Test – Crusader Kings III – A must-have strategy game finally on Xbox Series


In recent years, we have seen with some pleasure the collapse of the video game boundary between the PC universe and that of consoles. Ports of games from the PC universe, often niche, which were thought to be unsuitable for a controller experience, have invaded the stores of Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony. In the Xbox ecosystem, this trend has even become a priority under the leadership of Phil Spencer, and many games from these ports land directly in the Xbox Game Pass. This is the case of Crusader Kings III, released this 29 March 2022 on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S (only), and which has been delighting PC users since September 1066.

Happiness ? Certainly. The medieval franchise, created and developed by the Swedes of Paradox Interactive, has become essential for lovers of grand strategy and the third installment proves worthy of its prestigious heritage. Gender resistants will roll their eyes. They will never understand how one can enjoy a game based on austere world maps, text and numbers. Poor fools. Crusader Kings III is an extraordinarily rich game and a game time black hole for lovers of the genre… equipped with a keyboard and mouse. Paradox wanted to expand its audience and entrusted the reins of carrying its nugget to Lab10, a British studio specializing in this practice. What about the ergonomics of the controller? Is the gaming experience adapted to the installations and specificities of console players? Is Crusader Kings III welcoming for uninformed audiences? These are the questions we are going to answer in this test to find out if the Crusader Kings III experience on Xbox Series X|S is worth your attention.

Family, c is sacred

Unlike other grand strategy games which generally consist of exploiting and conquering the proposed world, here we control the destiny of a noble dynasty during most of the Middle Ages. ge. Specifically, we lead the leader of the noble house. At his death, we incarnate his main heir and so on, until the date of 1066 or the absence of an heir, which mark the end of a game. Beyond extending the dynasty geographically by multiplying alliances and conquests, it will above all be a question of ensuring the survival of the lineage.

A succession is always an upheaval

This starting point is the charm and uniqueness of the Crusader Kings series. Human relations are at the heart of the game system. Of course, we will have the pleasure of developing and expanding our earthly possessions during a reign, but this is without counting on “injustice” (for the player ) feudal law. You successfully conquered during 09 years almost all of Ireland during a glorious reign, and boom! A fatal fall during a hunting party leads to a crisis of succession: division of the “country” between brother and sister heirs, who do not support each other. The reconquest of the “lost” lands could only be a formality, if it were not necessary to embody a puny successor with inglorious statistics, to manage a conspiratorial mother who does not digest her withdrawal and to put down a rebellion of certain vassals who take advantage of your temporary weakness. Here is a concrete example of a beginning of reign among many other different ones in Crusader Kings III. Paradox’s game is a great storytelling machine.

A vassal on the Council helps calm his ambitions

Fortunately, in the face of so much injustice and random drama, we are not totally helpless, quite the contrary. Being an excellent Crusader Kings player means knowing how to anticipate and plan everything in order to limit the effects of unpredictability. Good news, the game system gives us the means. How to avoid a succession crisis? Arrange to have a single heir who will have been well educated, or change the laws of succession (impossible at the beginning of the game), disinherit one of his children, denounce a member of his family to imprison him or more simply… murder him. How to recover a territory that one covets? The subtle way might be to arrange a marriage for his 5-year-old son to the next heiress in the targeted county. If the plan goes well, the territory will be ours by right in two generations. Those in a hurry and bellicose will prefer the military campaign. Yes, it is very effective. But in Crusader Kings, a casus belli is required to enter into conflict. In other words, without agreement of feudal law which authorizes us to claim a territory, we cannot do anything militarily. This is without counting on the possibility of making a false document “lost” in the episcopal archives… But beware, whatever you can do, the other houses can do it too! And the AI ​​does not hesitate.

For any situation, the options at our disposal are often numerous. This is all the salt and richness of this game where roleplay plays a fundamental role. We could spend hours going through the various problems to be managed, but that is not the purpose of our test and we leave the pleasure of discovery to everyone.

