Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury Review

The Crusader Kings saga bravely goes on

Paradox Interactive has just released its 15th DLC (an expansion) for Crusader Kings 2, called Holy Fury. This expansion brings a host of changes in the game, from new portraits of rulers to new options for your rulers and great new background music.

It’s been a while

The first Crusader Kings was released in 2004, in a rather dysfunctional state, but clearly having a lot of potential. After nearly 8 years of coding, Paradox Interactive announced in February 2012 that a new Crusader Kings game was coming out and that all the mistakes from the first part were corrected.

Crusader Kings II is a grand strategy in which you take on the role of rulers in medieval Europe and Asia Minor. You start the game by dialing an arbitrary date between 1066-1337 AD, and ending in 1453 – which is the date of the historic fall of Constantinople. There is no rigid historical determinism in terms of the expansion and fall of kingdoms in the game, except for precisely defined rules in interpersonal feudal relations that form the core of the game.

Since its release, various DLCs and patches have improved the game. Originally, you could only take the role of a Christian ruler in the game, with other religions being added later as well. In addition to extending options for the players, the game mechanics was further refined and fixes added for many tiny bugs/errors in the game. Add a few more background music tracks, put the beginning of the game to 769 AD, the early Middle Ages, and we arrive at the current state of the game.

What’s new in Holy Fury?

The latest DLC brings map and setup improvements, a new game rule, reworked crusade mechanics, new flavor events, imperial governments for “the Romans” and a rebalancing of the combat system.

It also includes a host of new expansion features:

  • “Shattered and random worlds: Start your game on a fictional map of Europe as a small realm fighting for space, or on a random map with historical analogues for the great kingdoms of yore;
  • Warrior Lodges: Join a Pagan warrior lodge and raid your way up the ranks, unlocking access to powerful allies and greater military skill;
  • Legendary bloodlines: Descendants of great warrior heroes will have bonuses that match the accomplishments of their forefathers, including historical bloodlines of Charlemagne, Genghis Khan and others;
  • Sway or Antagonize Your Neighbors: Try to win a reluctant vassal through charm and persuasion, or provoke someone you want to push into conflict;
  • Sainthood: Pious Christians can become canonized, passing on their glory to their descendants and making their resting place a site of great value;
  • Coronations: Feudal catholic/fraticelli kings and emperors must find clergy to crown them, since all power descends from the heavens;
  • New Crusade events: Deeper gameplay for the religious wars of the era;
  • New Succession laws: A Pagan Elder Council may have the final word in how a realm is divided among heirs, or a ruler may challenge his brother to combat to unify a realm;
  • Playable Hellenism: A ruler can revive the dead ancient Greco-Roman religion when meeting some strict requirements;
  • And much more: Changes to religion, custom names for people or objects, deeper baptismal mechanics, lists of people you’ve killed, and other small changes for flavor and variety;
  • New portraits for the French, Arabic, West Slavic and Italian cultures.” (1)

I have to admit a certain bias, I do love the series

I’m a big fan of grand strategies like Crusader Kings II. Such games usually respond well to a bit of forward planning, having a strategy and employing some thinking. You’ll mule over each move carefully, since one turn is enough to lead your kingdom to ruin. But even if you are a master strategist, random events, or fate, can and will make your plans go puff… often in a hilarious manner.

Everyone wants to be the Emperor

I like to start from the earliest possible period, so for Holy Fury I choose year 769 AD. In this time period, the early Middle Ages, the Western Roman Empire, which had formally collapsed in 476 AD, had been divided into different ‘barbarian kingdoms’ and had been slowly economically declining for the last 200-300 years. Also, the great migration of the people was not yet finished.

At the start of the game you can choose whether you will be Count, Duke, King, or Emperor. Each choice is interesting in its own right and will give you plenty of headaches and (hysterical?) laughs while you try to achieve your goals. For this game play, I started as a Count of Greek origin, under a Bulgarian Khan.

By careful planning, I managed to free myself from the vassal rains of the Bulgarian Khan and run for protection to the Byzantine Emperor. By offering my loyalty and leal service, I became his vassal and later had a direct voice in choosing a new emperor – which was my main goal all along.

Along the way, I had lots of fun. The game has many interesting events, from Viking robberies to the rebellion of your vassals. Religion also plays an important role in the game – you have the option to join some monastic orders, or to worship the devil. RPG elements are at every step, and most often you initiate them yourself. Going hunting, organizing summer fairs, knight tournaments, admitting tutelage to your own or your children’s vassals and other activities are presented in the form of decisions with several choices, each of which may or may not affect you, your prestige or piety and the relationships with other characters.

The combat system might have been slightly rebalanced, but everything that has been said in the last decade for Paradox’s strategies made in the Clausewitz engine is still valid here: it’s simplistic and the outcome is a result of previous strategic activities in the game.

My thoughts

Having finished 3 playthroughs, I have to rate Holy Fire as one of the best DLC add-ons for Crusader Kings II. Honestly, this is a true example of the old Expansion Pack, and how every non-free DLC should be – not some horse armor color change, but a real and tangible upgrade in mechanics, gameplay and/or playable content. Holy Fire is all three – a revamp of most of the important aspects of Crusader Kings II that make it more refined and, simply, better.

By also adding the portrait packs in the DLC, we probably have one of the best expansions to Crusader Kings II since Old Gods.

My thoughts seem to be echoed on Steam, where 94% of players gave Crusader Kings II: Holly Fury a positive vote.

A few words about Paradox

Paradox Interactive is a Swedish video game developer and publisher, known for publishing historical strategy computer games. Their most famous games are: Hearts of Iron, Europa Universalis, Crusader Kings, Victoria and Stellaris.

System Requirements

To play Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury you need minimum: Pentium 4 / 2.4 GHz or equivalent, 1 GB of RAM, GeForce 6800 or Radeon X850KT. To play on max settings, you’ll need: Intel Core 2 Quad or equivalent, 2GB of RAM, GeForce 8800GT or Radeon HD 3800.

This puts it on the list of some of the lesser demanding games on PC.


+ Pros

Better than ever Crusader Kings
A more refined gameplay

– Cons

The price
Too many and too expansive DLCs to get the full game experience

Gaming Guide Score

Concept - 8.5
Gameplay - 9
Graphics & Sound - 8


It's Great

I really enjoyed playing Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury. A few improvements, several fixes and some new content makes the game feel more refined and brings the players that much closer to being a ruler during the Middle Ages. I sank another 30+ hours into this DLC and recommend it to both old players and new players looking for fun old-school real-time strategy games.

User Rating: 4.25 ( 1 votes)

About Mark Veljkovic

Mark was born in Serbia. He has been interested in computers since he can remember. After playing Sid Meier’s Civ for the first time he fell in love with gaming and to this day he is a passionate gamer. He enjoys real-time strategies and FPSs, but he is also into RPGs. He is the Art Director of the site and a part of the Editorial team.

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