Crusader Kings III: Console Edition – The Sofa Kingdom

REVIEW – What happens when perhaps the best medieval child-raising simulator of all time, born for the PC, suddenly appears on today’s popular next-gen consoles, driven by some crazy idea? Well, if you want to know the answer, read on to find out if Crusader Kings III on PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X is worth investing in…



Initially released in Summer 2020, Swedish developer Paradox Interactive’s empire-building sandbox dynasty simulator – which followed two hugely successful prequels – is an awe-inspiring game in its genre. It still stands at 91% on Metacritic today, a very impressive achievement: the majority agree that this title is one of the best in the series, and indeed in Paradox. However, it is also a fact that, while the genre is by no means unpopular – and is able to grow its following with each significant title – it still appeals to a narrow range of gamers. The complex mechanics, gameplay and atmospheric, but overall not particularly spectacular graphics narrow down the potential player pool. Moreover, this genre has always been more popular on PC than on consoles. Without questioning the justification for a console release, it is legitimate to ask what Crusader Kings III: Console Edition offers in this situation.


Marry, (not) war!


On the basic level, Crusader Kings III is a dynastic “life simulation” set in a medieval setting. You start by choosing a nobleman whose life you want to manage and follow his family and empire for centuries. You’ll have to handle title-giving, noble councils, wars, family ties, marriages, religion and culture shifts – there’s always something to do to make your empire richer, stronger and more efficient. Would you invite wealthy priests from foreign realms only to imprison them and steal their gold? You can do just that. Would you invade your best friend’s county to secure your borders? Sure, keep it up! Would you seduce the mysterious new visitor to your court? Uh… well, do whatever you want. CKIII is genuinely a game of possibilities.





That doesn’t mean, of course, that Crusader Kings III is an empty sandbox with no direction. The game features five different play philosophies, called “lifestyles”, which you can follow to varying degrees depending on your goals. The diplomatic “lifestyle” rewards friendly behaviour by making your character popular. At the same time, the combat-focused one lets you expand your empire beyond its original borders and rule with an iron fist. It is entirely possible, and sometimes a good idea, to pursue both lifestyles simultaneously – they are not mutually exclusive. Becoming the cutest warlord in Europe is an achievement in itself.


Role-playing in the sandbox


Crusader Kings III also offers an authentic role-playing experience. Characters have distinct personalities dictated by their traits and experiences, and you have to make decisions accordingly – anything from declaring war on your neighbour to befriending the Pope (for money, of course). In Crusader Kings, you get exactly as much as you put into it, and the sheer range of actions and options adds to the random, open-ended nature of the game. No two playthroughs are the same.

The emphasis on RPG-style gameplay is reflected in the importance of the game’s stress mechanics. If you make decisions that don’t fit your character’s personality, they become increasingly stressful. Once it reaches a certain point, they break down. You have to adjust your playstyle accordingly or risk an untimely (and usually cruel) demise. However, you do have tools to avert such events, such as feasting or adopting a pet, so you never feel like you can’t do whatever you want because of the randomly generated traits given to your character.





This is one of the best aspects of the game: it gives you a strong incentive to play out the life of a noble in medieval times, but there’s plenty of scope for ‘meta’, strategic decisions – ambitious characters will despise giving counties to their subordinates, but sometimes it’s necessary to avoid rebellion, so there will undoubtedly be times when you have to shove their pride down their throats, and so on.


Cross and controller


So, the question is: how is the Console Edition different from the PC version that was released almost two years ago? Is it worth going back and investing in the console version if you’ve played it before? Let’s start with the black soup: the console edition does not currently include any extra content, DLC or add-ons that have been released for the base game on PC since 2020. (Not that there are too many of those, especially compared to CKII.) We’re basically getting a port of the base game – so if you’re used to expansions, you might find this version a bit poor.

However, the console edition does have some exclusive features. These are sometimes relatively small but ingenious innovations, such as the character’s portrait background gradually turning red as they become more stressed and the trigger buttons on DualSense becoming harder to press. This gives you a comfortable sense of your stress level at a glance and shows that this port has tried to take full advantage of the console gaming architecture.





