Published on January 17th, 2014 | by Tony Odett0
Crusader Kings 2: Sons of Abraham Review
Summary: A great new challenge for Crusader Kings II veterans
One More Indulgence
Crusader Kings II has shown quite a bit of life for a game that is now approaching two years old. It was fantastic initially, and the expansions and patches along the way (along with compelling mods from the community) have increased the game’s scope and depth significantly. This already rich experience gains some additional color in the new Sons of Abraham expansion, which overhauls the treatments of religion and the papacy in the game. But I think its finest new feature is the gauntlet it throws at the feet of experienced players- daring them to form the Kingdom of Israel in a game world that strives to eradicate the Jewish state at every turn.
Sons of Abraham may be the most challenging expansion yet. The game features the most singularly compelling challenge I’ve experienced in Crusader Kings 2: forming the Kingdom of Israel, and surviving. The difficulties presented are immense. There are no other Jewish states to ally with, meaning your state, from the start, is going to be fighting on its own. In order to even form the kingdom, you’ll need to somehow take the petty kingdom of Kazaria and take on some of the most powerful states in the Levant. Kazaria is weak: a sprawling thing surrounded by enemies with only one county that is technically Jewish. My playthroughs all began with an immediate attack by one of the several neighboring Pagan states, followed by another, and another. Simply surviving is hard enough. Building the strength to take on the armies of the size you’ll battle at the gates of Jerusalem takes quite a long time. But, for the adventurous and highly skilled player, forming the Kingdom of Israel is highly rewarding (and, for a double bonus, you can take that kingdom and import it into your next game of Europa Universalis IV).
In addition to this new challenge, Sons of Abrahams offers a much more robust religion system. Pilgrimages have been unlocked for Christians (previously, they were relegated to Islamic characters), and a wealth of other religious events have been added. Some compelling options now exist, like borrowing money from Jewish people in your kingdom, or expelling them. Or, you could do both, immediately erasing all the debts you just acquired (but good luck getting them to lend you money ever again, because you just ruined that forever). Additionally, Christianity and Islam both are now further broken down, with sub-groups like the Cathars in France now getting their day in the sun.
The pope is now made into a much bigger player (though he’s still not playable…). In addition to his ability to excommunicate and allow you to pursue claims, the pope can lend money and provide favors. There is now good reason to spend time increasing your relations with the pontiff. Additionally, religious groups like the Templars are given much more of a presence in your lands- lending you money, given you piety (for a donation) and making requests (which become pretty obnoxious if you owe them money). The option to expel religious groups (Templars!) from your land is quite nuclear, and can prove lucrative, if you’re willing to deal with the consequences.
Sons of Abraham is a great expansion for experienced CK2 players. Newbies probably won’t see the appeal (though they’ll have a mountain of other content to sift through), but veterans will find forming Israel to be a task worth returning to the game for. While not as robust as some of the previous expansions, Sons of Abraham is worth a look by any serious fan of the game.
Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham was reviewed via a Steam code provided by the publisher.