Mandatory tutorial, ladies and gentlemen

For this adaptation of Crusader Kings III on consoles, Paradox Interactive’s ambition was to bring the franchise to a new audience, far from its loyal and solid core target on PC. In this sense, the deal made with Microsoft to bring the day one title to the Xbox Game Pass consoles is a godsend, even more so if the financial counterpart was able to cover the adaptation costs, who knows? As a publisher and developer, Paradox is not at its first attempt at an adaptation on home consoles of a game from its catalog; Stellaris is the perfect example. Nevertheless, Crusader Kings III represents the first port of an opus of one of its most prestigious IP with Europa Universalis and Hearts of Iron. The stake was therefore important for the Swedish publisher but also for the studio Lab42, adaptation manager.

A wonderful playground

To welcome neophytes, the main menu is sober and efficient, all accompanied by a quality musical title that puts us all immediately in the medieval atmosphere. Only one single player mode and one multiplayer mode are in the game. Crusader Kings is above all a huge sandbox. By clicking on “New game”, a map of Europe offers us several possible dynastic departures, two of which are recommended in case of discovery of the license. All of these starting points were chosen according to a theme and major events in medieval history, such as the division of the Empire of Charlemagne. Of course, it is possible for regulars to start a game by modifying many game options and choosing any character or historical house from Iceland to China to the African territories located in the north of the Ecuador, as long as you respect the two imposed departure dates: 860 Where 1066. Crusader Kings is a gold mine of information for any medieval era enthusiast.

The tutorial must be followed with rigor

By default, the tutorial focuses on Little King Murchad, Duke of Munster, in 11th century Ireland. We strongly advise you to start with this. Thanks to explanatory pop-up windows and others where your actions validate the passage to the next lesson, we integrate solid bases to better understand the countless subtleties and possibilities that the game offers us. Overall, the tutorial is effective , although capricious at times to validate the learning in progress. It ends quickly after our first annexation of a neighboring county. Then we are almost on our own. Some suggestions and advice are offered to us by pressing the button linked to the right stick, but the game tells us bluntly that Crusader Kings III is about setting your own goals. When we told you that the roleplay was pushed, we weren’t lying to you; it’s up to you to satisfy your own desires, you are the only limit in the ambition of your dynasty.

Suggestions are interesting so as not to scatter

This freedom is extraordinary but will scare many new players, used to being oriented in games, especially on consoles. We understand this confusion in front of this abrupt transition where we don’t really know where to start once we are released into the wild. This is the real critical moment when you will know if the game is for you or not. Moreover, the complexity of feudal law is not there to soften this feeling of vertigo. The developers may try to welcome neophytes with kindness, they cannot distort the requirement and the initial proposal of the game. Crusader Kings III is not a title for the general public and it does not matter.

For the persistent, the suggestions button quickly becomes our best friend and we learn the different gameplay and roleplay possibilities as we try and fail. In addition, many guides abound on the net to help those who wish. One thing is certain, if you stick to the concept, you can say goodbye to your social life as the title becomes so gripping and addictive.

An adaptation model on consoles, but not flawless

The ergonomics of the joystick must not spoil the gaming experience in the long term. One of the objectives of Paradox and Lab30 was to create a new accessible and fluid user interface, adapted to the specificities of gaming on home consoles. The crippling mistake of keeping the original PC game interface and using the controller as a virtual mouse has been avoided. On the contrary, Lab42 was inspired by the best game mechanics present in other titles of the genre on consoles and sought to effectively exploit the possibilities offered by the hardware of the controllers.

It is time to make Lille the cradle of the future Kingdom of France

I’ The main idea was to assign certain buttons to unique game functions. Thus the Y button specifically opens the window linked to the characters, the B button is only used to close the windows and tooltips, the X button opens the menu of actions that can be performed on the symbol highlighted by the cursor, the buttons slice buttons are used to quickly navigate between tabs in command bars, etc. Regarding the triggers, a long press on the left one opens a radial menu centered on the areas of interaction related to our character (culture, faith, dynasty …), while the right one opens another radial menu offering different filters for the map. It’s U n time that we have integrated these manipulations (which still requires some learning time), that we savor the nice work of the developers to make the interactions fluid and above all instinctive.

