There are two ways you can approach Crusader Kings III. On the one hand it’s a sprawling grand strategy game where you’re in control of a Kingdom’s entire economy, military, society and faith. On the other, it’s a big ol’ RPG.
The game’s success, of course, stems largely from the fact it’s both of these things at the same time, but that doesn’t mean the relationship is always harmonious. For some old-time Paradox players, or even just those who prefer the big-picture side of strategy gaming, the way Crusader Kings III leans so heavily into its character systems can be a bit of a distraction. Individual rulers of the time were incredibly important central figures, of course, but making a player juggle taxes at the same time they’re trying to get married can sometimes be an odd fit.
It also creates this weird schism in the game’s focus, where huge swathes of its actions are carried out via numbers and sliders and buttons, while others are represented as literally as possible, through 3D models of characters reacting to events and presenting the player with lavishly-written dialogue and event sequences.
Anyway, I like this, but I’m pointing out the discrepancy for the handful of people who don’t like the more personal stuff to say, man, you are gonna really hate this new DLC.
CKIII’s new Tours & Tournaments DLC is a doubling down—maybe even tripling down—on the game’s most personable diversions. In the base game, one of the most important things you can do is host a feast, where important subjects turn up at your castle, you feed them, you party and a bunch of events play out that can help you improve (or sabotage) relationships between them.
Now imagine that single party dragged out for weeks or even months, and that’s this DLC. Its main drawcard presents the player with three big options: they can host a huge tournament, the kind with jousting and melee tournaments and damsels offering trophies, they can organise a lavish wedding and they can go on a Grand Tour, where you can plan—down to surprisingly minute details—a big trip around your Kingdom, swinging by your subjects and making sure everything is in order.
Like the feast, they’re a chance to make more sweeping changes to your relationships than is normally possible through regular, individual actions. Unlike a feast, though, these are a huge undertaking, and for the first time properly decouple your character from the game map, in the same way we’re used to seeing the series’ armies behave.
These three events can do a lot, but beyond their gameplay ramifications they’re also just a really fun distraction from the mundanity of your daily rule. They lean very heavily into the idea that you’re playing as person who is capable of doing cool medieval shit, which really, is what a lot of us are here for. A tournament is one of the oldest medieval tropes there is—just ask A Knight’s Tale—and quite frankly it’s crazy we haven’t been able to host one like this until now.
Same goes for the tour! It’s literally the establishing premise of A Game of Thrones; how could Bran have ever become King if he hadn’t been pushed out a window by a visiting Lannister? And sticking with George R R Martin’s work, the grand weddings are just as important, especially since they let you plan both normal weddings—right down to managing the invite list—and, once again with the Lannisters, murderous weddings.
Crusader Kings has forever had a problem where, thanks to games taking place over generations, there comes a point every game where the churn of characters means your allies and enemies start to feel like a rotating collection of random faces and personality statistics. CKIII’s Throne Room DLC tried to make things a little more personal, but these big events go way past that. Swinging by your subject’s castle to have a chat, or arguing with your fiancée’s sister over wedding arrangements pushes this series the closest it has ever come to really making you feel like you’re dealing with people.
Each of these three big events cost a lot of money to host, and take a lot of time to complete, so you might not want to be triggering one every year. Or maybe you do; I think they’re involved enough that again, for the first time in series history, they give players with an inward focus—who care more about internal politics than “painting the map” with their invading armies—enough to do that they can content themselves with only playing that way.
There’s of course more stuff than just these headline additions. Like most major Paradox updates there are also some significant changes coming to the base game, which all players will be able to enjoy, not just those paying for this DLC. Regencies have become a lot more involved, the barbershop has been made a lot cooler and you’ve now got the option to station your men-at-arms somewhere specific on the map.
I can’t emphasise enough how much of a pleasure this DLC will be for anyone who plays Crusader Kings III and enjoys the role-playing side of things. The first time I played through a Grand Wedding I was in awe; for a window of time this stopped being a game about dynasties and power and turned into a wedding planner and dating sim, which sounds like a stupid joke until you realise that who you invite and what you plan has impacts on those dynasty and power systems.