Crusader Kings 3, the follow-up to 2012’s grand strategy hit, was announced today at Paradox Interactive’s annual convention, PDXCon. The follow-up brings improved graphics and expanded role-playing elements to the sandbox of medieval dynastic politics, kinslaying, and holy war.
Crusader Kings 3’s map is about four times the physical size of its predecessor’s, and while it hasn’t added many new locations, each individual barony (which used to exist only as small pictures within the county screen) is now its own space on the map that you can march armies through, adding tons of tactical depth. The map will span all the way from Ireland to India, covering nearly all of the geographical area that Crusader Kings 2 does with all of its patches. Unlike Crusader Kings 2, all rulers on the map will be playable from day one instead of having to wait for DLC to unlock specific religious groups and government types.
In a first for Paradox Development Studio, Crusader Kings 3’s characters will be rendered in full 3D from head to toe and use a new, more granular DNA system that will allow children to more smoothly blend the traits of their parents from generation to generation. These character models will have varied appearances, hairstyles, and clothing based on their culture and social class, as well as differing postures and expressions based on their traits-a brooding spymaster might be hunched over, while a proud duke might turn his nose up. The engine also allows them to appear with different props, backgrounds, and poses in event pop-ups instead of Crusader Kings 2’s static images.
Cadet branches, long requested by the Crusader Kings 2 community, are one of the most exciting new features. Every dynasty in the game will now exist as an unlanded title held by the head of the dynasty. However, distant relatives with enough prestige can form a cadet house with its own heraldry and words that gain some autonomy, while still being subservient to the parent dynasty. In a case where the “main” line of a dynasty ends, a cadet house can pick up where they left off.
Religion has also been greatly expanded. Now each religion will be represented by a number of tenets and doctrines that provide mechanical benefits and define rules such as views on homosexuality and women priests. With enough piety, it will be possible to found a new heresy from your parent religion with all of the traits and doctrines picked by you becoming more expensive to found based on how much you want to depart from the Mother Church. This system will also allow for more realistic depictions of historical heresies like Catharism and Iconoclasm.
Provinces in Crusader Kings 3 will, in addition to culture and religion, be represented by Development and Control stats. Development works sort of like Civilization value in Imperator: Rome, modeling how built up and productive an area is. Tribal rulers will care less about this, while feudal ones will get more taxes from higher development and be incentivized to build it up. Control replaces the old Revolt Risk, modeling how much authority you have over a province.
Paradox has also really dialed up the role-playing elements. Borrowing from Crusader Kings 2’s Way of Life DLC, characters will pick a lifestyle (warfare, religion, intrigue, etc), and within each are three talent trees that you can put points into over time to gain new traits and abilities. A religion-focused character can work toward becoming a Prophet, for example, which makes founding a new custom religion or heresy cheaper. Dynasties will also level up and gain powerful mechanical bonuses called Legacies, giving you something you can carry with you across generations. Finally, Prestige and Piety are no longer just resources that accumulate. They will also fill up what is basically an experience bar, letting your characters “level up” their Renown and Devotion for increasing mechanical bonuses.
On the military side, Knights have been introduced, which are named characters who can join your armies and are very potent in battle. While you’ll still raise your forces from off-map like in Crusader Kings 2, there is now a distinction between peasant levies, which are your cannon fodder basic troops, and Men-At-Arms, better-trained warriors like armored swordsmen and longbowmen which you will be able to hire and control the ratios of different troop types within. They won’t exist on the map permanently like Crusader Kings 2’s retinues, but rather are called up alongside the peasant mob when you raise your levies.
There is a lot more to unpack, so look for our full preview FAQ later in the week. Crusader Kings 3’s predecessor, Crusader Kings 2, is also now not-so-coincidentally free-to-play on Steam. Crusader Kings 3 is quilled in for a 2020 release.