Physical maps could have been more detailed

Certainly we do not reach comfort ultimate keyboard/mouse experience for this type of game, but the controller brings a real plus for certain game functions, mainly via shortcuts. Finally, it is once you find yourself on the main map of the world that you come closest to the user experience on PC. Indeed, the left stick moves the cursor on the map (with a slower speed compared to a mouse) and the right stick allows you to play with the zoom and scales of the map as you would with the mouse wheel.

Battles remain simplistic

If the user experience is overall a great success, some flaws remain present. Sometimes certain actions are not taken into account. You have to repeat the inputs. In the main character window, it is currently not possible to hover over claims and alliances in order to monitor them. This is particularly annoying when you want to attack a neighbor bound by alliances, which you cannot know if they concern a junk baron or a king in person. Another annoying flaw, the management of troop movements in wartime on the map is rather laborious. As a continuation of this flaw, it is difficult to discern the exact location on the map where to click to open pop-ups in the event of a city or castle siege.

The presence of an encyclopedia for this type of game remains essential and represents a mine of information to understand the subtleties of the gameplay. If we find one in Crusader Kings III, unfortunately its accessibility is far from optimal and even becomes painful in the long run. Fortunately, an information bubble appears automatically if you leave the cursor motionless on a keyword. In summary for all these faults, none is prohibitive to the point of spoiling the gaming experience on consoles, but they deserve to be corrected via future updates.

Long live modernized austerity

Paradox games have often been mocked, and rightly so, for their graphical austerity. For Crusader Kings III, the studio has gone to great lengths to make its simulation more appealing. The graphic charter of the maps is more pleasant, in particular the transition between the different zoom levels which is fluid and much more elegant than in the past. Depending on the zoom level, the map changes graphic style and legend in order to give us completely different information. We go in a fraction of a second from small-scale Political world maps to large-scale Physical region maps. The effect is exhilarating.

Reading the texts is pleasant

The font and the visibility of the text have been adapted for large screens, so that reading remains pleasant, regardless of the amount of text and the size of the windows or tooltips. The game is entirely localized in French but we sometimes regret certain translation errors or turns of phrase that lack subtlety. The upper left part of the screen is devoted to the resources of our house via a permanent banner. Thus, we can visualize at any time the size of our army, our finances, the fame of our dynasty, the level of our prestige and our piety. In the lower right corner, we find the calendar with the speed of flow of our part, modifiable at any time. A game of Crusader Kings is played in real time, but it is also possible to pause the flow of time in order to develop your strategy or analyze the information without any pressure.

Customization remains limited

Interesting novelty, Paradox has introduced in Crusader Kings III 3D modeling of characters. We are far from the photorealistic models of the last AAA but compared to the old titles of the studio, it is a revolution. These 3D renderings, accompanied by small animations, humanize the characters even more, which reinforces our empathy towards them. Especially since they evolve according to the age, the behavior of your characters and their lived events. Regarding the personalization of our leader, if his physique is imposed on us, we can, via the “Barber” menu, modify his hairstyle, his dress and the color of his hair, even if the color chart is limited. A little extra that reinforces the RPG aspect of the game. Nevertheless, we notice a certain redundancy linked to the reduced number of different face models.

is classic and in phase with the theme of the game. It remains discreet in times of peace and is more threatening in times of war, with the addition of percussion. Overall, it has the elegance to be forgotten, which is not displeasing to us given the number of hours we will spend on the title listening to it on repeat.

Finally, if this console version is very close to the initial proposal on PC, it will suffer from the long-term comparison due to the absence of mods. Moreover, a new title from the studio always suffers from the difference in content compared to the previous installment, fueled by numerous DLCs for years after the release of the base game. For example, you will have to be patient to embody the Serenissima Republic of Venice in Crusader Kings III.

Tested on Xbox Series X