Crusader Kings III is the latest in the long running medieval strategy, and the latest from Paradox to make its way to console. Originally releasing on PC back in 2020, Crusader Kings offers players the chance to rake on the role of a medieval lord, with as vast or little land as they own, and see how long their dynasty can survive in a world of power & greed. Worth the hassle of inheriting that throne? Lets take a look.
The tutorial makes a good place to start with the game, offering a little territory in a quiet corner of Ireland to help you get to grips with some of the games systems. It can be quite a lengthy exercise with plenty to read and take in as the game provides an introduction to the basic systems, though it doesn’t explain everything so there’s still learning to do. Once done you can keep playing in Ireland or start a new game in one of the hundreds of available places on the map. You’re not really limited either, play as a lowly governor in an Islamic empire or go big as the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. So long as you keep an heir around for the current ruler you can lose hours upon hours in this medieval simulator as there’s so many factions to play or empires to build as a petty ruler.
Playing out your dreams as a petty medieval lord, Crusader Kings 3 offers a lot for those with the time to sink into it. There are historical campaigns of sorts that you can play through which offer some additional story and difficulty to events. You can ignore these and just play out as whoever you like, starting in the late 800’s if you wish, and look to grow your dynasty over centuries. You don’t have to do this alone either, as in typical Paradox fashion, you can join up with a few friends online and take part in building your legacies within he same world.
As the game is mainly about focusing on your kingdoms & heirs, most time spent playing will be done on the world map or through various menus. The map itself is detailed enough, with little villages and castles easily discernible on the terrain, and the marching armies don’t get lost in all the detail either. Character models can be quite good too as there’s a surprising amount of unique features the game draws on when creating offspring etc so they don’t all look the same, easily viewable within the portrait or UI. It’s also nice seeing detail like illnesses effecting how a character can look, with some illnesses causing permanent damage that stays with the character as they age. One curious area is the audio. The BGM etc is actually quite good, but the game has the quirk of occasionally playing a bombastic piece during a lull, with the opposite during war sometimes.
I suppose I could mention changes for PlayStation 5, but there’s honestly not many outside of the reworked UI. The new UI seems good once used to it, the triggers & shoulder buttons get a hefty workout as most of the key areas of the game are accessible and browsed using these – analogue & Dpad are used to browse the map primarily. Surprisingly there’s also support for the haptics of the Dualsense. Granted its nothing major, but when a war horn etc bellows then you can also feel it through the controller. Apart from those not much else. Loadings times are good enough but not as fast as you expect, with the game pretty much looking & sounding exactly the same as you would get on a decent PC. The game didn’t need ridiculous specs on PC, so its no surprise to see the PS5 offering up what looks like a 4K/60 presentation.
As noted before, the aim of the game here is to keep your dynasty going for as long as possible, so long as you have a healthy heir to take over you won’t really see a game over screen. Tell a lie, you’ll need to make sure your heir is ready to take the reigns too as I’ve had a game end when the heir was too young and this fractured my petty empire into a civil war. My kid lost. Managing the land you have by building up towns and buildings within your hold is where you should start as this gives you the gold needed to fund wars and diplomacy. How your character develops can also give you some bonuses to these, the lifestyle tree will further allow you to customise bonuses, with some traits also possibly passing on to your children. All of this is also much harder as a smaller nation or as a vassal, which might be a turn off but it can be fun to see how long you can keep the barbarians from gates or fend off callous claims on your island. The amount of Isle of Man games I’ve started is insane.
I’ve mentioned war and diplomacy previously, with war being self explanatory and easy to manage once you have some vassals to pull additional troops from. Conquering settlements and holds until the war bar moves in your favour so you can enforce demands is the gist of it. Diplomacy is where the games interest & intrigue is, tho in truth it isn’t quite as effective as you would expect. Here children become tools, effectively guarantees for alliances and potential title claims down the line – marrying too many off everywhere can lead to potential inbreeding after several generations, so don’t got wild with it. Schemes are a great way of gaining favour too, allowing you to sway or seduce folk to your side and forming alliances as friends or lovers. You can also do these for more nefarious acts like murder or convert others to witches for possible burnings, there’s are surprising amount at your disposable as you grow. There’s actually a lot to the game that the tutorial barely, if ever, touches that I don’t have enough space to talk about here, so you’ll have plenty to discover yourself as you play.
Crusader Kings III is unsurprisingly a nigh-on perfect port of the PC original, only now with a console specific UI and the occasional bit of haptics to remind you that you’re playing on PS5. The game itself is one of the best you can get from Paradox, offering a medieval sandbox of glory & treachery as you build up your ruler of choice from the hundreds available. The only noteworthy slight would be the fact it doesn’t seem to want to help ease you in, even with a tutorial, so you’ll still be learning things tens of hours into your umpteenth game. Worth a try even if you’re not a fan of Paradox or the medieval setting as you can lose so many hours if it clicks, such as I will continue to do so until the Isle of Man rules Britannia.
A perfect port of medieval greed & treachery that’s worth struggling through the early years