Crusader Kings II
|Crusader Kings II|
|Developer(s)||Paradox Development Studio|
|Release date(s)||Microsoft Windows
February 14, 2012
Mac OS X
May 24, 2012
January 14, 2013
|Distribution||CD, digital distribution|
Crusader Kings II is a grand strategy game set in the High and Late Middle Ages developed by Paradox Development Studio and published by Paradox Interactive as a sequel to Crusader Kings. It was released for Microsoft Windows on February 14, 2012 to positive reviews. A Mac OS X version, Paradox Interactive's first in-house development for Mac OS X, was released on May 24, 2012. A Linux version was released on January 14, 2013. The game contains numerous historical figures such as William the Conqueror, Harold Godwinson, Harald Hardrada, Robert Guiscard, El Cid, Constantine X Doukas, Alexios I Komnenos, and Saladin.
The latest patch is, as of 16 December 2013, version 2.0.2.
The game is a dynasty simulator where the player controls a Medieval dynasty from 1066 to 1453, though the DLC The Old Gods allows for a start date of 867. Through the strategic use of war, marriages and assassinations among many other things, the player works to achieve success for his or her dynasty. The simulation is open-ended so the definition of 'success' is completely defined by the player. The only in-game objective is to obtain as many prestige points as possible in order to surpass the various historically relevant Christian dynasties in a fictional prestige ranking (the three most prestigious ones being the Capetian dynasty, the Rurikovich and the von Habsburg). The game ends when the player's current character dies without an heir of the same dynasty to succeed him/her.
The game employs a genetics and education system where children will inherit many traits, culture, religion and skills from their parents and guardian. This adds an additional layer of strategy to marriages, such that a player will attempt not only to form beneficial alliances, but also to select marriage partners with strong heritable traits to maximise the quality of offspring and thus strengthen the dynasty. This requires balancing sometimes conflicting interests: for instance, a beneficial marriage to a prestigious family may provide a strong alliance but carry the negative consequence that some less prestigious courtiers or commoners who provide no meaningful alliance may otherwise have excellent traits, with the player missing the opportunity to incorporate those into their family
While a player can choose almost any landed noble to play, there are some which are unplayable without the use of mods, notably: Theocracies (most notably The Papacy) and landed Holy Orders/Mercenaries (for example, the Templars or the Catalan Company). Muslims, Pagans and Republics are playable with the Sword of Islam, The Old Gods and The Republic DLC respectively.
There are five levels of authority in the game; the four highest of which are playable at the start:
- Emperor, Kaiser, Basileus, Shahanshah, Khagan – originally the Muslim "Caliph" title was Emperor-level, but was downgraded in the 1.06 patch to duke-level for the Sunni and Shia Caliphates.
- King, Despot, Sultan, Serene Doge, King Bishop, Khan, Prince Mayor. The title 'King' is equivalent to the title 'Archduke' if the holder bends the knee to an Emperor or person of equivalent title.
- Duke, Doux, Emir, Doge, Grand Prince, High Chief, Prince Archbishop, Grand Mayor, Jarl, Petty King, Caliph
- The second lowest rank is that of the Count – variations are Earl, Sheikh, Wâli, Chief, Lord Mayor, Prince Bishop, Metropolitan (Orthodox)
- The lowest in-game rank of authority is that of the Baron – variations are Timariot, Shaman, Mayor, Bishop, Patrician – of which only Patrician is a playable rank if the player owns the The Republic DLC, as the government of only a single holding with no non-commoner courtiers to command would provide the player with very few or no opportunities for intrigue
The basic provincial unit of the game is the "county". Each county contains a preset number of holdings, with the maximum being seven holdings in a single county, including the comital capital. The holdings can be of three types: castle, city or temple holding. A castle is ruled by a baron, a city is ruled by a Mayor, and a temple is ruled by a bishop (each one having their own cultural and religious variations, such as the Muslim Mosque). Generally, a county has a capital set on a barony, but some counties (most notably in Italy) have city or temples set as the capital (ex: Rome is a temple-capital county and Venice is a city-capital county). As the player incorporates a lay nobleman, it can only exert control adequate over counties with castles as capitals or he'll suffer the "wrong holding type" penalty in revenue – thus, city and temple holdings must be given to mayors and bishops. Exceptionally, Muslim rulers can control Mosques, which grant piety points. If the player owns The Republic DLC, the player can also take control of a coastal republic, like Venice, Genoa, The Hansa, Gotland or Cherson. In this case city holdings, instead of baronies, can be held without penalty.
