Crusader Kings 3 is a masterpiece with serious flaws

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This is a piece of promotional material used by Paradox Interactive to promote the game “Crusader Kings III,” the recently released sequel to the fan favorite grand strategy game “Crusader Kings II.”

“Crusader Kings 3” (CK3) was released by Paradox Interactive (Paradox) on Sept. 1, 2020, to a flood of praise from critics. The release was nothing short of spectacular. It is an incredible comeback from the dismal failure that was the release of Paradox’s most recent grand strategy release, “Imperator: Rome,” on Apr. 25, 2019. CK3 won both the praise of game critics and the hearts of the community through ground-breaking new features. However, CK3 has serious issues in the mid to late game which has left some unsatisfied. 

Paradox chose to open CK3 to a wider player base with the introduction of sleeker interfaces.This decision prioritized the game’s aesthetics and ease of play over a greater variety of player actions. This choice was a success with a stunning high of 98,474 players at launch according to Steamcharts. This number surpassed the pathetic peak of 13,616 players which “Imperator: Rome” had at launch.

In addition to the ease of play, CK3 delivers an immersive, beautiful, and engaging gameplay during the early stages of the game. It has a bounty of unique, generated character events, intrigue options, challenges to face, nations to conquer, dynasties to build, and features to explore.

The plethora of new features introduced in this latest installment of the Crusader Kings franchise is truly astonishing. From three dimensional portraits, an immersive intrigue system, elegant displays, character lifestyle choices, and dynastic focus options, to intricate, personalized events, the new additions breathe life into this title.

While Paradox’s choice to simplify and beautify the game succeeded in drawing in many new players, it came at the cost of more in-depth player choice. As the player continues to play, they will advance into the mid and then late game. When they progress into these later stages, the enrapturing Crusades, pivotal battles, dark intrigue, and hard-fought wars present in the earlier stages, quickly subside. With increasingly large armies and territories to govern, the fast paced gameplay of the early game quickly dissolves. Action packed gameplay is replaced by the slow trek of empire building while many of the standout features from the early game become boring and commonplace. 

CK3 provides the player with the illusion of greater goals through extensive lifestyle choice trees, dynastic legacies, bountiful achievements, and webs of progression. However, nearly all of these are hollow; for the most part, they only provide static, boring modifiers, or a deeply unfulfilling and short-lived sense of achievement. Apart from self placed goals, a decent amount of formable nations, and a select few late game events (including a Mongol invasion), there are few things to drive the player forwards and make them want to play again. 

CK3 has all the potential to be a masterpiece. With additional content, it could evolve into one of the best strategy games of the decade and has the potential to win Game Of The Year. While CK3 has glaring problems in its mid to late game, its early-game is incredible. The present issues will likely be remedied over the coming years by both a plethora of updates and the community through free, player-made mods. For its potential, stunning art style, ease of play, and spectacular early game, CK3 gets a 7.5/10 overall.

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