Another slightly more significant change is the redesign of the battle mechanics. In the PC version of the game, combat takes place like any other RTS – you assign your armies, choose where they march, and battles occur when two opposing forces bump into each other en route. This often requires quick reactions, even as time slows down. A new army automation option is added to the console edition of the game, allowing you to stop fighting and rely on sophisticated artificial intelligence to do the work for you. It may not be as effective strategically as manual control, but it makes the game much more accessible to those who use a controller, underlining one of the port’s primary goals – making the game fun, playable and appealing to those who have never played Crusader Kings before.

This attention to detail is reflected in other aspects of the port’s control scheme. I suppose it’s no big secret when I say that Crusader Kings relies on many menus. Imagine managing a dynasty with the most grotesque array of spreadsheets ever seen, and you’re pretty close to the game. By comparison, the efforts of Lab42, the company responsible for the port, have resulted in something truly impressive! Navigating through the menus feels as natural as in any other console game. The utilization of radial menus is superb. The UI also makes professional use of the available space to convey all the vital information you need. Although it seems daunting how much control you get at first glance, it only takes a couple of hours to get into it, and you immediately understand: this port was made by people who know the game and the PlayStation/Xbox controller options inside and out.


Complexity on the cube


It’s no secret that Crusader Kings III is one of the most complex games out there. It’s not for everyone, but those who dive in will enjoy its depth, and the console edition makes the learning curve less steep than ever. While there’s still no dedicated tutorial, the game has a fantastic tooltip system that gives you tips exactly when you need them – for example, you only learn about parenting once you have a child and so on. Learning is encouraged by a series of exclusive achievements that reward you for every new feature you dare to try.

There’s really not much to blame the port for as far as bugs and shortcomings go. The lack of cross-platform multiplayer is always a frustrating hurdle, especially these days, and this is only exacerbated by the aforementioned fact that Paradox’s games will always be more popular on PC. In addition, some menus are painfully difficult to navigate – such as the religion selection screen and everything that requires embedded tooltips – although these are few and far between. The graphics do try to take advantage of the large-screen 4K TVs, but you can still feel that this game was designed for desktops. However, these are all small things that don’t detract much from the quality of the experience that CKIII delivers.



Sofa kings, forward!


So, going back to the questions we asked earlier, what does Crusader Kings III: Console Edition have to offer? Is it worth its (higher) price (than the PC version)? The answer is a resounding yes. The console version provides the smoothest, easiest to learn and most streamlined version of the game yet. Compared to competitors’ console ports, it’s an exceptionally positive experience (Stellaris, are you listening?) The only thing that it falls short of the PC version’s greatness is that it feels like it’s been built from the ground up for desktop play. However, if you prefer PS, Xbox, and are used to using a controller, you won’t mind the PC origins: you’ll get the hang of the game quickly, and there’s a good chance you’ll spend hours and hours managing your favourite family of rulers and your empire. If you only plan to try one “grand strategy” game, you can’t go wrong with Crusader Kings III!



+ Crusader Kings III
+ Smooth, easy-to-learn port
+ Improvements and enhancements over the PC version


– Crusader Kings III base edition
– Lack of cross-platform multiplayer
– Unmanageable menus in some places

Publisher: Paradox Interactive

Developer: Paradox Development Studio / Lab42 Games

Style: Grand strategy / RPG

Release date: 29 March 2021

Crusader Kings III: Console Edition

Gameplay - 9
Graphics - 8
Story - 9
Music/Audio - 8.5
Ambience - 9.5



The console version provides the smoothest, easiest to learn and most streamlined version of the game yet. The only thing that it falls short of the PC version's greatness is that it feels like it's been built from the ground up for desktop play. However, if you prefer PS, Xbox, and are used to using a controller, you won't mind the PC origins: you'll get the hang of the game quickly, and there's a good chance you'll spend hours and hours managing your favourite family of rulers and your empire.

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