The collection of holdings controlled by one characters is called a demesne. The demesne is limited for each character (the maximum number of holdings being defined by the character's traits). If the character has holdings above the limit of his demesne, not only will he or she incur revenue penalties, but the character's vassals will also be displeased. Thus, the game forces players to give his overflow land to vassals, forming the basic principles of feudalism.
Each ruler has a council of five members, which perform specific functions. There is the Chancellor (Grand Vizier for the Muslims), which handles diplomacy and has the ability of fabricating claims for their liege upon counties and duchies held by other characters. The Marshal is the overall commander of the liege's military forces in the battlefield, and during peacetime can train troops, suppress revolts and help research military technology. The Steward can collect taxes, oversee the construction of new buildings and help research economy technology. The Spymaster can discover plots, steal technologies from foreign peoples and build spy networks to help in assassinations. Finally, the Court Chaplain (Court Imam for the Muslims and Patriarch for the Orthodox) can be placed in a county to convert its populace to the liege's religion, and improve diplomatic relations with religious heads such as the Pope or help research culture technology.
There are two kind of laws in the game: the Tax and Levy laws – which determine the taxes your vassals (feudal, burgher and clergymen vassals) must pay, and also the number of levies they must provide – and the Succession Laws – which can be of two types: gender and inheritance laws. Succession laws are of fundamental gameplay importance, as the game over condition is the player's inability of establishing a dynastic heir. As a rule, succession is patrilineal, which means marriage offsprings will always be from the father's dynasty, but there is the option of matrilineal marriages for female characters, which means the offspring will be from the mother's lineage.
Gender Laws are the following:
- Agnatic – Only males inheirt
- Agnatic-Cognatic – Females can inherit, but only if there are no eligible male heirs.
- Absolute Cognatic – Women inheirt on the same grounds as men do. (this type of succession is only available to Basque culture characters and after 2.0.1 patch also to the rulers with Cathar religion)
However, although Paradox added Enatic (males are entirely excluded from succession) and Enatic-Cognatic (females have preference) succession in a recent patch, these are only accessible through modifications to the base game
Inheritance Laws are:
- Gavelkind – The most common law, in which the inheritance is divided among all eligible children, the oldest inheriting the primary title. This succession type allows for a 30% larger demesne, the disadvantage is that it fractures the demesne upon succession.
- Feudal Elective – The heir elected by vassals holding elector titles inherits all titles. This type gives an opinion boost to vassals, but it might have an heir not from the players dynasty--therefore ending the game.
- Seniority – the oldest dynasty member inherits all titles. The disadvantage is that it usually results in elder characters inheriting, potentially creating a quick succession of short-lived rulerships
- Primogeniture – the firstborn child inherits all titles, in depth-first search descent. Arguably the most advantageous inheritance type, but it incurs in a slight prestige penalty for landless progeny
- Agnatic Open/Turkish Succession – available to every Muslim character (and also the only type of succession available) – the son that holds most titles inherits all his father's titles.
- Patrician Elective (With The Republic DLC) – the only succession type for Merchant Republics – the heir is decided upon by a calculation of age, prestige, and a unique campaign fund feature from the 5 patrician families. Only males can inherit.
- Investiture - only succesion law for bishoprics where the successor can be appointent by the ruler if under Free Investiture or by the Pope if under Papal Investiture. If there is no appointed heir then the game will chose character from the court of the bishop or create a new character if there is no suitable characters in the bishops court.
