The Middle Ages full face - Crusader Kings II: Dark Ages review

Date: 2012-02-22 13:54:00
The review was based on the PC version.

Crusader Kings, released eight years ago, was one of the most underrated strategies of its time . The original rules of the game, the amazing atmosphere of the Middle Ages and a surprisingly faithful representation of feudal realities - even these advantages were not enough to make the game shine on the market firmament. After many years of waiting and releasing countless other titles, Paradox finally returned to its forgotten, but very interesting work. The sequel published on February 14 turned out to be not only a worthy successor to the original, but even - and I'm not afraid to write it - one of the most outstanding strategies of recent times .

People familiar with the works of Paradox will immediately feel at home in this game - Crusader Kings II is a huge, multidimensional and very complex real-time strategy with the option of active pause. Similarly to the works from the Europa Universalis , Hearts of Iron or Total War series (to also look at the competition), so here we are dealing with comprehensive state management, great politics and a gigantic scale of gameplay, covering all of Europe, and part of Asia and Africa. To successfully rule his dominion, the player must devote as much attention to war issues as diplomacy or economics. So this is a truly total strategy - in the most literal sense of the word.

What distinguishes Crusader Kings II from the previously mentioned productions? First of all, incredible fidelity in the representation of the Middle Ages . The game is a real paradise for fanatics of history - but it does not manifest itself solely in the compatibility of various families and characters with the existing ones, but mainly in the mechanics of the game. The fun is not only to lead to the battle of subsequent beds of loyal soldiers, but above all to the interaction between people. It so happens that the mere fact of being a king does not prejudge anything - after all, it may happen that our vassals will decide to obey us or even reach for the crown. The essential element of the game is therefore taking care of relations with other characters - not only the rulers of other countries, but also with their own courtiers or even family. If we don't take care of it, surely one of the sons will decide to appropriate our titles, and the rebellious chat will go to our castle, burning us alive. The player's character exists in this world in the most real way - he can die, get sick, have his own private desires, love and character traits. The RPG layer in Crusader Kings is one of the most important elements of all the fun and - which is worth emphasizing - perfectly implemented .

The personal dimension of the game adds to its addictive, even emotional character - in few games you can really experience the murder of your own son, brought up outside from a small, trained, hunted and cured by the best healers. The same son with whom she spoke on long autumn evenings (dialogue lines as in any RPG - each choice affects the development and characteristics of the child) and with whom he went on war expeditions. In no other strategy has the death of an individual been (and probably won't be) as painful. The creators of standing up applause for such a huge immersion .

Okay, but how do the erpeg dependencies translate into the rules of the game? It is very simple - the player controls the head of his family, and at the time of her death he takes control of her descendant, thereby continuing to play . A typical move is therefore to buy in the favor of a king, give his own son for one of his daughters, and then murder all the other contenders for the throne. In this way, right after the death of our character, we will be able to play the game not as a poor count, but as a great king who has just gained power thanks to a clever marriage (note - without even a single battle!).

The game does not impose any purpose - it is the participant who decides what he wants to achieve . It may as well be social advancement (from count to emperor - why not?), Economic development or winning in a great war with infidels. The key is usually the house itself - if it expires, the game will end in a definitive and irrevocable manner. Ambitions can be satisfied in many ways, and the game constantly brings new ideas - our subordinates are constantly plotting conspiracies, hordes of barbarians invade the borders, and the Pope can invite us to participate in the crusade. If we want, we have a chance to change the system of the state, its laws and customs, and even religion and inheritance - there are many options. So, as you can see, this is an ideal sandbox - it gives us infinitely many different challenges and offers a whole range of possible solutions . This philosophy of fun makes the game almost never get bored - it still has something interesting to offer and slowly but systematically reveals another of its advantages.

An additional plus is that you can play with very different characters - from a poor count from Gotland to the Byzantine emperor . The only restrictions are: religion (you cannot play Muslims and pagans) and social status (e.g. bishops do not have legal descendants, so playing them would be very short). If someone does not like the open model of fun, they can always choose one of the scenarios prepared by the creators - in them the assumptions are usually more specific and the goal clearer. So everyone should find something for themselves.

The player's activity is not limited to interpersonal interactions - as in most strategy games, he must also deal with more mundane matters, such as economy or war . The first of these elements is very simplified in Crusader Kings II - there is no way to direct trade, it is difficult to even talk about raw materials (only money, prestige and points of faith exist). The entire economic layer is therefore limited to the development of own properties: you can build shrines, defensive walls, towers, etc. - each of these elements in some way affects the quality of the entire domain. Some simplicity of this model is not a disadvantage - if not for such a solution of economic issues, we would have too much on our mind, thereby losing the joy of the game. So while managing the economy is slightly less complicated than in Europe Universalis III or Hearts of Iron III , it must be admitted that in the end this production turned out good.

What about war, loved so much by all players? This one takes place in a manner typical of other Paradox strategies - we direct armies on the strategic map, but we have no influence on the course of the battles themselves . Fans of spectacular clashes may feel aggrieved - Crusader Kings II gives space here to productions such as King Arthur or the Total War series. It is true that the military are still quite an interesting element of the game, but certainly not the main - much more fun brings plotting and intelligent management of marriages.

The visual setting is also not impressive - the aforementioned competitive productions not only break the "Crusader" into shoulders, but also pull his head with his spine (a la Mortal Kombat ). A small amount of effects, not very detailed textures, ugly portraits of characters and general vanity - it really catches the eye. On the other hand, it is fair to look at the graphics from a slightly broader perspective - if we compare this game with the previous works of Paradox, it will become obvious that this is by far the most beautiful of their strategies . On the other hand, one can only say about music that it exists and has a quite pleasant atmosphere - and that's basically everything.