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Crusader Kings 3 assumes the throne on the 1st of September, AD 2020

The king is dead. Long live the king

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Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

After 15 expansions and more than a decade of continuous development, the reign of Crusader Kings 2 is coming to an end. One of the most valuable jewels in the crown of Swedish developer Paradox Interactive is ready for a refresh, and Crusader Kings 3 now finally has a release date. The epic grand strategy game is scheduled to launch Sept. 1 for $49.99, the company announced Thursday.

The Crusader Kings franchise is not your average grand strategy game. Players take on the role not of a country or even of a single ruler, but of an entire dynasty. The goal is to shepherd your line from the dawn of the Middle Ages into the Renaissance and beyond, through skill at arms but also cunning and treachery. Crusader Kings 3 is said to include many new innovations, but also a much larger geography than its predecessors.

When Crusader Kings 2 first launched in 2012, Paradox tells Polygon, its domain stretched from England to the edges of Persia and North Africa. This time around, the starting map features that plus all of West and Central Africa, as well as much of Asia, including Mongolia, the Eurasian Steppe, India, and Tibet. Players can assume the role of any historical figure in the game, as well as many fictional characters, and attempt to shape their destiny in a complex political sandbox.

Crusader Kings 3 will also include two different starting dates: 1066, the year of the Battle of Hastings, and 867.

“We wanted to bring the clock back to the era when European paganism was still strong and alive, and threatening the world,” game director Henrik Fåhraeus told Polygon during a Zoom interview. “I thought that was a super interesting period. The year specifically has to do with death [of the Viking hero] Ragnar Lodbrok.” It’s also a period that features the legendary figure known as Rurik, thought to be the ancient founder of Russia.

“The rest of the world is also very different,” game designer Alex Oltner told Polygon, “but the main difference between the two dates is that in 1066 you have this vast, Catholic sphere which provides an interesting gameplay in itself. But, in 867, things are divided into enclaves. There are several different faiths on the map, and it’s easy to form your own destiny, so to speak. History isn’t as nailed down as it is in 1066.”

That’s not all that Paradox is changing in Crusader Kings 3. The studio has also invested heavily in the game’s art and assets, creating elaborate 3D portraits for its tens of thousands of playable characters. Through the course of play, they will age and change appearance as medieval life and the mantle of leadership take their toll. RPG-style traits as well as personality quirks will make each character unique. A new stress mechanic can lead to insanity if rulers aren’t played to type, and a model for genetic inheritance will help shape later generations. The results, Paradox said, will be a unique gameplay experience every time.

Crusader Kings 3 will also include a new religion system. Players will be able to create their own faiths, embarking on their own paths of heresy by twisting the game world’s nearly 100 prebaked historical religions to meet their needs. Play your cards right and you can even seduce the pope.

We’ve had hands-on time with an early build of the game. Expect more details on our burgeoning empire later today. Pre-orders for the PC game are available now.

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