Crusader Kings II: The Republic expansion offers up a few changes and a chance to control the destiny of a merchant family, but is it a wise investment itself?
Released a year ago, Paradox Interactive’s Crusader Kings II put you in the shoes of a feudal dynasty, marrying, plotting and warring your way to a legacy – or obscurity – in Medieval Europe. The Republic DLC offers a new way to play, one which sees you switch from the possibly nasty, brutish and short life of a feudal lord and into the fancy shoes of a Patrician in one of the great Merchant Republics of the time. Venice, Genoa, Pisa, the Hanseatic League or Gotland are the new Republics the DLC adds, allowing you to play as a character from one of these powers.
A first glimpse at Republic suggests nothing has changed, after all it’s the same map of Medieval Europe and its surrounding neighbours you’re used to, but for the addition of the mainly city-state sized Republics. However, a quick look beneath the surface reveals some new, fundamentally different methods of play to challenge yourself with.
Military power and plots still form some of the basics here, but the addition of trade is what ultimately brings power to the Merchant Republics of this expansion. Yes, the old idiom “money is power” certainly rings true here and money is attained by controlling Trade Posts, brand new building types exclusive to the Republics.
The advantage of being a naval trader is any Feudal Lord in territory on the coast will let you build a Trade Post to get their hands on all of your exotic goods. Building Trade Ports costs money but ultimately pays off in the long run, as you strive to control the shipping lanes of Medieval Europe. Of course, competition from other Merchant families means this is easier said than done.
The Merchant of Venice
Not only are you competing for power with other Republics, but the other families within your Republic want to gain as much power as possible too. While it might look good to see a large area of water with your Republic’s name on it, it’s not going to end up as much of a benefit when Patrician Elections roll around and the head of your family is dead.
Unlike Crusader Kings II’s traditional method of your oldest heir automatically assuming power, the death of the head of a Republic leads to a vote by the heads of all the families within it. Rather than sons, brothers can take over with their age, prestige and respect taken into account when the vote occurs. Of course, this being Crusader Kings II, scheming comes into play too, and money can also play a part in these elections. Lose and you’ll have to lay the groundwork for a future election.
The concepts of trading and rival families are certainly different to what Crusader Kings II usually has to offer. It’s also complicated, even compared to the already complex nature of the strategy title and takes a few attempts to truly learn. That said, the traditional intrigue and wars can still play a part in fulfilling the destiny of your character, but don’t expect them to bring as much prestige. That’s especially true for the latter, as your small army is probably best used to pick off smaller states which have fractured away from the likes of the Holy Roman Empire.
The naval nature of The Republic has also led to the inclusion of new random events, mainly based around shipping and the seas. The most likely outcome of these is gaining or losing money as merchant goods are found or lost. While they do add to the unique nature of the DLC, the events get repetitive quickly. You’ll end up asking yourself: can drunk sea captains really crash into the docks that often? A little more variety in the Merchant Family events would have done a lot for adding a little more interest, especially compared with the wider range of events that can occur in the original game.
Ultimately, however, The Republic is a very worthy addition to Crusader Kings II. It essentially does what all good DLC should do in offering a different outlook to an already compelling and engrossing strategy sim. And with almost 400 years of in-game time to play through, it certainly offers up longevity. An easy recommendation for anyone who wants to experience the game they love a little differently.
Crusader Kings II: The Republic, from Paradox Interactive, is available now for PC.