- Elective Open – the only succession type for Republics (and also some types of holdings under the player level) – the game will chose a character from the republic rulers court or create a new character if there is no suitable characters in the mayors court.
- Tanistry – open to Celtic Culture group which, like the Elective system allows vassals to choose the heir but restricts the choice to members of the current holders dynasty (added in the January 2013 patch to version 1.09)
- Ultimogeniture – the default succession type for Ilkhanate, the Golden Horde and the barony of Altenburg, in which the youngest child of the ruler inherits all the rulers titles upon their death (added in the January 2013 patch to version 1.09)
- Appointment - Used by Holy Orders feudal vassals called Commanders. All feudal titles are granted by the Grandmaster and revert back to him after the holder dies.
- Papal Succession - Pope's succesion law where elected Cardinal's chose the next Pope among themselves. Only used by the Pope if the player owns the Sons of Abraham DLC.
King and Emperor-level characters also have a special set of available laws, the "Crown Authority Laws", which simulate the power exerted by the monarch over his vassals. For example, with "autonomous vassals law", the monarch cannot revoke vassal's titles, and they only provide levies to their liege if they hold him or her in high regard. In "absolute crown authority law", the vassals are entirely forbidden of waging war against each other and foreign enemies and must provide a sizable amount of levies.
Warfare is waged by three types of soldiers: retinue troops, levies, and mercenaries. Levies can be raised freely from the character's own demesne, and from the vassals with an opinion penalty for the time they are raised – the longer the vassal's levies are raised, the lower their opinion gets (thus serving the same purpose as the "war exhaustion" penalty common in other Paradox games). Amount of troops depends of the laws of the realm and the opinion of the vassal towards the liege. The 1.07 patch introduced retinues, which can be raised depending on the technological level and size of the realm. Differently from levies, which permanently cost maintenance while raised, retinues only cost money during their creation and while having their losses replenished. When in full numbers, the retinue can function as a costless standing army.
Mercenaries are available in specific numbers and with a pre-defined composition of military classes (i.e. heavy infantry, cavalry, skirmishers, etc.). The player can hire various historical mercenary companies (such as the White Company or the Catalan Company) and also generic mercenary groups for specific cultures (for example, the Muslim rulers can hire Mamelukes, and Russian princes can contract with the Pechenegs, while the Byzantine Emperor specifically can hire the Varangian Guard). Mercenaries receive a monthly payment while raised, if the ruler is unable to afford their services, they either disband automatically or declare war against the former employer, settling in a province if they conquer it.
There are also Holy Orders available for Catholic rulers: the Templar Knights, the Hospitallers and the Teutonic Knights. The Orders can be purchased with piety points as mercenaries. However they will only fight heretics and non-Christians. While a Crusade is in progress or if the character is defending against an infidel in a holy war, the Orders cost no maintenance. In the Sons of Abraham DLC all main branch religions were given atleast one Holy Order and Catholic faith got two new ones. These new Holy Orders are only accessable if you own the Sons of Abraham DLC.
Wars cannot be declared freely, but rather demand a casus belli that justifies it (as in other Paradox games). CBs can range from territorial claims, inheritance claims to religious justifications (Holy Wars that allow attacking a character of an opposing religion). There is also the "invasion" CB which allows a character to wage war to conquer the entirety of the territory possessed by another character (only if the invaded holds more counties than the invader), which can only be granted by the Pope or the Orthodox Patriarch. Muslims have a specific invasion CB to invade and conquer the counties of their neighbors, while the Mongols have a free "invasion" CB to conquer an entire kingdom. The 1.07 patch allowed the Byzantine Empire the "Imperial reconquest" CB, which permits them to invade and conquer a duchy that historically belonged to the territory of the Roman Empire. This was later restricted in patch 1.08 to the restored Roman Empire.
