Zero Lives Left – Crusader Kings II

Game: Crusader Kings II
Released: 2012
Available On: Mac (Review), PC
Genre: Real Time Strategy

I’m not really good at Real Time Strategy games. There’s this great story of me and my two friends wanting to have an all night Starcraft match. We hyped it up all day, we were saying ‘we start at midnight and we don’t stop UNTIL IT’S DONE!’ — Midnight hits and about thirty minutes into our epic Starcraft match I realize… I don’t really like RTS’s. I’m not that good at them and they just move too fast for me sometimes. I can appreciate how cool they are and what they represent to gaming, but since my early days playing Warcraft 2 and 3 I just can’t get into them the same anymore. I’m sure I wouldn’t even enjoy Warcraft the same anymore.

With that known, why would I be inspired to buy Crusader Kings II? A Real Time Grand Strategy game that has a huge learning curve and has so many small details in it that learning it, yet alone mastering it, is almost impossible? Well… two things. The first was that it was cheap on the Steam Summer Sale. The second was Game. Of. Thrones. There is a mod for the game that basically replicates the entire world and universe of Game of Thrones. Isn’t that fucking sweet?! So I knew that it was available for Mac and PC, and that my gaming PC would be fixed soon for the mod, AND that I could still play it on my Mac while I waited it was pretty much a no brainer.

The pictures for this one won’t be too exciting…

In Crusader Kings II you play a character with some sort of title or class or rank or whatever in ‘ye ol’ Fantasy world’. After that it all becomes a game of intrigue, piety, prestige and forming your family line to keep going on after you die. You don’t want to lose your kingdom, do you? You can choose to start the game in a big kingdom or you could choose to start as a duke or whatever in some small colony on the coast. What matters most after you start? Stay strong and get more land if you can. Get more power, keep your control going.

The game plays through the calendar of the game world and you can speed time up if you’re getting bored of waiting or pause it completely if too many problems are popping up. You can hire a council and appoint them to do tasks around your nation and they’ll stop by every now and again to tell you of their progress. The learning curve of the game is steep and alienating, I’ll warn you of that right now. There’s so much you can do; I’m sure there are game features that even I haven’t even gotten close to touching on in Crusader Kings. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, it’s good because it shows there’s a lot to learn and the game can get  incredibly deep. It’s bad because a lot of people won’t want to learn all the crap that goes with it.

And you know what? I don’t blame them.

…yup! Doesn’t this make the game seem exciting?

The game is surprisingly immersive. When I actually learned how to play the game and get going I spent an entire Sunday playing the game. I was the king of Poland, pretty boss, and I finally had my first kid. My family line would continue! I decided that I would raise my kid myself. Doing so brings up an event every so often where your kid will do something and you’ll get to scold them or teach them how to handle it or just let them do what they want. This will cause your kid to gain certain traits as he gets older. When your current character dies you’ll instantly begin playing as your next in line, so you’ll want to make your kin out to be a character you want to play.

So there I was making a perfect heir. He had the courage of my character and a lot of humility and respect all while being smart against intrigue and capable in war. He was PERFECT.

Then… he fell off a horse, got brain damage, fell into a coma and died two months later.

I was as heartbroken as one could be without actually losing their own kid. I was surprised how much I got bummed out when the horse accident message popped up on my screen. Sure, I had other kids so my family line would continue but I feel like my character lost a piece of him.

Because it’s a real time strategy the screen itself would be pretty boring. This is a game you’ll want to play in your head. You can look at it at face value and try to play ‘the perfect game’ or you could enter the mindset of your character. Make this RTS into an RPGRTS. That’s when I had the most fun with the game, when I really made hard decisions with my character and entered the world of Crusader Kings.

There was another moment in the same game with my dead kid where I befriended my ‘Intrigue Councilman’, my Spymaster. He uncovered tons of plots that were made by my underlings to attempt assassination on me. With that knowledge I saved my life and the life of my family (horses excluded). Eventually he came to me with some information about a possible plot to kill another one of my lords in one of my counties. He asked if he wanted me to confront the lord making the plot or to stay and try and get more information. I told him to stay and try and get more information and then two days later the lord he was spying on just outright  murdered him.

Add yet another moment in my poor king’s life where he blamed himself for the death of someone close to him.

That’s what this game is, that’s where the true fun comes. Yes, it takes a lot to learn and, yes, it’s a boring screen to look at, but take the game out of the screen and put it in your fucking head. It’s there that the game is played, use your active imagination to put yourself IN the game. If you can do that without feeling weird (because it isn’t weird) you’ll LOVE this game. It’s lots of fun and I’m going to play more of it soon.

I recommend it highly to people who like conspiracy, fantasy themed worlds and imagination. Do it.

Crusader Kings II: 8/10

Religion! That’s fun!

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