Crusader Kings 2 is a tour de force when it comes to emergent gameplay. There is no campaign, no predefined story to play through, just single and multiplayer modes where every play through is unique, where a story naturally emerges as you play the game, and not some crappy story, but a damn good one. A story complete with war, disease, murder plots, and rebellions. Don’t believe me? T.J. over at PC Gamer has over 260 hours logged in Crusader Kings 2. My brother also has over 100 hours in the game. So let’s jump into this review, shall we?
Story: Like I said, the story evolves around you. You start the game out by choosing a time period, and then a character from that period, with the options being a Count, Duke, or King. From there you must manage your lands and those beneath you. If your vessels aren’t happy with you, they make create a plot to assassinate you, send you an ultimatum, or just revolt. You also must marry and have children, for you can die from sickness or in battle, and if you die, you become your heir, as long as they are within your dynasty. The point of the game is to become the best dynasty you can until you die out. You can also get called into crusades, and start wars to grow your land. The only way to go to war with someone though is if you have a claim on their land, or if they are a different religion than you can declare a holy war on them. If you don’t have a claim, then you can try and fabricate one.
During one multiplayer session with my brother, we both started out as Dukes in Ireland, which didn’t have a king at the time, so it was the highest possible title. We used the Ruler maker to make it so we started with a son and a daughter and were both unmarried. At the beginning of the game, we betrothed our daughters to each other, and married them when they became of age, making us allies. As the game played out, my son eventually died before I did, making my daughter, and my brother’s wife, my heir. I eventually died, and now I took control of my daughter, and my brothers wife. I controlled my lands, and he controlled his, and together we controlled most of Ireland. The fact that I was married to him, all of our children would be of his dynasty, and not mine, therefore once I died, my game would be over. Fortunately for my brother, we both had high fertility modifiers, so we pumped out babies like crazy, giving him lots of heirs.
Gameplay: This is a very complex game, and can take a little while to get up to speed. Between plots, raising armies, betrothing and educating children, fighting wars and keeping your vessels happy, it can be a lot to handle. Fortunately you are allowed to pause the game and take care of these things before returning to real time, or speed things up if you need to. You can hire mercenaries to augment your forces, which can be really handy in war, especially when you have multiple wars and revolts going on, which is quite common. Just make sure you can afford them, they have a one time up front cost, and then charge a recurring fee, and if you run out of money and can no longer afford them, they can turn against you. If you ever seen Game of Thrones on HBO, it’s a lot like that, minus the boobs. There’s still the possibly to have affairs, and babies, just you don’t get to watch. There’s all the back stabbing, political intrigue, and war though. Which is why there’s an awesome Game of Thrones mod for the game. BONUS reason to get it!
Graphics: The graphics aren’t great, but the awesome emergent gameplay/story more than make up for it. The graphics gets the job done, showing you what you need to in order to manage your lands. I’d compare it to Risk, but with more depth to it. While not flashy, I’m not really minding the graphics, as they fit this type of game.
Sound: Sound doesn’t really play a huge role in this type of game. You get people yelling announcements at you, and some music to set the mood, as well as some sword clinks during battles. It’s not important to the game like it would be in a FPS or RPG. You can play it with sound turned off and be completely fine.
Gripes: Multiplayer can be a bitch to get working. Both parties have to have the same version, with the same DLC enabled, or it won’t work. One computer has to host the game to, so if it’s not set up right on that computer, it won’t work. I’ve spent over an hour some nights trying to get it so we can start a game together. Also, if you try to pick up a game you started earlier with someone, there can be issues if the versions don’t quite match up. Once you get a game going though, it’s one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had. The multiplayer (when working) is seriously awesome.
Bonus Awesomeness: So the regular game is awesome, the Game of Thrones mod is awesome, what more can be awesome? I don’t know…maybe like an Elder Scrolls MOD! Complete with 25 races to control. Yeah, pretty freaking awesome. Oh, and do you like Vikings? Of course you do, because Vikings are fucking bad asses. Paradox is working on the Old Gods expansion, which allows you to take control of these Pagen badasses who like to raid and pillage. In the normal game, people get mad when you are at war for a long time. Not these guys, they get mad when you are not at war.
What are you waiting for? Go get this game and experience the AWESOME! Just remember, according to the internet…I BEAT IT FIRST!