Crusadin ain't easy.
Now, I've not preordered any paradox interactive game because people on other forums usually say that's a bad idea; due to bugs, due to missing features... their best game, Europa Universalis 3, took 2 expansions to become good, so I was not hoping for much around 3 months ago. Lots of preview stuff said that the game was actually good, and I watched some 2 hour long streams of it, and that was good enough for me to preorder, and after playing an almost full game of it (this "full game" has taken me 20 hours and I'm still not to the end date, though I am very close) I am ready to write this review!
Okay, so, if you have not surmised from the game title, this game is all about the medieval era; crusades, feudalism, inheritances, incest... Instead of controlling a kingdom, like in other PI games, you control a dynasty. Your goal is less to conquer other nations, but to spread your dynasty and make it the most prestigious in Europe. You can certainly conquer other dukes and counts and kings, but the unique thing is that if you are able to marry off a daughter or son to a noble in the right way, and wait a little while, you might be able to inherit that nation without actually conquering that area with soldiers. And your game does not end if you lose your kingdom, but if your dynasty dies out, so I do believe that if you have spread your dynasty far and wide you will play as another dukedom or kingdom maybe? I have only played one game so far after all.
The game is appreciated MOST with some foreknowledge in medieval europe, but nothing big; do you know the norman conquest of england? the reconquista? are you aware that Muslims once owned most of spain? the Byzantine empire and the holy roman empire? then you're good. The fun is to see what sort of dynasties pop up, how far other dynasties spread, etc. In my game, as the Kingdom of Navarra, France conquered the bottom half of spain and portugal, while I had the top half. I had to wait, close to 50 years, but they eventually got into a civil war and a bunch of their Iberian vassals broke off and I was able to conquer a lot of them. That sort of stuff is incredibly fun to me, and it's not like I was doing nothing but waiting for them, I was putting down revolts and keeping my asshole siblings from getting my other kingdom titles and assassinating dudes.
One of the coolest things about this game is that everyone has their own desires and goals and stats, which makes it almost a strategy/RPG. A cool example that happened earlier in the game; I was Queen Lopa I Jimena 'the silent' of Navarra, and I had 3 daughters. now, the way that my inheritance law worked is that the oldest child would get all my titles. But if my eldest daughter has a child than they get all the titles. Well, my second daughter did not like that. I got a pop up that said "Princess Urraka died at age 29" and I was like oh I wonder who did that... and then my second daughter proceeded to kill her only son as well so that she became the heir. Best part, however, is that eventually HER daughter actually assassinated her, so she inherited all the titles. That is just one story,
You can play as a count, duke or king; kings can have duke and counts as vassals, dukes can have counts as vassals, and counts are boned basically. However, going from count to King is pretty satisfying, and it's definitely difficult, but it's not like being Queen is easy either. I was queen of lots of different places (Portugal, Leon, Navarra, Aragon, Castille, and AFRICA) and once you have that many titles you usually get like 3-4 plots a week, conspiring to make them king/queen of X. In EU3, once you became big enough all difficulty was pretty much gone, but here you always have to watch for revolts.
It's also mad fun to watch the crazy shit that happens with the different nations, and how different it was from history. It's 1356 or something (game ends in 1453 if I recall correctly). the Mongols came, but the Duchy of Ryazan was able to push back the Golden Horde, and now they're pretty evenly matched. The Byzantines were huge, but the Kingdom of Mesopotamia revolted and now they control a large kingdom centered around Baghdad. Also in this game the muslims got their ass handed to them. The only ones left are the Il-Khanate (another Mongol horde), a large amount centered around Ethiopia, and Mauritania (Morocco, basically)
Game definitely has it's problems; I was having a hard time marrying off my children to kings, for some reason (they all desired a better alliance), France taking out the andalusians in spain happens too often (it got patched actually, though I haven't tested it yet), you can't mark someone a person of interest and save without it crashing next time you load it up... those are minor bugs that can be fixed though, and the base game is so good and very stable that I have a hard time getting angry about it. If you like strategy games, if you like medieval history, like making cool stories, even if you just like incest, this game has what you neeeeed.