Crusader Kings 3 PS5 Review: "A Truly Engrossing Experience, Unmatched In Scope"
The console version of Crusader Kings 3 takes one of the most expansive strategy games found on PC and wraps it up expertly into a controller friendly package - just don’t expect to play from the sofa. Crusader Kings 3 offers the opportunity to live out your medieval fantasies, as a king, queen, prince, or even someone further down the noble chain. You will scheme, make war, marry off your most promising offspring, or maybe even kill them if you catch wind of their plans to overthrow.
A Tried And Tested Formula
Crusader Kings 3 doesn't shake up the formula too much, instead expanding on the success the series saw with the last instalment. The map now includes parts of North Africa and the outer edges of the East with more religions, government types, and technology trees than ever. There are thousands of hours of engaging gameplay here, as every player’s playthrough, even from the same starting point, will diverge widely as you make critical choices about how to govern your realm.
There are also entirely new gameplay mechanics that crown the game’s RPG-esque systems; the new lifestyle trees allow you to bequeath some noble - or not so noble - skills onto your head of state. Fancy yourself a master seducer? Or a peace-loving diplomat? The new lifestyle options add yet another weave into the tapestry of each playthrough.
Then there's Dread, which is a measure of how feared you are, both within your kingdom and across the globe. No bad deed will go unpunished so you will have to tread carefully; in previous titles, your vassals fell in line out of pure love for their ruler, but that didn't reflect reality and has been changed for Crusader Kings 3 allowing you to enforce your decrees through fear.
These enhanced RPG elements make the path you take more impactful across the board. With such interconnected systems, it will prove too punishing for some players, but those that have the time and the inclination to rule as they wish will find plenty to love in these new mechanics.
It's not all blood and thunder though; the game has a seriously strong writing team behind it that finds humour in even the darkest moments. Death in Crusader Kings 3 isn’t often the end of the story - just the punchline. And the game’s geniality system, which passes titles and power onto sons and daughters, means that even when your all-powerful king dies in battle or otherwise, your story continues.
Smart Design But Poor Accessibility
Lab42, the studio responsible for porting the title to console, has done the seemingly impossible in taking such a dense and information-heavy PC-first game and adapting it for consoles. Players will flick through a series of menus using the bumpers and the radial menus, and, by and large, it works. While it doesn’t happen quite as quickly as you’d like once you’ve got used to it, it doesn’t take long before your actions match up with your wants and it often feels even more rewarding than its PC counterpart.
There are issues though with this port though and it isn’t with the way the game utilises the controller. You'd expect to play a console game from the comfort of your sofa or bed, on a bigger TV from a further distance away than you would on PC, but a lot of text is difficult to read from afar, especially in info panes.
There are no options to increase text size and any dreams of playing de facto couch co-op with a partner go out the window as you’ll soon find yourself with your nose to the screen trying to decipher the intricacies of a lord’s feudal contract. It was a bitter disappointment and one that cut short sessions to give my eyes a rest.
While it's certainly not something that will affect everyone and may well be patched in the future, it's a small stain on what is otherwise a truly engrossing experience, unmatched in scope on consoles. The console version is geared toward a new audience for the franchise and for them, there will be few games that offer just as much replayability as Crusader Kings 3, which is as true now as it will likely be when this console generation is long over.
Reviewed on PlayStation 5. Code provided by the publisher.