Inside the intrigue tab of the game UI, the player can browse various "ambitions" and "plots", and also implement "decisions" when certain conditions are met. Ambitions establish determinate conditions for the player that, when concluded, produce specific rewards. Plots involve other characters, and range from assassination plots (in which characters form a conspiracy to murder another one) to liege-vassal relation plots (for example, a vassal may plot to fabricate a claim on a title held by his liege).
The 1.07 patch introduced a new plotting feature, which are the "factions", coalitions formed by vassals against their liege, with a specific purpose such as lowering Crown Authority or becoming independent. If the conspiracy is strong enough (measured in the percentage of troops the faction commands in comparison to that of the liege), the faction will send an ultimatum to the liege with the demands, which, if denied, will result in a civil war.
Decisions include the possibility of hosting Feasts, Summer Fairs, Great Hunts or the Grand Tournament, which usually serve to improve the liege's relation with the vassals and courtiers. Muslims have specific decisions (introduced by the Sword of Islam DLC), such as undertaking a pilgrimage to Mecca, while the Byzantine Emperor also has a particular set of decisions (brought by the Legacy of Rome expansion), like the possibility of healing the Great Schism and restoring the Roman Empire. The later DLC's have all added new decisions that become available when your characters has certain religion, culture or trait.
Each religion has an amount of "moral authority" – the lower the moral authority, the higher are the chances of heresies appearing and expanding. Larger religions have specific heresies (for example, a Catholic heresy is the Cathars, Orthodox Christianity has Iconoclasm as a heresy and Sunni Islam has the Zikri). The moral authority is affected by various factors, including the number of holy sites held (for example, Rome for Catholics), the piety of the religious head and the outcomes of holy wars.
The larger religions also have a "religious head" (the Pope for the Catholics, the Ecumenical Patriarch for the Orthodox and two Caliphs for Shia and Sunni Islam). The Pope is independent and starts as an independent king-level ruler, but can become a vassal of any emperor if the emperor installs their own anti-pope in Rome. The Orthodox Patriarch is by default a vassal of the Byzantine Emperor. Few religion heresies are able to create their own religious heads in certain situations after Sons of Abraham DLC.
In this game, "pagan" is an umbrella term that includes the remnants of Norse Paganism, the Baltic Pagans (called Romuva), the Finnish Paganism (Suomenusko) which extends to north-western Russia, the Steppe people's Tengriism, West African Paganism and Slavic Paganism Following the release of the Old Gods, each pagan religion has the ability to 'reform' itself, granting it a religious head, improved resistance to conversion by Christian and Islamic rulers, and the ability to wage holy wars. Aztec religion also falls under this if the person owns Sunset Invasion DLC that ables event that launches a fantasy scennario where Aztec's invade western Europe.
Holy Wars are a fundamental feature in this game. There is a generic "Holy War" Casus Belli against opposing religions for every character that belongs to an organised faith, which targets a single de-jure duchy (i.e. the Duchy of Toulouse or of Toledo). The Pope, the Sunni/Shia Caliphs, and if reformed, all the heads of the pagan religions, can call, respectively, Crusades, Jihads and Great Holy Wars against infidels. These are larger wars which target entire de-jure Kingdoms (i.e. the Kingdom of France or Castille). Characters which join any of these larger holy wars are granted "contribution points" in the joint war-effort. Unless the crown in question is already possessed by a character of the Crusaders' religion or the title has living claimants of that religion alive, the character which obtains the largest contribution percentage if the Crusade/Jihad is won conquers the de-jure Kingdom for himself. Wars against heretics can only be called by members of the mother religion (thus only Catholics can war against Cathars, and vice-versa).
Expansions and DLC
As with Paradox's most recent games, Crusader Kings II is updated through patches, with packs of extra features being released as DLC available through Steam or the in-game store which is connected to GamersGate. Content that has been released varies from music, unit and portrait packs to a Ruler Designer, that allows the player to design their own character with his or her very own Dynasty.
