Pages: 1 2 3
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Paradox Interactive
Minimum requirements: Pentium III 450 MHz processor or equivalent; 128 MB RAM; 600 MB free hard drive space; 4MB DirectX compatible video card; DirectX sound card; DirectX 9.0 or higher; Windows 98 SE, 2000, XP
Release date: Available now
Review by: Jason Pitruzzello
Every once in awhile, a game comes along that’s infuriating because it’s both a blast to play and plagued with problems. Such a game was Crusader Kings. Released in 2004, it offered a different kind of empire building from other strategy titles. Rather than taking the helm of a country, the player took control of a feudal dynasty. Because a dynasty is composed of people rather than just lands and armies, players had to spend half their time playing the game as if it was a CRPG, taking care of their dynasty’s characters and making sure to keep them titled, married and in the good graces of the Church. The frustration came not from the excellent gameplay, but from a buggy engine that suffered from inexplicable CTDs, dead characters who remained titled and in play, and bizarre loopholes in the rules that allowed strange things such as sons being appointed to the Papacy, who in turn inherited their father’s kingdoms. Despite these persistent problems, Crusader Kings enjoyed a small but loyal following, and after it was patched, it became a wonderful game to play.
No doubt seeing the success of their online-only expansions for Victoria and Europa Universalis 3, Paradox Interactive has released Crusader Kings: Deus Vult. Unlike Victoria: Revolutions and EU3: Napoleon’s Ambition, CK: DV doesn’t focus on longer play times, new units, new special abilities or new scenarios; instead, Paradox focused on what made the original CK fun: characters. Before, characters developed and faced their own trials and triumphs, as any player who has had a schizophrenic ruler can attest. In CK: DV, characters now interact with one another, develop rivalries and friendships, and even reconsider their relationship with their liege based purely on personality differences. With all of the possibilities for various interpersonal relationships, the simple decision of whether to invite one’s neighbor over for a hunt can carry lasting consequences, both good and ill.
The friends and rivals system of character interaction is the most important change to the otherwise familiar game mechanics fans of the original have come to know and love. At its heart, friends and rivals are a deceptively simple change where, in addition to all of the other relationships characters can have (familial, feudal and religious), characters can now view one another as either a friend or an enemy. For example, if a vassal is a friend of his liege, he can expect the liege to be more supportive of aggressive wars, while the liege can expect a 2% bonus to monthly loyalty. Furthermore, rivals find it easier to claim one another’s titles, paying a fraction of the cost in prestige for grabbing such claims. None of this is surprising; however, what makes it radical is just how broadly “friend” and “rival” is interpreted and how many aspects of the game it influences besides the obvious political ones. Is the new Pope your ruler’s rival? It’s only a matter of time before your ruler is excommunicated, no matter how many titles he has or how much piety he’s generated. Does your wife have a young bachelor at court who’s her friend? Guess what? It’s probably adultery, with all of the problems you might expect. Do you have a vassal who’s your rival? Aside from the obvious drop in loyalty, be prepared for your rival to conspire with other vassals in an attempt to overthrow your rule. Is your ruler at war? His friends might finance some mercenaries for him out of the goodness of their hearts. The resulting interpersonal relationships are extremely complex, requiring a different sort of cleverness than most players will be used to.
Hand in hand with the friends and rivals system is an update to how your courtiers interact with your ruler. Now, courtiers in your court have a loyalty rating to your ruler, just like vassals. The difference is that your courtiers only take into account prestige and personality, meaning they can’t be influenced by your bad reputation or your ruling law. This might not seem important, because who cares if your fifth half-brother from your mother’s side, who’s an in-bred, depressed hunchback likes you or not? When it comes to deciding who your closest advisors are, however, loyalty must be taken into account, in addition to your courtier’s raw skill. Now, instead of deciding who your chancellor is based purely on how brilliant the courtier is, sometimes nepotism and favoritism are more important because your friends and relatives are more likely to be loyal. Combining this with the friends and rivals system that operates between your courtiers as well produces a court model that has your courtiers jockeying for position, challenging one another and betraying your ruler if they don’t like him. I learned the hard way how important it was to pay attention to this. My ruler’s wife decided she hated him and became his rival. After awhile, she started bad mouthing her husband to his advisors. Pretty soon, the steward was robbing the treasury blind and the spymaster, who took up having an affair with the ruler’s wife, tried to assassinate him. Not a single war within a decade, and my ruler’s life was still in danger and the treasury was empty. How’s that for excitement?
Pages: 1 2 3