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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Strategy

 

Publisher

Paradox Entertainment

 

Developer

Paradox Entertainment

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q3 2004

 

 

- Historically rich

- Lots of replay value

 

 

- No tutorial

- No objective

- Basic graphics

 

 

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Crusader Kings

Score: 5.0 / 10

 

I’ve found very few games that can daunt me in concept, objective and gameplay.  Crusader Kings is one of those few games that has. Booting up the game for the first time, I was at a complete loss as to what to do and this was after pouring through the manual. Quite simply this game has left me dumbfounded.

 

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Being a newcomer to this series, I was fully expecting to go through an extensive tutorial, which would explain the finer mechanics of the game. Sadly there was no tutorial to be found and my gameplay experience began as trial and error. By referencing the manual, I discovered that the game did not purport to have any objective, rather, “To a large extent, winning is achieved by accomplishing your own personal goals…” I can handle games that have no apparent objective such as the Sims, but here in conjunction with the non-beginner friendly interface and gameplay, I found creating my “own personal goals” confusing.

 

The game begins with three historical campaigns available. The player begins by selecting which dynasty they would like to play as. Beyond that as the game begins, the player is left on their own to survive the coming years and ensure that their dynasty survives. As mentioned before, there are no real set objectives save the survival of your country and any personal goals you develop, such as the conquering of as many nations as possible.

 

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Unfortunately, many of the major actions such as placing a legitimate claim on a piece of land or on a title can take a long time to execute. In the meantime there is an apparent wealth of actions to perform. You can appoint your advisors, choose which direction your research will concentrate on, and set your government and cultural type. You can affect another nation’s provinces by offering to take them as your vassal or you can send an assassin. Each different action and the result of that action affects your prestige, and can affect your treasury as well.

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Many of the major actions or projects such as building a Court of Law, or creating a title costs gold and can sometimes require a certain amount of prestige. As the game begins, I’m sure many gamers will find that as I did, that the accumulation of gold and prestige is slow and that without any tutorial, often the gamer will be left wondering what to do. By performing no actions, my dynasty seemed to get along fine, as my prestige and gold was increasing. However, how to increase that rate of increase was a mystery. As such, in the early stages of the game, events seem to move slowly.

 

The way the game is laid out is that there is a map that is showing all the nations. On the right sidebar, you can access your courtiers, and appoint them to different posts. Each post requires a higher score in a certain area. For instance diplomacy is required for your Chancellor, and a high martial skill is required for your Marshall. Each character also has other disposition traits that are said to affect certain events, however, I was never able to see how this played out.

 

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On the same menu you can also access your Realm screen where you can invest in building new buildings and divert the technology tree, you can also access your treasury to manage your funds, and you can access your action screen. Overall, the way the game is laid out is very basic and there are no fancy 3-D graphics or graphical animations. While for this type of game, where the focus is on management and decisions made by the gamer, it doesn’t normally detract from the gameplay, I will have to observe that the lack of any observable effects of your decisions does leave something to be desired.

 

During the course of the game, the leaders of other non-player dynasties will perform their actions as well, such as offering marriage proposals. How you react to these actions also affects your prestige and so forth. As this game is set during the crusade years, religion also plays a large part of the game. A major objective is gaining control of the Pope so that new actions can be obtained. Apart from that, the conquering of nations is also key to gaining more prestige and as such, players will have to encourage the growth of their armies. Doing so can be a long process, as I often found myself waiting for something to happen in the meantime.

 

There is no doubt that Crusader Kings is intricately woven. It is historically rich and there is a lot of gameplay to be had. Players also have the option of playing online against other would be dynasty rulers. However, for the majority of gamers not totally familiar with the subject matter, myself included, and for those more used to the more traditional RTS games, Crusader Kings will likely not be an easy game to get into. The lack of a tutorial is a glaring omission in a game that is not intuitive at all for those unfamiliar with Europa Universalis. With no objectives, if the gamer has no passing interest in history, the game is sure to fall flat.

 

- Mark Leung

(August 18, 2004)

 

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