Crusader Kings, released in 2004, was weird. Paradox Development Studio took the elaborate foundations of its epic grand strategy series, Europa Universalis, and attempted to fuse it with a dynastic RPG, with mixed results. It was enchanting, but very rough. In 2012, the studio followed it up with one of the most notable strategy games of the last decade: Crusader Kings 2. The studio has spent the last eight years iterating on it, but now it's ready for the next step. Today, Paradox announced Crusader Kings 3.
I hope you'll forgive me for a bit of self-indulgence, but CK2 was the very first game I professionally reviewed—it plays an important role in the modern history of strategy games, but it's also a kind of personal touchstone. It's a numbers-obsessed game of maps and menus, but full of soul and character. Make a horse the pope! Murder your shitty husband! Poison your wife! Become emperor by being the biggest shit! It's a game for grognards that simultaneously seduced those of us who loved a good soapy drama. So what's next?
That's something I've been asking game director Henrik Fåhraeus for at least the last five years, but there's always been one more expansion on the horizon—another experiment, another historical start point. But no more! Crusader Kings 3, though undeniably familiar, is a new beginning for the medieval drama sim.
"Crusader Kings 3 is a grand medieval simulator where you are free to live out any plausible ruler fantasy that we could think of—but not without challenge." says Fåhraeus. "Seeing its predecessor explode in popularity was very satisfying, especially considering that user friendliness was never our primary goal. Now we have a chance to address an even larger audience."
Crusader Kings 3 promises to lean into the RPG and dynastic shenanigans more than ever, going more granular as it allows you to craft your perfect family of sociopaths. The political and religious beliefs of your dynasty will be even more under your control as you plot your way through history, though the familiar concerns of conquest, diplomacy and putting up with your pesky council remain.
There's more map porn, of course—big, sexy medieval maps with detailed terrain, for the first time accompanied by 3D characters who don't look like they had a horrific accident with some forceps at birth. What an exciting future! And if this is your first excursion into Paradox's alt-history escapades, the studio says it will also be the most novice-friendly, featuring a Stellaris-style tutorial and hints system that gives new rulers a bit more advice as they try to navigate the complexities of being the biggest arsehole in the medieval world.
To mark the occasion, Paradox is giving Crusader Kings 2 away for free, permanently, while also reducing the price of its DLC. If you're itching for more Crusader Kings 3 details, however, keep an eye out for our preview and chat with Henrik Fåhraeus soon.
Crusader Kings 3 is due out in 2020.