Crusader Kings III (commonly known as CK3) is one of the most awaited games for players who are looking for a genre of the game between Role-Playing (RPG), strategy and management. In my view, I think it also somewhat resembles Sims, but with a bigger stage! In both games, you control a single player, but you also need to make a living (working vs managing an empire), learn some skills (to get a job vs to build relationships and/or build your military) and plan for a successor (train your child vs train your heir). Yeah, something like that.
I did not manage to play the first instalment of Crusader Kings (2004), however, I played its second instalment, Crusader Kings II (2012), and I was impressed at how it was designed. Honestly, when Crusader Kings III was released in 2020, it was mind-blowing and a saviour for many people especially during the difficult time of COVID-19, where many people have to stay home due to quarantine, stay home order or respective pandemic related laws of different countries.
Perhaps, for this reason, many players have clocked an enormous amount of hours in the game according to the statistics of gameplay on Steam! More than 1 million copies of the game were sold within the first month of release, this just shows how much this game has been anticipated by its fans. The game was also nominated as the best simulation/strategy game at The Game Awards in 2020 but it was a huge pity that they did not win it.
Many different campaigns available for different eras of your choice
In Crusader Kings III, there are many different starting scenarios available for players to play in. For example, if you like Vikings and warfare, you can choose to start your game in the year of 867 AD under the campaign of Wrath of The Northmen. If you know your history, you can even play according to it, but of course, that would be less fun, since, in each game, we want to play it like a sandbox game and to our own liking, whereby our decisions would impact the world!
Apart from choosing which year to start playing in, you can also choose which area you want to focus on, which is directly tied to the campaign you choose. If you see the screenshot above, the 1066 AD starting year’s Rags to Riches campaign was chosen and 5 starting characters were recommended by the game with their respective estimated difficulty level shown along with the character avatar. The level of difficulty is based on many factors! How many people are in your dynasty, how close are you to your enemies, are there any allies, how much military you have, and many more! Man, this game is complex!!
But what if you don’t want to use any of these 5 characters and the other characters recommended in the other campaigns?
Fret not, you can actually use ANY characters in the game, as long as they have a land! Otherwise, you can also create your own character! Take a look at the above screenshot again, did you notice the option at the bottom left corner??
In-depth Character Customisation
Even though Crusader Kings III is officially a strategy/simulation game, it is also well perceived as an RPG game mixed with strategy and management elements. One of the great RPG elements of the game is that it allows you to customize your starting character’s appearance to set their gender, faith (religion), culture, name and your Dynasty, which includes your family crest and hey, it will be passed down to your heir as the game continues after your character passed on, so I’d advise you to choose a nice design of your own liking!
As shown, the Realm is the land you will be starting out in. In the screenshot, I have chosen the Kingdom of France, but you need not choose that. You can choose anywhere in the map and you can also choose to be a Count of a land and report directly to a Duke, whereby the Duke may report to a King and so on and so forth.
If you are not so familiar with the rank and hierarchy system of those era and no idea what is a Count or Duke, it is fine, you can still enjoy the game and you catches on with this knowledge along the way as you play it. I might consider writing a separate guide on this next time (if there is enough interest, so leave a comment and let me know!).
DNA Matters and it affects your entire Dynasty of Characters’ appearance
This is pretty subjective as some may tell you that it does not matter much, but I felt that it does matter. When you play any game in The Sims series (e.g. The Sims 4), you feel attached to your main character based on the things you made them do and a kind of a storyline you experienced while playing the sandbox game. In Crusader Kings III, it is pretty much similar, but in addition, you have a DNA for your starting character, which will be passed down to your future generations, at least one of them is going to be your Heir! Isn’t that cool?
Wait, it actually depends on which era and culture group you are playing as – some specific culture allows the Powerful Vassals to all participate in voting who shall be your heir, meaning your heir will not necessarily be from your starting character’s future generation. Well, I guess if there is some interest in this part, I will write about it in another article (let me know in the comments!)
Back to the DNA, Crusader Kings III will generate the DNA of your children based on the DNA of their parents, which is going to be YOU and your partner! Isn’t it interesting? Of course, over the course of the game, your future generations look may become drastically different from your starting character due to various reasons, like having a partner of a different cultural group or ethnicity, such as an Asian paired with the Mediterranean.
While the newly generated character’s DNA may not different by too much even with cross ethnicity marriage, things can get quite different after a few generations have passed on.
Your Lifestyle and Character’s Education matters
As a simulation game, you get to choose the Lifestyle of your chosen character. For example, if you want your character to focus on Martial, you can choose it as your Lifestyle and be presented with 3 other different sub-categories of that chosen Lifestyle which will grant you with a further “buff”, for instance, one of the sub-categories of Lifestyle in Diplomacy could let you have Fertility +30%, which allows you and your partner to have a child quicker than without it!
The above screenshot also has an indication of Martial Education. As much as knowledge, wisdom and education are important in real-life, it is very important in this game too, as it greatly affect the efficiency of a characters’ growth. If you choose the right lifestyle based on your Education‘s boost (e.g. +40% more Experience gain), it allows your Lifestyle to level-up faster and in the shortest time taken, learn more additional skills in the Skill Tree as shown below.
If you managed to complete learning all the Perks for one of the skill trees, you will gain a new Trait, which offers you a permanent buff which usually results in a boost in your base statistics (e.g. Diplomacy +3 or Martial +3).
Every player’s aim in the game is different, but one thing is for sure: everyone who plays this game will want their character to become stronger and has some growth as the game progresses. No one would want to continue the game with an extremely weak character, so choosing the right Heir with the right Education (how many stars are their education?) and personality (e.g. Charming, Brave, etc.) is extremely important!
Faith is super important and it affects politics
As you may already know, religions matters a lot back in those days (well, now too), and it is being created in a realistic manner in Crusader Kings III too! Faith matters a lot in the game! For example, in politics, if the faith of the other party finds that your faith is considered evil according to them, they will not talk to you, even if the proposal would surely benefit both sides. Faith is a huge decision-maker in this game!
What, EVIL? If you see the screenshot above, there are Virtues vs. Sins, and there are also other things into the Tenets. When two religions have opposing beliefs, they consider each other as evil. When you are having a political action in the Crusader Kings III, whether the other party will accept your proposal, depends on many factors, such as the other party’s opinion of you, whether the culture is the same, whether the decision is going to benefit them, whether you have recently broken a truce, and many more other factors. For example, in a political marriage, if the person you are arranging the marriage with has an opposing faith from you, you get an immediate negative 100 points causing the discussion to very likely result in a rejection.
After some unverified quick check, the real world seems to have around 4,300 religions, a pretty impressive figure indeed. The game does not have THAT many religions, but there is still a whopping 101 different faiths in the game by default. As the sandbox game progresses in your gameplay, there may be even more Faiths, as it is possible to create a new Faith once you have met a certain set of criteria in-game. Man, this game is deep!
Things that your faith could do for you were a wide range too and deserves a post by itself, such as helping you to convert the faith of one of your county, help you improve your Piety value (it is a form of currency in this game), some could even result in forming a Holy Order that can help you in warfare if it is a Holy War (as shown in the above screenshot, Piety is required to start a Holy War).
I will not be diving into the details of Faith any further or a Holy War, but I will get started with an introduction of the Warfare system of Crusader Kings III in the next part of the game review, along with other features like Intrigue and some others, stay tuned!