Crusader Kings III is a dangerous game in the best way possible. This absolutely massive grand strategy game is nothing short of remarkable, and you’ll see your time melting away before you know it. With music befitting of the times, immersive characters and ever-changing story events, I don’t see how it can be possible to be bored with a game like Crusader Kings III.
Now I know grand strategy isn’t for everyone. Games like Crusader Kings III can seem daunting at the start, but this game doesn’t throw you in without any context. The tutorial in Crusader Kings III is incredibly well done, and makes sure you can grasp even large-scale events in the game. It sees you playing as the Kingdom of Ireland, and while it does leave you to your own devices after showing you the ropes, it was a tutorial that never felt too intrusive. It was more like a guiding hand that allows you to make sense of all the numbers and menus that are constantly popping up. Speaking of the menus, the cascading tooltips are super well done. Being able to pause the game and read as much as you want to before making a massive power play is imperative. Sometimes there’ll be terms that you might be unfamiliar with, but even if you see the term in a tooltip you can hover over it and another one will pop up explaining it, and then they dismiss themselves rather cleanly. Crusader Kings III does everything in its power to allow even newcomers to the Crusader Kings series to find an enjoyable experience in a massively immersive world.
To touch on the massively immersive part, that is no understatement. I was playing for hours with my efforts focused on Ireland after the tutorial. What really feels different about Crusader Kings III is that you get attached to not only your characters, but your council and guests as well. Every character feels real, and they all have their interests and desires. Knowing this is key to keeping your bonds up with them, and even building the bonds feels like a genuine experience. Little things like these interests and random events make the world really feel alive, and this is just the small scope of things. There was a point where after I had done a fair bit of conquering, I decided to set my eyes on more parts of the map. Once I zoomed out, I really could do nothing but stare at the absolute scope of the world at large, and how small my efforts had been compared to the sizes of other countries. Naturally I had to start a new file after seeing that, because the experience is certainly not limited to just one country. You can start with different characters and in different time periods, a great amount of variety to begin with. Even with just the variety in characters, the playstyles also vary immensely. Looking to build up a treasury and bribe out leaders? Suited more towards war? Feel the need to spread your religion to the ends of the earth? All this, and managing your claims to titles so the bloodline lives on. Crusader Kings III is just so huge that the possibilities are hard to jot down in a list.
The ambience set on in the game is truly something else. If you weren’t immersed with just the experience of ruling a country and managing your bloodline against all odds, the music and sound effects will actually take you to that time. It’s almost like being at a Renaissance Fair, if you close your eyes you can actually picture that environment. The events are realistic as well, and sometimes will come as a direct consequence of your actions. If you’ve been ignoring your faith, you might not be able to request the faith leader for gold. If you’ve been warmongering, your allies might see you as a tyrant and lose favor with you. It’s almost like playing a choose your own adventure in the middle of larger events, which really adds to the bond you feel with your character and the ones that are connected with you. While it all seems super serious and strategy intensive, there’s a lot of genuine humor in the game. That’s probably what caught me off guard the most, how much I was actually laughing while playing the game. Of course you’ve got absurd family events and diving face first into mud, but having your physician suggest you run around naked until your legs give out had me laughing longer than I’d like to admit.
Crusader Kings III is one of the most fun time sinks I’ve played in a good while. While getting immersed in expanding my kingdom, it felt like time was just flying by. The atmosphere, variety, and overall experience it presents is not only the one of the best representations of the grand strategy genre, but it’s a load of fun. With how much can change with just one choice of words or a well placed scheme, Crusader Kings III promises engagement and variety for as long as you’re willing to play it. I’d even recommend this to someone who has an interest in strategy but has never played a grand strategy game, because the foundations set in the tutorial can be immediately applied to other playthroughs.
Score: 9 out of 10
Reviewed on Windows PC (Steam)