As Paradox Interactive hit the big red ‘Reset’ button on Crusader Kings last year, they’re having to start all over again with conceiving and rolling out new post-release content for their exceedingly popular grand strategy game. Crusader Kings II had seven years of patches, updates, revisions and expansions, and now Crusader Kings III is embarking on that same journey.
Earlier this year we saw the Northern Lords ‘flavour’ pack released, adding more details for the Scandinavian kingdoms in the game, and that will now be followed up by the more substantial Royal Court expansion, intended to broaden the game’s systemic design and gameplay elements.
The flashiest new feature by far is the addition of the titular royal court, a new way of representing your seat of power and how you interact with other people in-game. It’s here that you will sit on your throne and consider the petitions of your courtiers, vassals and visitors to your court, adding a more cinematic flair as you might expect from Game of Thrones and other representations of medieval rulers.
And it won’t just be your regular array of courtiers and family that join you there. New roles and positions will be coming to the court, from selecting someone to be a Royal Champion or Court Tutor, to having a Food Taster make sure you aren’t poisoned (certainly someone to keep happy) and a Court Jester. The Tutor plays into the new ability to learn languages, a new scheme to pull of that, if you’re successful, can halve the foreigner penalty for occupying foreign lands. Of course, you can imagine the kinds of language-learning pranks that can crop up, not to mention the shenanigans that your Jester could pull, getting you into a spot of bother if they act up at a great feast you’re hosting…
Your court will come in four varieties, fitting with a broad range of cultures and with randomised elements. You won’t be picking out the specific drapes that surround windows or the wood that is used to top your fireplace, but you will obviously want to show off to the visitors to your court. In fact, you might have to. Simply hoarding money won’t impress anyone and, much like the ultra-rich of the modern-day who seem to collect hyper cars and yachts for the hell of it, you can increase your personal grandeur by splashing your cash on artefacts. You can acquire things from far off lands, pick up relics, have wandering artists and smiths create art and weapons for you to display.
Royal Court will see the return of a personal inventory as well, letting you have this meticulously crafted weapon or a sparkly bejeweled crown that will be seen on your character. These can become heirlooms, passed down from parent to child and ageing as they go. An old sword might need to be reforged, or could simply be consigned to a collection of antiques.
From the flashy side of the expansion to the more fundamental, there will be a significant expansion of the Culture system, deepening it with more nuance to mimic the ways that cultures shifted and merged through the ages.
Cultures have to them a central Ethos, which affects the kinds of traditions you have have access to and can achieve, but someone reigning over multiple cultures can choose to try and hybridise them, similar to how William the Conqueror and his heirs tried to combine the ruling Norman traditions with those of their Anglo-Saxon vassals and commoners. In essence, you get the opportunity to create something new out of the old, picking and choosing from both sides to found a new culture that you name and lead.
There’s also a way to push for Cultural Divergence if you find yourself in more extreme situations, needing to adapt your kingdom to rid yourself of things that you no longer have use for. For example, you might find yourself in a less warlike part of the world, finding that other means are better ways to progress.
Of course, just as when creating a new offshoot faith, you have to have enough Prestige to spend on creating this new hybrid or divergent culture, but it’s an exciting expansion of an underlying feature of the Crusader Kings 3 template.
There’s no release date stated for Crusader Kings III: Royal Court just yet, but it’s an intriguing one with both the glitzy new royal court to amplify your role-playing elements of the game alongside the underlying cultural shift simulation.