Crusader Kings III: Royal Court, the first major expansion for Paradox Interactive’s Medieval Era grand strategy game releases today. It’s got a slew of features for you to try out, most notably the search for artifacts and decorating your keep. Likewise, you’ll get to try an overhauled culture system to make campaigns more dynamic.
Truth be told, the expansion did amaze me when I had just started my run. Unfortunately, it’s also bogged down by a rather tiresome system that becomes forgettable as you go along.
Decorating your castle keep and assigning court positions
Following the concept of grand strategy combined with RPG mechanics, Crusader Kings III: Royal Court gives you a titular royal court, a keep that you can adorn with various trappings. By finding various artifacts, your character (if they hold a kingdom or empire title and they’re part of the feudal or clan system) can increase the level of grandeur. Along the way, you’ll obtain boosts to different facets, such as prestige, renown, piety, vassal opinion, prowess, and even the number of knights.
Your court, essentially, acts as a separate screen for you to show off your exploits to your courtiers and guests. There are even random events and a Hold Court action where people might petition you for new titles or present their dilemmas. This is a positive aspect of the expansion, as it presents your character as someone who takes on a lot of responsibilities, all while displaying your dynasty’s might. My only gripe is that many dilemmas become redundant and repetitive later in the campaign.
Apart from this, you’ve also got access to several new court and royal positions. Just like whatever items you equip or place in your abode, these followers tend to confer boons as well. For instance, assigning people as bodyguards, food tasters, and cupbearers might prevent assassination plots. Your personal champion, meanwhile, can take your place if you’re challenged in a duel.
Perhaps my favorite is turning an annoying vassal into a court jester (a returning fave). Sure, that would lower your vassal’s opinion of you, but that’s their comeuppance for trying to instigate a revolt. Plus, anytime there are events when they’d stumble or make a fool of themselves, you’d experience a significant decrease in your stress levels.
The RNG artifacts of Crusader Kings III: Royal Court
Some nations in Crusader Kings III: Royal Court already start with their own artifacts (including historical and legendary variants). To amass more, you’ll need to commission guests who have an inspiration. As far as I can tell, being inspired tends to be random. As such, these guests also tend to appear in your lands randomly.
Once you’ve commissioned an artifact, you’re given a series of event decisions. For example, an adventurer might want to travel to faraway lands, which means you’d give them more gold for their journey. They could encounter bandits or wild animals and, subsequently, they may achieve advance further or get wounded in the process. Alternatively, there are commissions for equipment, gear pieces, accessories, books, and furniture. You’d still hand over the gold, though, at times, you’d need to placate a courtier who wants to interfere, make a dedication to a spouse or relative, or use specific traits/skills that can be useful.
The above concepts sound great, at least on paper. Sadly, this can prove to be tedious down the line. The biggest problem with this particular mechanic in Crusader Kings III: Royal Court is that a lot of RNG and percentage-based rolls happen in the background. An adventurer might have a 75% chance to succeed a check, but you need to watch out for that remaining 25% in case of failures. Moreover, it’s a hassle when you’re asked for an artifact to be dismantled to make one that’s of a higher quality, but you end up with something that’s only partially comparable.
I’d liken Royal Court to Way of Life (i.e., your lifestyle foci nowadays), in that it’s filled with dilemmas and choices, many of which will affect a lot of characters. The key difference is that Way of Life was always about your character taking an active role thereby increasing your immersion. In Royal Court, you’re simply delegating tasks to NPCs, with little control over the results. If you’re lucky, then that’s great. If not, then it can be downright annoying. Several guests that arrived either had poor aptitudes or were average at best. There were even points when my character, the ruler of the Southern Baltic Empire (the renamed Wendish Empire), still received low-quality artifacts after a bunch of events. By the time you’ve fast-forwarded a hundred years or so in-game, the mechanic becomes drawn out and negligible, pop-ups that you’d hardly consider.
The other notable feature in Crusader Kings III: Royal Court is the revamped/overhauled culture system. It works akin to religion in that cultures can now be reformed or have divergences. In the case of the latter, the cultural head could create their own offshoots, with pillars of tradition that have buffs or penalties. It’s also possible to create a hybrid fusion of two cultures, further encapsulating the idea that your land is a melting pot.
Perhaps the only downside is that I flubbed by picking the Polish king, Boleslaw “the Bold” Piast, in the 1066 A.D. start date. I wanted to lay the foundations for an eventual Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth centuries before it happened in our history. However, because the Poles have the Staunch Traditionalists tenet, it took decades before I could attempt to integrate conquered peoples. Still, if you’re keen on playing the long game, then this overhaul is very much welcome, as it provides you with more ways to roleplay and carve a realm that’s truly unique.
Another factor worth adding is that you gain an increase in cultural acceptance if you conquer new regions and give them to random nobles of that culture. This didn’t mesh well with my ideal strategy — pre-planning a vassal pool with previously unlanded members of the Jimena, Capet, Salian, and Rurikid dynasties — since only random nobles were allowed. Moreover, there’s a new scheme that lets you learn more languages to avoid embarrassing missteps when meeting other people.
Overall, I did manage to enjoy most of the new additions provided by Crusader Kings III: Royal Court. Again, these features tend to enrich your playthroughs, and they’re quite engaging and full of flavor within the first few hours. However, you’ll notice that things can get a little tiresome and repetitive as you progress. If you do want to pick it up, don’t forget to check our check out our guides and features hub.