Sword of Islam
On May 29, 2012, Paradox revealed the first expansion for the game, Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam. It was released on June 26, 2012. It allowed the player to play as a Muslim ruler and introduced a series of new features.
The plethora of changes included a stylized HUD screen for Muslim players, and various specific events like the possibility of undertaking a pilgrimage to Mecca, but also new mechanics, such as polygamy and a reworked "Invasion CB". Perhaps the most notable new feature introduced was decadence, which simulates the rise and fall of dynasties in the Muslim world. The decadence amount increases proportionate to the number of landless dynasty members. In short-term, it incurs in effects such as lowering the morale of the realm's armies, but if it gets too high (above 70%) it'll result in the appearance of a warlord commanding a horde of desert warriors, which will war to topple the decadent dynasty and install itself as the ruling one. Thus, dynasty micromanagement becomes an even more pressing concern to Islamic rulers, especially as the dynasty grows large.
Legacy of Rome
On August 28, 2012, Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome was announced as the next expansion for Crusader Kings II. It was released on October 16, 2012. Legacy of Rome largely focused on improvements to the Byzantine Empire and Orthodox Church among other announced improvements.
Some changes were implemented to all Orthodox rulers, such as re-skinned Council members in the map-mode and autocephalous Patriarchs who replace the standard Court Chaplain, while some were specific to the Byzantine culture group characters (which includes Greeks, Armenians and Georgians), such as the possibility of blinding and castrating prisoners. A new set of events and decisions were created specifically to the Byzantine Emperor, the most notable ones being the option to attempt to heal the Great Schism and restore the Roman Empire. In-game, implementing the decision of healing the schism automatically converts various Catholic rulers into Orthodox and downgrades the entire Catholic religion into an Orthodox heresy. If the player restores the Roman Empire, he can use the new "Imperial Reconquest" casus belli.
On October 31, 2012, Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion was announced by Paradox as the next expansion. proclaimed to be the first-ever entirely fantasy add-on to the game, which is based on an alternate history scenario of the Aztecs sailing across the Atlantic Ocean and invading countries from Western Europe in the 13th century. The Aztecs are designed to function as a horde, similar to the Mongols that invade from Asia, and are purposed to provide a challenge to players in western European territories in mid-late game, disembarking in Portugal, Spain, Mauritania, England, Ireland, Brittany, Iceland and France.
The initial reaction regarding the Sunset Invasion DLC by a majority of the more vocal playerbase was overtly negative. One online article on the DLC announcement stated, "The initial reaction of a huge number of fans was indeed puzzling, since they seemed to be extensively hostile towards this DLC. Only a bit later have the heads cooled off and people started talking rationally."
On December 8, 2012, The Republic, was unveiled in an exclusive PC Gamer interview with Henrik Fåhraeus, a project lead from Paradox Development Studios. The DLC allows for most merchant republics, that have a coastal province, to be playable with additional new content in the way of graphical and interface differences while playing as a republic. The Republic was released on January 14, 2013.
The Old Gods
On January 31, 2013, at the Paradox Convention 2013 Paradox's CEO, Fredrik Wester, revealed The Old Gods as the next DLC for Crusader Kings II. The DLC allows for Pagan and Zoroastrian characters to be played, and provides the option of an 867 AD start date. The DLC was released on May 28, 2013.
Sons of Abraham
On October 22, 2013, Sons of Abraham was revealed over a livestream to be the next DLC for Crusader Kings II. The DLC adds new content for the two existing abrahamic religions, while adding Judaism to the game. It also adds at least one Holy Order for each religion, general enhancements of Holy Orders, and the ability for a heresy to supplant the main religion. It was released on November 18, 2013.
In addition to the gameplay expansions, Paradox have released a number of minor, cosmetic DLC packages. These add extra shields, portraits or music to the game, but do not change the gameplay in any way.
- Dynasty Shield DLC packs include additional sets of coats-of-arms for many families.
