Atomp Reviews – Crusader Kings 2: The Old Gods [Paradox Interactive]

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Tom Hooper aka Atomp

So apparently I have been tasked with writing this weeks review in accordance with some form of romantic Valentines stuff, which raised an issue: I don’t really play or even have any game that could be considered romantic in any way. Then it struck me that I do own and regularly update one game that truly encompasses the devious, underhanded, back-stabbing and unscrupulous nature of this most strange of holidays: Crusader Kings 2 (CK2). I’ve recently purchased and installed the Old Gods and Sons of Abraham expansions, although due to time constraints I’ll only really be looking at the Old Gods here. In addition, despite having 80 odd hours play time on CK2, I’m still only really comfortable in a more traditional Christian Western European role and therefore I played primarily as Brittany for this bout. Even so, the changes made by The Old Gods were evident and certainly modified how I played the game.

The first change of note is the pushing back of the start date to 867 AD, which adds a significant amount of time to a play,through. Not only that, but the political landscape is entirely different in 867 AD compared to the 1066 AD start date of old. Large united entities and often still their divided and independent constituents means that even without the changes made to the Pagan factions the potential for an entirely different Europe come 1066 AD is high. As Brittany, this new start date was pleasant as it gave me a real chance of not being swallowed whole by France which at this stage is still divided between Aquitaine and West Francia. It also meant starting out with the neighbouring province of Nantes in Norse hands. I’m somewhat thankful that it was in Norse hands because not only did that allow me to explore the potential of Holy War against Pagans but it also meant I didn’t have to try and fight a much larger entity like West Francia for control.

Something I quickly realized about the improved Pagan factions is that despite only owning a single small province, they can really really pack a punch and it took some mercenary business to see off their initial death stack on declaring war. This I’d imagine comes from the main objective of the Norse factions: pillaging. Which brings me neatly onto the next advantage of hitting Norse held Nantes; being a Holy War, it pulled in Pagan reinforcements as well as a large contingent of Christian troops. This had the effect of bashing the local Pagan forces hard enough to bring a few years relatively clear of the unending stream of Pagan raiding parties that bothered the coastal regions. It’s also worth noting that whilst Brittany/I was having the occasional irritating band of pillagers, various divided petty kingdoms of England were having large chunks of their North East being occupied by the Norse. These raiding parties set forth and gained prestige and gold through pillaging and escaping, making them an interesting problem to deal with as they were far less likely to stand and fight and would run for their longboats at the first sign of significant resistance.

Even from a Christian faction standpoint all of these changes can create a radically different early-game, allowing you to not only control large empires like the HRE, but also forge them. The additional time combined with more dynamic Pagans produces a different game for the Northern European factions, as well as a different experience for the likes of the Iberian peninsula as the Muslim threat has even longer to make itself felt. From a Pagan perspective, The Old Gods represents an entirely new game experience as the new mechanics can be used to play CK2 in a way you’ve never tried before.

I will admit that many of the same issues that can be found with CK2 initially are still here and haven’t been changed, because really they don’t need to be. The same massively dynamic and deep simulations of everything from petty squabbles over land to full blown civil wars to conventional wars to holy wars are still present and have been expanded upon with the expansion. The game still creates grand tales of bravery, intrigue and just plain insanity, which is both the beauty of CK2 and the cause for the initial difficulty. CK2 will never truly bend to provide a softer learning curve and the current trend of the expansions is to add more mechanics, factions, religions and general variables into the already fantastic mixing pot. I therefore have to give many of the same warnings over The Old Gods as I do with vanilla CK2:  this game can be hard to get into, it will take a couple of attempts to get an understanding and a single play through can last 50 hours or more. However, once you’ve gotten past the initial hurdles CK2 can offer an unparalleled amount of gameplay.  And with Paradox continually releasing content expansions such as The Old Gods, the potential for new and different experiences in the game only gets greater.

Compatibility wise, Paradox is being as fantastic as ever with Windows, Mac and Linux support just like the base game. Cost-wise The Old Gods will cost £9.99 (approx $16.57), which isn’t too bad for an expansion adding so much, especially the potential for additional unique play time from the new Pagan factions. This price is without the base game and, I’ll be honest, if you haven’t played or tried CK2, jumping straight into the expansions probably isn’t for the best and you’re going to have a better time just getting the base game and buying expansions as and when you feel you want more content to sink your teeth into.  Even then you’re looking at £29.99 (approx $49.71) for the base game so maybe wait until it goes on sale or even better try out the demo offered in the link below.

CK2 Demo:

The Old Gods on Steam (demo also available on Steam):

The Old Gods on Gamersgate:

The Old Gods on GMG:

Crusader Kings 2 Store List (Your choice of sales, platforms and compatibility):

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