Anyone who’s followed me on twitter has possibly seen me go on about Crusader Kings 2. It’s a grand strategy game focused on ruling a kingdom in the middle ages, where rather than command an army or manage a country your rule is focused on the ruler and how he or she interacts with their vassals, the church, enemies and allies.
The emphasis is on bringing glory to your dynasty of rulers and eventually forming one of the great houses of Europe at the time (if you want it to be).If you really want to see me wax lyrical as to why it’s got me well and truly hooked, I’ll direct you to my blog entry on it here.
When the game fires up, it tells you to pick any kingdom/region from somewhere in the period 1066-1453 and just go. There are no goals, no objectives other than the ones you set yourself. Gameplay is broken up by random or semi random events that sometimes give you a choice (such as sparing a scheming lord) or sometimes present you with no choice but to play along (The Caliph has declared a crusade against you!). It’s in this area that the latest DLC, Sunset Invasion, mostly plays out.
Paradox has released a couple of bits of DLC for it since its release in February, notably the Sword of Islam (which let you play as Muslim rulers with culturally specific intrigues) and the Legacy of Rome (introducing new mechanics for Byzantine rulers). Sunset Invasion is less comprehensive, giving no new mechanics but dramatically changing the end-game. Until this DLC, the game had followed a fairly strict historical accuracy, so no matter when you started your simulation the rulers were probably correct. Sunset Invasion is purely an alt-history campaign.
To test out the new DLC, I started as the ruler of a chunk of Spain in around 1200. Within a generation or two I was sitting pretty well- I had a strong king that had unified a few nations, I was on good terms with the neighbours, even the Emir to the South who hated me was tied up with his own issues and leaving me alone.
But all that changed when the Aztec nation attacked.
I’d been receiving reports of strange ships off the coast, and they finally decided to make landfall in England. The English don’t put up much of a fight (the Aztecs arrive with thousands of troops) and the Aztecs setup a beachhead. They quickly start moving to overtake the British holdings in France. No problem, I think: I’m pretty stable, I;ve got some good allies, I should be able to resist or at least make myself enough of a threat that the Aztec ruler will leave me alone.
And then my king dies and is replaced by his inbred imbecile cousin. And all of my dukes rebel. And the Aztecs pounce.
They make pretty short work of me, and I’m introduced to a new mechanic/event as the Aztec chief ritually sacrifices most of my cabinet. I go from ruling a large kingdom to a single province.
Having been dealt with, The Aztecs turn their attention to France, cutting a bloody swathe all the way to Paris.
Life in the Aztec Empire has a couple of different mechanics. First up, although I’m now a vassal of the Aztec emperor, I’m not of his culture or religion, so he still hates my guts. You can switch to his culture, but Paradox hasn’t added the option to convert to the Aztec religion, which is kind of annoying- the previous DLCs had added some cool new mechanics for Islamic rulers and some unique Byzantine/Orthodox stuff. You can convert to the Aztec culture, which gives you the ability to put any prisoners you have forward for sarcrifice- I used that to dispose of an ambitious sister-in-law.
As the Aztec invasion progresses, random events pop up that talk about what’s going on with the broader Aztec culture- one talked about how they had now conquered North America, and another how they’d brought back western diseases. I never really felt they were that different from living under any of the game’s other conquerors though.
All up, it’s an interesting diversion, but I’d have liked a bit more meat- let me play as the Aztecs, or add some new events that are really Aztec specific. It does do a good job at shaking up the late game if you’re in the Western part of Europe. I’d only grab it if it’s cheap or you’re a diehard. The next DLC is more conventional and bigger- it’ll let you play as the Merchant princes of Venice among others
All that said, it’s good to see Paradox willing to play around with fantasy threats, and I’d love to see them turn their hand to pure fantasy. Even though historical simulation is their “thing,” I reckon they’d make a great and detailed fantasy game.
Just less of the human sacrifice please- that stuff’s gross.