Crusader Kings 2: Holy Fury - Fuel for Thought

By Alexander Williams 25 Oct 2018 0

If you have been following anything of Crusader Kings 2 recently (or have kept up with the SG CK2 DLC buying guide), you know that they have a serious expansion being released on November 13, one which makes significant changes across the board. Unlike the next Stellaris update from Paradox, it won't be changing the game at an elemental level, but there's no question that the direction of things seems to be swinging back around to doing exactly what it says on the tin: crusading – or at least pushing things more directly into holy war.

It wouldn't be unfair to say that the Strategy Gamer staff has already expressed some fairly polarized positions. Back in June, Craig Robinson, one of the historians in residence, positively exploded in joy while discussing Holy Fury and specifically the changes to crusades themselves. On the other hand, in April, TJ Hafer was of the opinion that perhaps the game itself was being pushed too far away from the core concept of what it does best, the simulation of feudal Christendom.

I'm going to go through the dev diaries for Holy Fury and try to come to some position between these two points. You're coming with me. There have been 27 diaries since the beginning of the year, so it will be a bit of a whirlwind tour.

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Map Control

The last major expansion, Jade Dragon, focused on the eastern side of the map out to Tibet. It's been a while since the Western world has seen a significant clean up in CK2 (July 2015 with Horse Lords, but HF looks to change that by updating significant parts of Western Europe -- pretty much everywhere, with an eye to cleaning up pathing, making borders just a bit more regular, etc.

It's always been a bit of a trial dealing with the aftermath of granting land to a vassal who has warred in a foreign kingdom who then has the gall to up and die. HF is adding a new game rule which allows the control of what happens when one of those exclaves suffers this terrible fate, ranging from no change to the current rules to requiring a continuous owned path of land to be traced back to the Capital. This will reduce the number of those ridiculous little bits of kingdoms scattered willy-nilly and should be more visually pleasant. Politically sensible, too.

Africa is seeing a huge overhaul. Not just the north but down the west and east coasts as well, providing for more opportunities for European powers to make their way into Africa without necessarily having to blast their way through the Muslims.

There is a trans-Saharan trade route being put in – but only if you own Horse Lords or Jade Dragon, another of those "only if you own another DLC" features. This looks to be an interesting option to pursue, focusing on actually developing and controlling parts of the trade route in order to build facilities which make more valuable trade goods (like gold). It won't be for everyone, but some people like constructing dynamic trade powers in some of the least hospitable ecologies on the planet.

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Introducing a pair of features that is reminiscent of something that exists in Europa Universalis IV excites me, here's Shattered World and Random World. Europe is just a little bit boring. Who wouldn't want the possibility of starting in a randomized map where every single county stands alone and closets way to the top to create an entirely new world?

For me, this is huge.

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Deus Vult!

As Craig rightly noted, the crusade mechanics are seeing a serious and near-complete overhaul. If you've been playing a soldier of the Pope and looking forward to stomping through the Levant, not just as a sort of military tourist looking for the shiny gym badge, Holy Fire has you covered.

More interesting than the new preparation and distribution phases is the fact that the results of the crusade can end with a Crusader Kingdom, where your designated bloodline beneficiary gets moved over to be part of the kingdom so created and you have the option of playing from that perspective.

Jumping into a new and potentially unstable political reality, but beset on all sides by pissed off natives looking for a fistful of revenge? That has some real promise.

That is the delivery of the promise put forth in the name of the game itself and you can almost never go wrong by doing that.

Speaking of crusades...

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What's crusading in the historical world if you don't ever take up any of the actual oddities that came to be? CK2 has hasn't really had special crusades which reflect the craziness that actually occurred in Europe of the period, but HF is taking up the slack, though the ability to see some of them go off is going to be contingent on owning at least one other piece of DLC.

In order to experience the Shepherds' Crusade, you're going to have to own Sons of Abraham.

It's good that we're getting these sort of complex, multi-content experiences in CK2. It's a harness which is tailor-made for events to happen in the interact across broad swaths of time, and nothing takes time like a crusade. Just as importantly, these sorts of events are one more opportunity for the player to get to make meaningful decisions about what's going on, changing the direction of the game and possibly history. That potential is one of the great drivers that makes CK2 a compelling experience.

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By Right of Blood

In HF, being the descendant of a legendary hero or ruler is going to be a huge deal – and as a measure of appeal to people like myself, you will have to scheme, manipulate, and plan ahead if you want your dynasty to borrow from the mythic lineage of the great ones who have gone before.

As if you weren't spending enough time paging through every available single in Western Europe, trying to hook up your maiden daughter for political purposes.

To be fair, this may be the greatest set of bloodline traits of all time:

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Put enough time into accruing Prestige, claw your way up above Duke, and you can decide to pursue forging your own bloodline. (Personally, Murder as a path sounds pretty good. It worked for Vlad Tepes, right?) How about becoming a saint? It's not just for Christians – the pagan religious reformation will allow you to import the idea of making saints to your pagan religion. Of course, they will be venerated for very different traits. You might even give serious consideration to reviving the worship of the Greek gods, reinstalling Hellenic religion, risking it all to resurrect the ancient culture of Rome, and going down as having seriously changed history.

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Paganus Ascendent

I love customization. Which is something that grates about CK2. While your dynasty is really the character that you're playing, you can't really change much about the nature of Catholicism or the way the world is laid out around you. That you can change the laws is one of the shining and underreported features of the game.

HF is going to bring us the ability to custom-craft our own pagan religion.

Being able to reform one of the pagan religious groups and change the actual traits associated with it is very unexpected.

This may be one of the two big selling points which convince me to pick up Holy Fury.

You could go the other way and convert to Christianity as a pagan, and assuming that you're well respected, well loved, and/or rule with an iron fist, righteous power, and terror, you will be able to make that transition and take the majority of your subjects and lands with you into the brave new world of listening to the Pope.

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Warrior Lodges for pagans and tribals provide the ability to choose your future path by being the equivalent of Societies. Personal duels and more personal gear which gives stat bonuses and can be passed on to your inheritors are part of this and it's nice to see the followers of the Old Gods getting to get in on the social action.

09

You've Got the Look

It's the little things that matter. Or at least, that's what I'm told.

One of the things happening in HF is made up of a bunch of little things. The biography panel, which you spend a lot of time staring at in the course of playing the game, is getting a screen space overhaul to better allow all the traits and numbers that have been piling up since the game was made to be seen. In a system which legitimately has come by a certain degree of gentle ribbing for being the world's most complicated dating simulator, where you can have a bad date imprisoned and then sacrificed to Satan, a little more gloss on the medieval Tinder pop-out is greatly appreciated.

Speaking of dating apps, your character portrait shape is becoming a dynamic entity. Sit around eating roast beast off of silver platters and holding court? Those double chins and broader cheeks are going to make an appearance. Thrown into prison and fed every third day? Here comes the return of heroin chic. 

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While you're swaying people, make sure that if you are a Christian monarch you receive a proper coronation in the blessing of God, otherwise your vassals very well could get a little bit restless and want to go their way. Plus you get a really nice crown out of it, which makes it totally worthwhile.

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Finality

Holy Fury is huge. Really, amazingly huge. While a lot of this content is going to be at least somewhat accessible as part of the free update that happens at the same time, the DLC itself is definitely going to lead to a set of massive changes. More detail, more customizability, more flexibility, and the possibility of a huge new world to play in is probably going to put it on the "must have DLC list" for CK2.

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