by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
When sh*t hits the fan (cntd)
Once war is engaged, it makes little difference who you are attacking: both sides will raise levies, hire mercenaries and call upon their allies to fight by their side. As armies clash and cities are besieged, the game keeps score of each side’s wins and losses until one side has gained the upper hand or surrenders. If you win, only the originally targeted provinces will change hands, regardless of any other territories that you successfully subjugated during the war.
A healthy treasury goes a long way in successfully concluding a war as mercenaries are often the decisive factor. They are a costly bunch to hire and require a monthly fee to stay in the field. Before you run out of dough, you will need to either have won or dismissed them as there is no telling what an unpaid band of mercenaries might do. Strong allies can also play a major role. They won’t lay claim to the lands you have conquered and will only ever require you to join in some of their own disputes in return.
Allies won’t necessarily join you though. Unless you have nurtured your relationship with them, your ally may side with your target if they are also allied to them. This poses especially chaotic situations when your allies are kin and eager to usurp your heir’s titles when you kick the bucket. Your heir may be fighting your most loyal vassals, your brothers, your cousins and just about everyone else upon your death.
Once won, you must decide whether to reward your vassals for their backing, or keep the spoils for yourself. There is, however, a limit to how many counties and duchies you can hold without angering your vassals and destroying the efficiency of your administration, forcing to share the wealth. Besides giving away counties and Duchies, you can also grant titles to holdings such as cities (tax income), baronies (levies) or churches (mix of both) within them. Each of these can be upgraded to provide more gold or levies but you can imagine that you get more out of the holding upgrades if you own the place.
Brushed up Europa
Crusader Kings II features a superbly crafted interface that gives access to a dizzying amount of data. Past Europa games often dropped the ball on presenting their information in an easy to find way. The current engine makes lavish use of tooltips tutorial screens that entice the user to discover new ways of finding and absorbing information. Only the warning icon for the held Duchies limit seems to have been forgotten. The presentation is top notch: the in-game ambiance truly feels medieval and while none of its graphics will win any prizes, there is a marked improvement over its predecessor.
In all honesty, I wasn’t holding my breath when I started my first game of Crusader Kings II. The Europa Universalis games aren’t known for their innovational prowess and I was expecting to play the same game as I had before. In most ways I did, but the gameplay did not feel nearly as old as I had expected. The improved interface is enjoyable to work with and the brushed up graphics make the game feel far more alive than any of its siblings.
In some ways, Crusader Kings II is the crowning achievement of the Europa Univeralis games. It may not innovate, but it improves upon every possible area, making the game more accessible than ever without losing sight of its hardcore fanbase. If you have nothing against a little sibling rivalry, love to indulge yourself in murderous plots and dream of grand conquests, then this is the best way to experience all that in the safety of your home.
Best Europa Universalis game to date, hands down.
The Emperor’s New Clothes applies, even if they’re very nice ones.