Crusader Kings

Review

posted 9/2/2004 by Tyler Sager
other articles by Tyler Sager
One Page Platforms: PC
I’m that rare gamer who actually sits down and reads through an entire instruction manual before playing the game, often before installation. I just like to have a good handle on things before I jump in. My pre-game reading of the Crusader Kings manual sent off all sorts of warning bells, mostly of the “I still have no idea what’s going on” variety. Still, I’m generally able to pick up on things, and I figured the tutorial would fill in the copious blanks left by the manual. So I installed and booted up.

Whoops. No tutorial.

Ah, well. Still having no idea what I was doing, I picked a province to rule, picked a starting time, and dove in. Since I had never played any of the Europa Universalis games, of which Crusader Kings is a prequel of sorts, I had no experience to help me through the initial hours. It was much like being taught to swim by being thrown headfirst into the deep end. And then being poked back by a long pole as you try to get near the ladder. It was overwhelming, tiring, and not all that much fun. After a while, I started to get the hang of things, and it got a lot better. Crusader Kings is a decent game, and I’m sure it would be much more enjoyable for fans of the series. Still, I think it might be a bit too much work for the casual newbie to tackle.

Crusader Kings is a real-time strategy game set in medieval Europe. It’s not a typical RTS, in that there are not hoards of units to send cavorting around the map.
Crusader Kings focuses more on the political aspects of the period. Since medieval life expectancy was quite a bit less than the 400+ year game time, players begin with control of a King, Duke, or Count and attempt to establish a dynasty that will last for several centuries, accruing all-important Prestige and Piety. In fact, that’s the only goal of the game—be the player with the highest rankings in these two scores. Prestige is gained by doing impressive things in the secular circles, Piety is gained by doing impressive things for the Church.

Much of the game is spent focusing on the nobility of the demesnes controlled. Each character has four primary stats, Diplomacy, Martial, Stewardship, and Intrigue. As a ruler, these stats reflect how well a particular province does in each of these areas. High Stewardship rankings will increase revenue, high Intrigue will help perpetrate or avoid assassination, and so on. Rulers can appoint members of their court to various offices, adding the appointee’s rating in particular area to the ruler’s. For instance, the Steward will add their Stewardship ability to that of their liege, the Chancellor will add their Diplomacy, etc. Balancing the court, and just wading through the character screen in general, takes up a great deal of the play time. In addition to the four primary stats, each character can gain random traits, such as Merciful, Lustful, Forgiving, or Vengeful. These are gained as random events happen, sometimes as a result of player choice, but often not. Characters can also acquire an impressive array of diseases to help round out their medieval experience.
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