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Crusader Kings III Review

Crusader Kings III Review

Crusader Kings III is the newest installment for the CK franchise by Paradox Interactive. One of the biggest and probably most complicated grand strategy game around Crusader Kings III justifies the success of its predecessors.

What is Crusader Kings III about though? Is it just a sequel that expands on previous formulas? Does it have anything new? Read on to find out.

This review will be split into a Storyline, Gameplay, Visuals, and finally, Personal Thoughts sections. Without further ado:


The game takes place in the medieval era where empires like the Byzantine still reigned (mostly) supreme. But the game has no dedicated lore or story.

Instead, due to the Dynasty system, you actually build your own story through your actions and characters (more on the Dynasty system further below).


The game starts when you pick a ruler. Your ruler can be anyone with a title, beginning from the lowest (Count) to the highest (Emperor). You can also be independent as a King or Count, or you can be a vassal of someone.

You can also set your culture and religion, as well as Dynasty name. You also set your character’s stats and traits, age, and (optional) spouse and children. Unlike the previous games, your traits are not just stat-sticks.

Instead, your stats play an important role in the dynamic events you encounter as they interact with the new Stress mechanic. Let’s say for example that you want your character to be ambitious so you can get +2 in everything. Some events may have options that an ambitious character would not do, and if you take that decision, you gain stress.

Stress has 3 levels and starting from Level 1, every few months, your character will have mental breaks and you will either have to get a (usually) undesirable trait to lower it or further increase it and risk the higher consequences which include murder or even abdication.

One of the first things you have to do in the game is to manage your territory. You have to set councilors and marry someone if you are not already married. It’s very important to have some kids as early as possible as you can lose if no viable heirs remain.

Speaking of which; each ruler has a lifespan (which is random but is influenced by health, your choices, and various other things.

One of the newer things to note is your Lifestyle. You can choose 1 of 5 Lifestyles that all correspond to the game’s major stats; Diplomacy, Martial, Intrigue, Stewardship, and Learning. Each Lifestyle has 3 trees that focus on 1 specific mechanic of that specific stat.

To add to the roleplaying, your strongest stat gives bonus points to its corresponding Lifestyle. Of course, you can choose a whole different Lifestyle, but where’s the fun in that?

Each stat influences gameplay, and when your character dies, you play as a descendant, you have to learn to adapt to each new character’s strengths and weaknesses.

I already listed the stats, but I will list their playstyle, albeit loosely;

  • Diplomacy: Pretty straightforward, Diplomacy is all about good relations and prestige. Diplomacy also helps with many things regarding titles.
  • Martial: Again, straightforward. Martial is all about war. You have better command of your armies, more of them, plus a little better control of your counties.
  • Intrigue: With Intrigue, you are a master schemer. You can become an expert in killing people and creating Hooks which are secrets you know and can use. You can also play as a tyrant or become irresistibly seductive to other people.
  • Stewardship: Money and more money. Stewardship is all about money and domain management. You also gain much better control with your counties.
  • Learning: Learning is about piety, religion, and health. Learning can also help you with different cultures, either if you began as a different cultured leader that the majority of his territory, or y conquering new territories.

There are also some secondary stats and resources. Those include:

  • Renown: Renown helps with giving your Dynasty powerful permanent bonuses.
  • Dread: Dread simply dictates how tyrannic you are.
  • Prowess: Prowess is your personal strength, useful in duels and war.

Now about managing your kingdom. You have 5 councilors, each for 1 major stat. Every councilor can do 1 of 3 tasks, so choose wisely, as each task has its pros and cons. Also, make sure to balance your council between pleasing powerful vassals and having high stat councilors.

After that, you have a world of choices. You can start fabricating claims on titles you want to conquer, build infrastructure in your cities, improve relations, and create alliances.

Now conquering in this game doesn’t work the usual way where you just conquer and rule everything. Based on your Stewardship stat, you have a maximum domain limit, and when you cross that you lose taxes and levies (money and armies).

To avoid that, you have to give an unlanded character some titles therefore making him your vassal. However, if you are a count, you cannot give any titles because they would have an equal title to yours thus making you lose your title. So one of the goals you should have as a Count is to take all the de Jure titles of a Duchy (that means all the original titles of that duchy). Then you will be able to become a Duke.

If your liege is a Duke, you won’t be able to become a Duke for the aforementioned reason. However, you could conquer a de Jure Kingdom in which case your Liege becomes King and may give some Duchies (or you can create one on your own).

You do have to be careful of one thing though. Most of the empires in the game have a pretty terrible succession law that actually splits your land between the children. If there is more than one boy, the major titles go the first-born and the rest are split equally among the other. If there is only one boy, everything goes to him. If there are no boys, everything is split equally between the girls.

So you have to be careful, or your empire will be split into pieces like Alexander’s the Great. Your (new) brothers don’t even become vassals, they just rule independently.

Things like succession laws cannot be simply changed by any ruler anymore. They can only be changed if you are in the correct era and you are the cultural head. You are your culture’s cultural head if you are the person that controls the most titles compared to other people in your culture.

Your cultural focus choices depend on the era, but generally have to do with units, building and laws.

Of course, without the sheer amount of expansions (yet) the game doesn’t have all that much variance (at least compared to Crusader Kings 2). But there sure are many more expansions to come.

All in all though, between managing a kingdom, war and public and personal relations, the game won’t get stale any time soon.


The visuals have considerably upgraded from the previous installment. In fact, you probably won’t be able to run it on older PCs.

The character editing has also improved and is something like an MMORPG, you can edit pretty much everything.

Personal Thoughts

Generally, the game is very good for any strategy game lover. It’s the perfect amount of complexity and fun, all while keeping replayability through the roof.

And all that without any major expansions mind you!

The game definitely has huge potential, with its one minus being (as usual) the steep price. Even if you can afford the base game, every expansion will add to both the excitement and the price. So it’s best to decide beforehand if you’re willing to make that investment. It sure is worth it though.

Final Verdict:

Storyline: –

Gameplay: 9

Visuals: 9

General Rating: 9

That’s it for my review. Have you tried it yet? Do you like the changes aimed at more roleplaying? Leave your comments below.

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