- Crusader Kings II: Dynasty Shields
- Crusader Kings II: Dynasty Shields II
- Crusader Kings II: Dynasty Shields III
- The portraits DLC packs expand the range of facial characteristics game characters can take, reflecting more ethnic diversity.
- Crusader Kings II: Mongol Faces
- Crusader Kings II: African Portraits
- Crusader Kings II: Russian Portraits
- Crusader Kings II: Mediterranean Portraits
- Crusader Kings II: Norse Portraits
- Crusader Kings II: Celtic Portraits
- Music DLC packs expand the in-game soundtrack, with some music playing in association with certain in-game circumstances such as the cultural or religious affiliation of the player's character.
- Crusader Kings II: Songs of Albion
- Crusader Kings II: Songs of Faith
- Crusader Kings II: Songs of the Holy Land
- Crusader Kings II: Songs of the Caliph
- Crusader Kings II: Songs of Byzantium
- Crusader Kings II: Songs of the Rus
- Crusader Kings II: Songs of Prosperity
- Crusader Kings II: Hymns to the Old Gods
- Crusader Kings II: Hymns of Abraham
- Allows the player to custom design their own character before beginning play.
- Crusader Kings II: Ruler Designer
- Allows in-play modification of existing characters, dynasties, and holdings such as ability to name all children of your dynasty that were born in your court, modifying the coat-of-arms or name of a family, and adjusting non-heritable characteristics such as hair style. Can only be performed on characters, dynasties, or holdings the player's character has direct control of.
- Crusader Kings II: Customization Pack
- Unit packs change the way certain units in the game look to reflect their cultural origin.
- Crusader Kings II: African Unit Pack
- Crusader Kings II: Byzantine Unit Pack
- Crusader Kings II: Russian Unit Pack
- Crusader Kings II: Norse Unit Pack
- Crusader Kings II: Celtic Unit Pack
- Crusader Kings II: Warriors of Faith Unit Pack
- Crusader Kings II: Military Orders Unit Pack
- Allows translating the player's Crusader Kings II game-world into Europa Universalis IV. This creates a "mod" for EU4, where details and characteristics of a CK2 game world are adjusted to be representable within the game mechanics of EU4.
- Crusader Kings II: Europa Universalis IV Save Game Converter
A total conversion mod based on George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novels was released in May 2012. In May 2013, a massive expansion adding the eastern continent of Essos was announced.
Another total conversion mod based on Bethesda Softworks's The Elder Scrolls video game series was in development since early July, 2012 and received its first release on April 1, 2013. Entitled Elder Kings the Mod recreates the majority of known landmasses of Nirn. Tamriel includes all 9 provinces (Including the Orcs homeland Orsinium, though not as its own province.) Akavir, Atmora, Cathnoquey, Esroniet Pyrandonea and Yokuda are also included in the modification. All major races from the Elder Scrolls games are playable.
Release and reception
A demo was released on February 4, 2012 which featured four playable characters over a 20 year span. A marketing campaign for the game featured light comedy videos on the concept of the Seven Deadly Sins.
The game was met with generally positive reviews and has attained a metascore of 82 at Metacritic. The Digital Fix said that "the experience is immersive and stunning" and was impressed with the complexity of the underlying mechanics. A representative from Paradox confirmed that the game has sold "really well". GameSpot reviewer Shaun McInnis stated "Through a complex system of diplomacy and backstabbing, Crusader Kings II makes every power struggle an engrossing one" and he lauded the gameplay while noting the "lackluster tutorials". IGN summed up their review by saying "An intense learning curve, but a unique strategy experience". IGN rated the gameplay and "lasting appeal" a 9/10. A reviewer for Rock, Paper, Shotgun stated that Crusader Kings II was "probably the most human strategy game" he ever played. Rob Zacny of PC PowerPlay, who gave the game a 7/10 score, called it a "brilliant treatment of feudalism in terms of strategy and story" but also stated it "requires major investment to overcome information overload". Kotaku named the game as one of their game of the year nominees.
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