Crusader Kings II

Crusader Kings II
Crusader Kings II Cover
Platforms Windows
Genre Grand confusing strategy
MtAMinutes to Action 42
Keep Playing? No
Buy from Amazon

Today I learned that some video game genres are simply not for me. Well, I've known that for some time, I can't stand realistic racing games at all, but now I can add the so-called "real-time grand strategy" genre to that list. This is basically a fancy way of saying "real-time Civilization... grandified." The Wikipedia article reads like an economics-during-war piece with phrases like "horizontal integration", "consolidated roving army", and "pursue ultimate hegemony". Hey guys, I graduated from college six years ago.

Crusader Kings II was recently released by Paradox Interactive, a Swedish developer that specializes in the grand strategy genre. You may recognize their previous titles such as Europa Universalis or Hearts of Iron, but if you're like me, have never had the opportunity to play them. Crusader Kings II is set in medieval Europe at the turn of the last millenium. The game is decidedly for history buffs and fans of the time period.

I can't really decide if what you're about to read represents everything this site stands for, or if it reveals a total failure of the first hour review system. I'm kind of wavering between the two options, but I'll let you decide for yourself. Welcome to the age of history.

Minute by Minute

00 - I select Tutorial and the first hour of Crusader Kings II begins. There are apparently 27 trainings, I start from the beginning. I presented with a view of my realm, and the wealth of information starts flowing.

01 - I’m King Malcolm III of Scotland, wife, parents, and grandparents are dead. I’ve got two kids and three siblings.

02 - Holy crap there is so much information but the music is rocking so I’m finding it kind of epic.

03 - There’s a value called Demesne Size.

04 - Zooming all the way out of the map reveals all of Europe, south past Egypt, and to the western edge of Siberia.

06 - I have unpaused the game, but more tips just keep on flowing. This tutorial may take the entire hour.

07 - The basic economy tutorial begins. You get money from bishops only if they like you more than the Pope.

08 - Demesne Size has been explained a little bitter, demesne is apparently a holding, so if you hold too many holdings, the people won’t like you. You need to give out land to your vassals.

11 - Tutorials are broken up by what they cover, and there’s three levels for each one, I just finished all the economy tutorials and I feel like I know less than what I started. So intimidating. I’m now learning about my Council.

12 - This is basically the Small Council from A Game of Thrones. I can fabricate claims, collect taxes, uncover plots, build a spy network, and oversee construction. Among many other things.

Crusader Kings 2 Holy Roman Empire

13 - The tutorial is recommending I marry into another dynasty since my wife is dead.

14 - There’s no lack of possible mates, and about a dozen different ways to sort through them. Not too young, not too old, proper prestige, all that.

15 - Adelheid, Princess of Holy Roman Empire, sister of Kaiser Heirich IV is at the top of my newly sorted list. She’s chaste, cruel, paranoid, and wroth. Not so much.

17 - I don’t know... so I’ll go with Ermesinda, Princess of Navarra and sister of King Antso IV of Navarra. Seems nice enough.

19 - Marriage offer sent, did it happen? Guess we need to wait for a response.

20 - Building an army now, but to what ends?

Crusader Kings 2 Combat

21 - Apparently none, as we’ve moved on to Plots. Oooh, we can assassinate people! Though today we’re simply going to hold a Grand Tournament.

23 - Somehow I’ve gotten thrown back to the tutorial menu, what have I completed so far? I think the game guided me through all the Advanced tutorials first! Ugh.

26 - Making sure I hit all the Basic tutorials, maybe I’ll start the game then.

28 - I forced my vassals to raise an army and now I’m merging them with my own.

30 - Build a ship and loaded some armies on it, and now the enemy has appeared!

33 - Feels like some of the tutorials are breaking, though I’m not sure if I just don’t see the right spot to click on one of the number of menus or maps to figure out how to continue it. Either way, moving on.

Crusader Kings 2 Europe Catholic Nations

34 - Okay, sick of this, time to give the proper game a whirl. Single player... click the map to select a character. The game recommends three “interesting characters”, including Duke William the Bastard. He sounds cool. Oh, his difficulty is rated 70%, let’s find something easier.

37 - Let’s go with Kaiser Heinrich IV of Holy Roman Empire, 31% difficulty

38 - I’m already married, but don’t have any children.

39 - Guess I need to click unpause... no idea what will happen.

40 - I have a bunch of mail, hey, all these guys favor some random guy to be the heir of my empire. I need a child!

42 - After kicking off my spy network and trying to start rumors in some county of my realm, I get my first arranged marriage request. It’s for my sister, she’s the current heir! Prince Erik of Sweden wants to marry her. I think not.

Crusader Kings 2 Kingdom of Scotland

44 - Now one of my vassals wants his own vassal, I’ll “impress him with vague promises.”

45 - I give my wife the title of “Keeper of the Swans”, something to impress her and hopefully get her with child sooner rather than later.

46 - What’s a matrilineal marriage? Something I want to do with my wife?

47 - Another prince of Sweden comes knocking for my sister. No!

48 - Oh oh, Duke Pierre I of Savoie, my brother-in-law, has declared war on me! I’m going to make an assassination attempt, 31% chance of success, 35% chance of being discovered.

49 - Oh, got my response back already. Failed, but the originator remains hidden. Let’s try again. Same. Can’t do it again. Lame.

Crusader Kings 2 Complex Stuff

52 - So many messages, another marriage offer from Sweden, a request to help another country fight their battles, and something from the Pope about usurping title blah blah blah.

53 - And another offer from Sweden, this time for my half-sister, so I agree to it and she leaves for Swedish court.

54 - My sister’s opinion of me is not very good, I wonder if it has gone down with each marriage dismissal? Let’s find her a suitor.

56 - This is really freaking confusing.

58 - Going to try and assissinate my in-laws. Mother in-law: failed. Can’t even try it on anyone else.

60 - Yeah, hour is up.

Crusader Kings 2 Colorful map Europe

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 42 minutes until first marriage proposal

Bias: Going in, I certainly have nothing against the genre, or the developer, or anyone or anything else involved in this game. It's kind of a mystery to me and I really only picked it out for a first hour review because of some buzz it's been getting from critics I pay attention and that we never really played a game like this before on the site.

Would I Keep Playing? No. If you've never played a grand strategy game like Crusader Kings II before, then I suspect it will take at least five times as long to really get comfortable with the game. But for a gamer like me, I honestly just don't have the patience to take it all in. I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who find this incredibly enthralling and rewarding, but I feel way over my head whenever I boot the game up. I know little about European history before the World Wars, and even less about how emperors, lords, and kings all interact with each other. Ah well.

Make the interface a bit easier to navigate, set it in A Game of Thrones setting, and you may actually have me interested long enough to figure it out. Maybe.