Videogame Review: "Crusader Kings II"

Updated on December 12, 2019
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Natalie is a writer who works at her local library. She enjoys writing reviews, watching anime and TV shows, and playing video games.

"Crusader Kings II" Cover.
"Crusader Kings II" Cover. | Source

Quick Info

Developer: Paradox Interactive

Publisher: Paradox Interactive

Released: February 4th, 2012

Availability: on PC only, the base game is free-to-play, DLC costs money

What Is Crusader Kings II?

Crusader Kings II is a grand strategy game where you play as a character on the world map of Europe and Africa. You can play as a king or another noble. You can try to take over the entire world or you can try to found your country’s historical kingdom or empire.

Get married, have kids, hold fairs, go hunting or hold feasts to increase your prestige. You can also perform good deeds to gain piety with your religious head and your court bishops.

You can upgrade buildings in your realm to earn more money through trade and taxes. You can claim other lands and go to war or forge alliances with other countries to have them protect you.

You can be a good king or you can be a tyrant. You can basically play however you want and the outcome will be different.

If you choose to start as a lowly count and aspire to become king of your country and create a lasting dynasty of kings. You can do whatever you want, and your game only ends if you have no heirs.

This Game Has a Ridiculous Learning Curve

Crusader Kings II is a complicated game with a lot of game mechanics and that’s without all the additions that come with all the expansions packs and DLC, and there is a lot of it that Paradox has put out over the years.

The game tutorial isn’t very good so you have to go watch YouTube tutorials that explain the game better than the in-game tutorial does.

The problem is, some people don’t want a game with complex mechanics and so many things to think about from the start that can be extremely overwhelming at times.

Not everyone wants to watch a 20-minute video to learn how to play a game. It’s understandable, which is why people buy this game on sale and then don’t play it for long because it’s very complicated when you start out.

If you’re new and just starting out, play as a county in Ireland because it’s a very easy place to start with no empires or large countries to threaten you.

"Crusader Kings II" Launch Trailer

The Game Is a Blast (Once You Learn How to Play)

Once you get past the game’s immense learning curve, you’ll have a blast playing the game once you understand the mechanics. It took me several hours to learn the game mechanics and that was before I had watched a YouTube tutorial to help me grasp how the game works.

It is worth buying this game if you’re into deep strategy games and are willing to learn how to play it. You can play for 1,000 hours and still learn something new.

I love this game but not everyone is going to like it because it takes a lot of effort to get into it.

The Graphics Are Nice

The graphics in-game are nice, they don’t look amazing or anything, but considering the fact that the game map is enormous, they aren’t focusing on making it look cutting-edge or pushing what a graphics card can do.

What looks really nice is the ruler portraits and shield emblems for your house. The game has really nice artwork.

The landscapes are also very nice to look at.

The Sound Design Is Good

The sound design is also very nice for battles or the town and castle menus to choose what to spend your money on. The expansions and DLC packs also have more sound effects for various events, like the outbreak of plague in your country, you can hear people coughing when they’re sick.

"Crusader Kings II" Soundtrack: Main Theme

The Soundtrack Is Fantastic!

Andreas Waldetoft’s soundtrack is very nice to listen to, it feels very medieval and sounds fantastic. I really like the music, but it does get very repetitive after playing it for hours and hours, there is DLC music but you have to buy those.

The DLC Is Ridiculously Expensive!

While it is tempting to get into Crusader Kings II because it is free-to-play, please remember that many of the interesting game mechanics are in the DLC packs and not necessarily in the base game.

There is a lot of downloadable content for this game. There are a lot of expansion packs and DLC for this game. And they aren’t cheap, even though the game is normally $39.99, the DLC packs range from $14.99 to $19.99 for the expansion packs, this can be very expensive if you want to buy more than one DLC.

The cost of the DLC at full price is $277.44. That is a lot of money to throw at DLC for one game. I haven’t spent that much on the game, because I wait for Steam sales to discount the DLC or if it’s a Paradox Weekend sale on Steam or if it’s on sale at Humble Bundle.

Do I recommend buying DLC at full price? Absolutely not! It’s only worth it for me if you can get them at a discount. Unless you’re a first adopter and you have to experience the new DLC as soon as it’s out, then you’ll end up spending a lot of money. If you’re cheap like me, you’ll wait for a sale.

A lot of countries are locked behind a paywall and it is very annoying.

And there’s also the factor of whether or not you think the expansions and DLC make the game better or worse. Some people love all the DLC, others hate certain expansions more than others.

People who have played the DLCs tend to give their opinions on whether they liked or disliked it, so you should read some opinions and reviews for DLC before deciding whether to buy it or watch some YouTube let’s plays to see how the mechanics for the DLC works.

The DLCs also add a lot of new game mechanics and some people feel that these mechanics should have been in the base game, but the game is still fun even without the DLC, but the expansion packs make it even more interesting with new mechanics, but it is hard to decide whether or not you want to buy them for yourself.

A decision from the Reaper's Due DLC.
A decision from the Reaper's Due DLC. | Source

There Are a Ton of Mods

One thing that is great about this game is that there are a ton of mods for it. They’re easy to install and they can provide hours of entertainment. Some mods are for game mechanics, while others are full conversions of the game for other settings like The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Elder Scrolls, or Avatar: The Last Airbender.

There are a ton of mods to choose from and they’re constantly updating to accommodate the DLC so you’ll be able to play them. Some of them do require the DLC to run so keep that in mind before subscribing on Steam to the mod.

This Game Is Fantastic If You Love Deep Strategy Games

If you want a different grand strategy game to play, I recommend this game. It has a lot of interesting mechanics that make it fun to play since they’re features unique to this franchise.

If you love history you’ll enjoy it, since it’s fun to see how history changes depending on how you play.

The map of Crusader Kings II.
The map of Crusader Kings II.

Reader Poll

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Quick Summary

What Works:
What Doesn't Work:
Fun gameplay
The game has a huge learning curve
Anything can happen, which makes it exciting
The game has a lot of complicated game mechanics
You can do whatever you want, you can be a loyal servant or become king
Recently became free-to-play without DLC

My Grade: A-

I love Crusader Kings II. It’s a lot of fun to play, I have sunk hours into this game. But it does have the major drawback of having the best mechanics behind paid DLC. The game has become more accessible due to becoming free-to-play. The DLC is very expensive at full price because there are so many expansion and DLC packs that I only recommend buying the DLC when it's on sale

While there are mods that can make the game start much earlier than the default 1066 start date, you can only really take advantage of this mod if you have the DLC Old gods and Charlemagne. You’ll be able to play, but you won’t get the full advantages of some of the mods without the DLCs.

This game is expensive, the full price of the game and all the DLCs is $316.37. That is way too expensive for most gamers, which is why I only recommend buying this game and the DLC when it goes on sale, because while it is immensely fun to play, the price tag is ridiculous, along with a time commitment.

I love this game and I highly recommend trying the free-to-play version of the game, but it’s definitely not for everyone, but the mods are a ton of fun and the game is enjoyable after you learn how to play. It’s worth your time, but only worth your money to buy the DLC when it is on sale.

Crusader Kings III has been announced and will be released sometime in 2020.

My Rating:

5 stars for Crusader Kings II for PC

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