exists on a massive scale, one that is always depicted on a distant map that spans half the globe. It’s a game about human relations, which can only be seen through statistics and menu options.
Royal Court lifts you out of the clouds and anchors you directly into the game world. It gives you something truly representative of the kingdom, which exists in familiar human space. It makes a huge difference not only to your immersion, but also to your ability to relate to the campaign seeing your leader actually sitting on his throne and seeing the court operating like a real court, not just numerical values on a sidebar.
Besides looking cool, your throne room also has a big “HOLDING COURT” button, which when triggered lets you enjoy a short tribute to Reigns, with everyone from the peasants to vassals, approaching you with dilemmas to solve and decisions to make. While Crusader Kings is already full of decisions, these tend to relate to your strategic interests or things that affect you personally.
Here, it is the farmers who need your help. Or profiteers sneaking in for free drinks. Lords bickering with each other, courtiers jealous that you gave one of their rivals a prestigious job, or your children who are just annoying little shits. If the throne room itself helps you connect with your avatar, then Holding Court connects them to the larger world around them and really makes you feel like a medieval ruler, instead of someone just doing a bunch of judgments based on numbers based on statistical personality (which, let’s be clear, we’re still doing here, it’s just much more opaque).
Coming back to the game after 18 months also means I also have to enjoy some smaller tweaks, some of them implemented with the free update that was released alongside those expansions, some from earlier things like flavor packs that I only get Catch up. All of this, like most Crusader Kings updates, fits right into the experience.
Crusader Kings II was in development for eight years before Paradox finally released Crusader Kings III, so this latest release is just the start of what will likely be a very long journey. And if that’s what it’s going to be like every stop, then I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Article source https://kotaku.com/crusader-kings-iii-royal-court-review-impressions-parad-1848538094