The story of this game's development feels like a penultimate act in the downfall of Paradox Interactive's near-monopoly over the grand strategy genre, and the dev diaries of promising contenders like Grey Eminence
are like hammer blows to nails in the company's coffin.
As many critics point out, Paradox's releases in the past decade or so (what some have termed 'nu-Paradox') have been released with scant features, seemingly designed as DLC-mills. The prodigious amount of DLC released for this game's predecessors - Crusader Kings II
, Hearts of Iron IV
, Europa Universalis IV
- is at The Sims 4
levels of unaffordable absurdity. The aforementioned games are nigh-unplayable without DLC. Following in this tradition, Crusader Kings III
feels like an unfinished game, and has taken a year to produce its first piece of severely lacking DLC.
The gameplay subtracts from what was on offer in the previous title in the series, with the implicit expectation that we will be drip-fed these old features through DLC. Gone are playable republics and nomad mechanics, in return for emphasis on RPG elements and fully-customisable religions. Indeed, 'grand strategy' seems like more of an influence than a genre here. In my playthroughs - which played nearly identically despite wildly different starting situations - I found little to no need to strategise at all, though that may be since my playtime in Crusader Kings II
made common strategies basically reflexive. Either way, that betrays a stunning lack of innovation. Really, the game is an incredibly easy sandbox that offers no resistance to whatever the player wants to do. The stunning depth of customisation and freedom of choice available to the player means that every character plays the same, with the same infinite branches of action open to them.
All in all, an expectedly disappointing release. It grimly foreshadows what we should expect from Victoria 3
, but a ray of hope is shining in the form of decreased confidence in Paradox and thus of new optimism for competitors in the grand strategy genre.