Getting hands-on with Crusader Kings III Console Edition


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There are loads of games that the PC crowd get to experience that us poor console owners can only dream of, leaving us like a poor Victorian street urchin gazing through the sweet shop window. Yes it’s got a lot better over the course of the last generation of consoles, but the world of strategy games has always been hard to transfer to console, away from a keyboard and mouse. 

That said, games like Age of Empires and Crusader Kings now seem within our grasp and the good news is that I’ve had some hands-on time with Crusader Kings III on Xbox, alongside being presented to the game with some in-depth developer chat. The even better news is that it is coming to consoles on March 29th – with Xbox players being able to get hands-on at that time.  

In 2020, Crusader Kings III was released on PC to critical acclaim. The great news is that it is now coming to Xbox Series X|S and PS5 on March 29th 2022. Now, this is very interesting for a couple of reasons. The first is that we get to play a game – on our consoles – that has been critically lauded on PC, opening it up to a new range of player. The second is that this is a very deep strategy game, led by incredible menu design – something which us console folk sometimes struggle to get.  

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Across a 45-minute developer hands-on we saw the game in action. For those who don’t know, Crusader Kings III is a grand strategy game set in the Middle Ages. You take on the role of a royal or a noble in an area of the world and are left to successfully enhance your lineage over several centuries. You can do this by marrying the right people, using military might, or diplomatic means, or by pitting everyone against each other and assassinating enemies from the shadows. 

What the game does is deliver a complex and engaging premise of pursuing different routes, all as you look to gain power and influence over your region and the world. We saw – through the hands-on demo – the map of the Middle Ages world and how the menus and systems work. We saw a ruler in a region of northern Spain in action, whereby we examined his traits which govern or drive how to play the game. And it’s these traits that affect the character’s physical abilities, personality, and reputation. For example, you might have a zealous personality trait that means your martial chances have a boost, but this might affect your compassion. The traits are massive, with a whole list of pros and cons that you have to weigh up which influences how you play. 

We also got a chance to look at the different options in regards to marital status; finding the right life partner to suit your overall goals for world domination. You need to see what influence they have, how fertile the combination could be, and what legacy they will help you cement. There was even a dip into how money works and the options available to you in terms of diplomacy, shadow tactics, and diplomacy tactics. 

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The developers also wanted to show off the menus – mostly as these are a major part of the game. It must be said that Crusader Kings III is easy to navigate with the console controller, adapted well from PC. It all looked great in the demonstration; seemingly flawless in the way the switched systems work. But the proof is in the pudding and we also got hands-on with the game to test the systems and play a bit of this epic saga. 

The big conclusion of this hands-on time of playing Crusader Kings III on Xbox Series X comes into view via a couple of points. On the whole it has been a great play, but a single week is nowhere near enough time to get to know Crusader Kings III properly, mostly because it’s so deep and so huge in regards to the systems and the whole journey. Those full opinions will come in full review when the game releases.

It must be said though, it had me completely hooked, leaving desperation as the time for it to end arrived. In simplest terms though, the menus and UI all work great, but like any game to make a PC to console transition, without a mouse and keyboard it does take a little while to get used to things. Luckily a useful – and long – tutorial gets you into the feel of things, letting you whizz around controlling the menus and taking in the mechanics of the game. 

Key game features include:

  • Character Focused Gameplay: Every character you play or interact with has their own unique personality. Events and options in the game are largely determined by the type of person you are.
  • Infinite Possibilities: Play as any noble house from Iceland to India, Finland to Central Africa, over five centuries. Interact with wandering guests, stubborn children, devious spymasters, and saintly holy men in an elaborate tapestry of medieval life.
  • Waging War: Rally your vassals and raise your men-at-arms to besiege enemy castles or put down rebellions. Personal prowess on the battlefield can win you great honor, but strategic planning is the path to victory.
  • Royal Marriages: Spread your dynastic DNA throughout the world, stamping your royal seal on the crests of kingdoms and duchies far and wide. Marry for power and raise children to press claims on new lands.
  • Saints and Sinners: Keep faith with your religious leaders or perform great crimes in the interest of the state. When the going gets tough, you can always embrace a heresy or craft a new religion more in line with your character’s priorities.

Huge thanks go out to the Paradox Interactive and Lab42 teams for the presentation and the chance to go hands-on with Crusader Kings III. This is a game that has all the hallmarks of being an experience that will eat away your life hours, letting you plow in hundreds of hours. I for one can’t wait until the 29th March. 

Crusader Kings III comes to Xbox Series X|S and PS5 on March 29th 2022. If you can’t wait until then, pick up the PC version from the Xbox Store.

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