Published on October 29th, 2014 | by Tony Odett0
Crusader Kings 2: Charlemagne Review
Summary: This expansion renewed my love in a several year old franchise. Must buy for longtime fans.
Frankly A Blast
Crusader Kings 2 was released nearly three years ago. In the era of modern game, this is normally when you see a game put well to pasture. If it were an EA sports game, instead of this review, I’d be writing about how the game’s servers were now being shut down. Instead, Crusader Kings 2 sees its newest expansion, an effort which refines the game’s stellar leadership model, adds some new features that give players new challenges and goals to work toward, nearly a century of new gameplay content, and even a campaign chronicle feature. The new Charlemagne expansion is an excellent opportunity to re-examine what makes Crusader Kings 2 a unique effort in the genre, and a reminder to long-time players why they’ve put so much time into the game.
I hopped into my first playthrough as the Duke of Upper Burgundy, and, with my experienced CK2 player savvy, quick took over the rest of Duchy of Savoy, and usurped that dukedom for myself as well. A third duchy was taken over the next 20 years. At this point, I took note of a new ambition option- Become King of Savoy. The CK2 sandbox now allows would-be monarchs to create their own de-jure kingdoms. Instead of being limited to the historical options, players can shape the game in an even more personal sense, allowing what happens in the game to dynamically shape the map. The implications for exporting your CK2 game to Europa Universalis IV grow even more exciting with this development. Still, I became a little concerned with this feature. It was nice as a goal for me to grow my duchy into a new kingdom. But I watched as Charlemagne himself created kingdom after kingdom within his own empire. The result of this was the historical split into 3 different kingdoms. This was nice from a historical perspective, but seemed to result from the AI acting against its own best interest. I’m sure the prestige bonuses were nice, but the succession split must have been painful
This expansion includes an earlier start date- 769. It’s nice to have a bunch more years to play with, especially as the game now has more of a sense of change over time. You flow from the huge Frankish empire to the Viking invasions to the spread of Christianity to the Crusades to the invasion of the Mongol horde. Now the game has a much better sense of “era.” The addition of tribes increases this effect. Now, in the early game, undeveloped lands will have tribes from which to recruit soldiers. Over time, you’ll see them civilized (and want to, as tribesmen don’t generate gold, and, frankly, recruiting them becomes expensive).
An interesting feature is the Chronicle. This gives a year-by-year recounting of your game from the very beginning, in the style of an old English chronicle. If nothing of significance happened in a particular year, the game will add in a random occurrence (A town in the Duchy of Savoy was destroyed by a giant, who then disappeared is one of my favorites). Sadly, it seems a bit bugged. Sometime those random events will be duplicated in consecutive years. In a war I fought with a neighboring duchy, the chronicle listed the battles as fought against “The Kingdom of West Francia,” which was funny, considering I was also part of that particular kingdom. It’s nice to have the Chronicle, but some changes will have to be made in order for it to become more useful.
A new CK2 expansion wouldn’t be much without some more diplomatic options, and there are some good ones here. You can now appoint your own regents to rule your kingdom in case of your death (or if you go on a pilgrimage) and your heir isn’t ready to assume the throne. It’s nice to have an element of control there. An additional option is the ability to go into hiding. Previous, if you discovered a plot to kill your ruler, your options were to A) hope you had the diplomatic power to convince the plotting to not kill you or B) hope the plot didn’t succeed. Now, you can go into hiding. There are some penalties for this (people who spend all their time alone become a bit strange, you see), but it’s a nice way to, well, live longer.
The Charlemagne expansion is excellent. In addition to offering a longer gameplay experience, it increases the dynamism of the game, allowing the actual constraints of the gameplay to evolve over time. I do wish that the Chronicle worked better, as a campaign compiler immortalizes your experience that much better, and I’m not sure the AI works the best with the new Kingdom additions. Still, if you’re a CK2 player, this is the perfect time to jump back into the game, and become addicted once more.