Crusader Kings 3 was one of 2020’s sleeper hits on the PC, capturing players with its mix of medieval warfare, diplomacy, and hereditary conflict. It’s one of two follow ups to 2004’s Crusader Kings; the second in the series came out in 2012. The games have earned praise from players for the unique Middle Ages setting and style of gameplay.
Crusader Kings 3’s Northern Lords flavour pack is out now. It’s a set of Norse and Viking-themed cosmetics and events for Paradox’s grand strategy game, and it’s relatively minor. The free update that comes alongside it however is much larger, and adds winter, an expanded duelling system, and randomly generated poetry.
The corner of the map revamped by Northern Lords is, as the expansion’s name suggests, the bit inhabited by the Norse cultures – aka the Vikings, for people like me who take perverse pleasure in insisting that Frankenstein was the name of the monster. It has been released alongside the free 1.3 “Corvus” patch, which also bears a few new Norse-centric features, but also applies a broader coat of small spruce-ups across the game.
The free update partners nicely Northern Lords’ northern focus, but still forms a substantial set of new features even if you don’t care to buy new ways for your leaders to dress. Winter, for example, is not just a major cosmetic change to the map, but has gameplay ramifications in how the cold will affect your armies and supplies. Paradox detailed winter in blog updates, with other posts covering the new character duels and poet trait.
The most immediately noticeable additions are all visual. Norse characters can pick from an armload of new hairstyles and beards, and wear historically appropriate clothing that even changes if you adopt a different culture or convert to a new religion. The coats of arms, too, reflect whether or not you’ve stayed true to your pagan traditions. The shield for the Kingdom of Sweden, for example, bears a gold Thor’s Hammer if you form it as a pagan, instead of the more familiar coat of arms the Christian Swedish monarchs wore historically. And they’ve added some gorgeous new backgrounds, including a cozy longhouse, to serve as the set for feasting, fighting, and fratricide.
Paradox has meanwhile incorporated a variety of culturally unique units, such as berserkers, shieldmaidens, and traveling mystics. Among new interactions in the Crusader Kings 3 expansion are raising runestones and more family activities, such as snowball fights with children. Snow of course requires winter, and yes, winter is now fully depicted in the game, taking its toll visually and mechanically. One religious interaction includes the ability to hold a Grand Blót, a sacrifice of humans and animals to the Norse gods in exchange for improving piety and reputation with vassals.
In fact, pretty much all of Northern Lords’ content is there to facilitate deeper roleplaying. The Grand Blot, for example, is mechanically very similar to a regular feast with a ritual strangling thrown in for good measure. When you’re fully Norsing it up, however, with Northern Lords’ package of doleful, Scandinavian murder dirges playing in the background, it’s the perfect finisher to the conquering of a hated enemy.
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