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Crusader Kings

Score: 95%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Strategy First
Developer: Paradox
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Strategy


Graphics & Sound:

Crusader Kings doesn't have all the flash and pomp of other real time strategy games. Instead, it goes with an interface and 2D map that are both solid looking and feeling. This system not only has a unique and colorful feel to it, but it provides for a very flexible control system. The map can be made to show regional borders, religious affiliation, troop movement, and much more, all at the push of a button. The graphics also provide for some nice little touches, like your character's portrait. As you progress through the game, you will go through many generations of family, and each line will carry on the physical traits of the previous one, so you get to see your genes dominate through the centuries.

The sound is well coupled with the visuals. The harmonic score is varied and plays constantly as you oversee your dominion. The sound effects are as solid as the interface, and though you don't actually see battles happen, you certainly can picture them with the war-like effects that are provided.


Gameplay:

Crusader Kings lets you control any kingdom, duchy, or county in Europe from the time of the Battle of Hastings all the way to the early fifteenth century. As the leader of one of these provinces, you will set taxes, appoint counselors, raise armies, build an infrastructure, marry off your children for inheritance purposes, and try to cope with the rest of the world as they look out for their own interests. The strategies you can employ are boundless, and the outcomes branch out just as much. On top of all that, the developers that make this game also made Europa Universalis, meaning if you survive to the end of Crusader Kings you can import your game into Europa Universalis and keep trucking for another few hundred years.

The very beginning of the game will give you an idea of how deep things can get in Crusader Kings. There is a list of kingdoms, counties, and duchies you can start as that's as long as my arm. You can rule as king, or you can serve under the king of any country as a Duke or Count. The difference is the number of provinces you have to manage. As a count, you only have one, but you may be called upon by your king to drop everything and go romping around the countryside slaughtering his enemies.

On the home front, you must appoint your counselors from your pool of courtiers. These counselors will help you in war, diplomacy, espionage, economy, and religion. There is virtually no limit to the number of people generated in the game, and each person has various traits that will affect how they act. If you appoint a scheming Marshall to look after your armies, or a traitorous treasurer, bad things may come.

Structurally, you must impose laws, fix taxes, build improvements, and research new technology. This is the most intricate part of the game, and if you don't have a strategy planned out, it's easy to get in over your head. On the other hand, if you have a general idea of what you want to do, things start becoming very intuitive and it gets easier to feel your way through it all.

The game becomes a whole new experience when you get online. 8 people can go through the entire timeline, and each can play as any of the people in the single player game. This gives Multiplayer at least three different levels of depth, with lower Counts and Dukes possibly joining forces to fight a stronger player who is a King.


Difficulty:

Crusader Kings is definitely no walk in the park, but it does have something to offer most everybody. Newcomers to these types of games may be turned off by the sheer depth offered, but all others should be able to pick it up quickly and at least accomplish something with minimal effort. Knowledge of the instruction manual is a must, though. There are just some things that don't add up without proper explanation, and thankfully, that is what is in the manual. Over all, with the different difficulty levels and different choices of leadership to play as, Crusader Kings is one of those games that takes little time (relatively) to learn but a lot of dedication to master.

Game Mechanics:

Even though it looks more like a board game, Crusader Kings takes place in real time. It may seem strange at first, but it works surprisingly well. The system has been beefed up a little from past titles like Europa Universalis, making it easier for newcomers to jump right into this style of gameplay. Days fly by at whatever speed you set, and moving armies across the map is denoted by a directional arrow that doubles as a progress bar.

For all its intricacies, Crusader Kings comes together so well that it's easy to become absorbed in the feudal world it provides and from then on everything becomes second nature. This game is truly one of ultimate strategy, as battles take place at the whim of a calculator and happen in turns, and are decided upon by a great many factors that you have to trust and let go of when they enter the fray.

Crusader Kings can be a casual game, but it shines when you sit down to put some serious effort into it. The gameplay is so open ended that stories could be written about a single player's experience. The act of inheritance in the game deserves volumes alone, and can become so convoluted that one minute you may be count of Kaliske, and the next you could be King of Italy. Used properly and it can be your greatest weapon. Crusader Kings is every arm chair Emperor's dream, and should definitely be checked out by anyone who has even a fleeting interest in large scale strategy games.


-Snow Chainz, GameVortex Communications
AKA Andrew Horwitz

Minimum System Requirements:



600Mhz Processor, 256 MB RAM, ATI Radeon or GeForce card
 

Test System:



Windows ME, AMD Athlon 1.4 GHz Processor, 256 MB RAM, 128 MB GeForce FX 5200 Video Card, 40 GB Hard Drive, Creative Labs Sound Card, Cable Modem Internet Connetion

Windows Nemesis of the Roman Empire Windows Didi and Ditto: Kindergarten

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated