Imagine ruling your own kingdom, with countless resources at your disposal, in an intriguing world with critical decisions that can shape the rest of humanity. That’s a power you more or less have with popular games like Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis.
In fact, both Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis have been enormously successful since their debut, and that success has been a boon to Paradox Interactive, the gaming company responsible for both games.
Crusader Kings II such a success that some credit the sequel for turning Paradox into a “powerhouse,” earning an 82 score on Metacritic.
While initial sales were actually much more modest than I could have guessed, at a mere 12,000 copies for the first day, two years after its release that number had reached 1 million, and 7 million in total, including DLC. For Europa Universalis, over one million copies were sold as of 2016.
From 2012, before the release of Crusader Kings II, Paradox went from a modest gaming studio of just 45 employees, to now over 500 employees and a continually growing reputation for some of the best games on the market.
As someone who grew up playing historical/ time period strategy games like Sid Meier’s Civilization and the iconic Age of Empires series, I was fascinated by the success of Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis and wanted to see which game was better.
In this article, I’ll compare the latest versions– Crusader Kings 3 vs Europa Universalis 4– and tell you which game is the better choice for the ultimate gaming experience.
Main Differences Crusader Kings vs Europa Universalis
- Crusader Kings 3 has only 1 expansion pack now, whereas Europa Universalis has 17
- Crusader Kings focuses on building a dynasty, whereas Europa Universalis focuses on world domination
- Crusader Kings is all single-player, whereas Europa Universalis also offers multiplayer
- Crusader Kings focuses on character depth, whereas Europa Universalis features slightly more features for religion and trade
What is a role-playing, strategy game?
Before I get into a direct comparison between Crusader Kings vs Europa Universalis, however, it’s important to understand the game genre.
I’ll break it down into role-playing and strategy, which so often go hand in hand (another example of role-playing strategy game would be Skyrim).
Role-playing games, also known as RPGs in the gaming world, are popular both for console and PC playing platforms. In these games, you control characters or a single character directly as you navigate a world and interact with others.
Many role-playing games have some narrative or storytelling element and focus on building a complex world, complex characters, and dynamic, sometimes emotional, undercurrents.
Nearly all role-playing games devote quite a bit of attention to graphics, with fully explorable, often open or semi-open worlds. While some level of combat is not uncommon, it is often not the sole or even main focus of role-playing games.
A subgenre of role-playing games is action role-playing games, but many are a bit more slow paced and require thought. They tend to include a combination of artificial intelligence and programmed behaviors.
Strategy games can be categorized into several subcategories, including abstract strategy, tems strategy, simulation, and war based strategy. For all categories, strategy games require planning and thinking out moves and decisions that will impact overall gameplay.
Rather than fast action games like Overwatch, strategy games depend on high-level thinking and awareness of one’s overall situation.
Abstract strategy games are probably the least popular for gaming today, and basically do not include a strong theme. These are more commonly board games, though you can find a few games like virtual chess or checkers.
In contrast, simulation strategy games are immersed in a dynamic world, where your decisions have an impact on the environment, or other players.
In these games, your decisions may literally shape your world, and you play a central role, lending themselves almost always to role-playing. Some exceptions to simulation strategy games that are not also RPGs would be games like Planet Zoo and games like Cities: Skylines.
Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis
Both games are not fully RPGs, in that you won’t be interacting with and exploring 3D worlds in the same way. However, you do take on the role of a character and interact with others. I would consider both games like Age of Empires, only more strategy-driven.
How do you find the best role-playing strategy game?
The best role-playing strategy games are ones that offer value. From immersive graphics to replay to dynamic gameplay settings, the best role-playing games, for me, are the ones that stay with you for a long time.
And unlike a game like The Last of Us, a solid role-playing game should be one that we play over and over, since it does not have one set storyline.
For Crusader Kings 3 vs Europa Universalis, I am comparing based upon the following criteria:
Price and Availability
From what platforms you can play the games on, to the base price and price of dlc/ expansions, both pricing and availability may very well play a key role in if Crusader Kings or Europa Universalis has the advantage, and give you a clue which one you may want to add to your gaming collection first.
Graphics & Setting
Graphics are a matter of opinion, but even if you had a gaming laptop with a designated graphics card or video card, they can really enhance your gaming experience. For these games, I look for overall quality, how updated the graphics are, and how well the graphics match their intended settings.
Expansions and DLC are not a must, especially if the base game is strong. But expansions and DLC do have the power to enhance your gameplay and add new experiences. I am interested in the variety and quality of these add ons.
For core gameplay, I want to take a long look at characters and development; core gameplay mechanics; and the level of complexity and creativity. Overall, I want to see which game gives the player more creative freedom, within a solid base.
Other features include advanced options, such as playing with others online.
Is Crusader Kings 3 or Europa Universalis 4 the better Paradox game?
Now that I’ve established my criteria for comparison, I’ll jump right into my analysis to see which game–Crusader Kings 3 or Europa Universalis–is worth your time and money.
Price and Availability
Since both Crusader Kings 3 and Europa Universalis 4 are developed by Paradox and fairly popular, you won’t be hard-pressed to find ways to purchase, but there are differences in pricing and availability.
Crusader Kings 3
Crusader Kings 3 is available for purchase on Steam for Windows and MacOs, and well as Linux. The base game retails for $49.99, while the Royal Edition (which includes the first expansion and two flavor packs) retails for $74.99.
Right now, there’s a pre-order available for an upcoming bundle that includes an expansion pass. The only other ways to buy Crusader Kings 3 include sites like Instant Gaming, which I don’t recommend.
Europa Universalis 4
Europa Universalis 4, like Crusader Kings 3, is also available for purchase on Steam, for Mac and PC platforms only. The base game is slightly cheaper than Crusader Kings 3, at $39.99. Other options include DLC bundles.
Winner: Slight Edge to Europa Universalis 4
Graphics & Setting
Now let’s talk about graphics. Graphics are more important for some games than others, but for games like Crusader Kings 3 and Europa Universalis 4, I find them important in terms of fully immersing yourself in the game.
Crusader Kings 3
Crusader Kings 3 requires a quality gaming laptop to play, with a dedicated graphics card. You’ll need either a Radeon R9 290 or GeForce GTX 1650 to play on the highest settings, though you could get by with slightly less. The graphics also demanded a minimum of 8GB of memory.
That said, the graphics don’t appear exceptionally advanced. The Map view is flat but detailed, and favors darker and cooler graphics as opposed to bright or vivid colors.
In the game, characters are fully 3D and well designed, with dialogue interactions featuring unique facial expressions and costumes. The graphics remind me a bit of older Civilization games, and are suitable, but not exceptionally charming.
Europa Universalis 4
Europa Universalis 4 requires nearly identical graphics for the best gameplay experience. The graphics are actually quite similar in a few ways with Crusader Kings 3, from the more matte appearance of the map, to the slightly duller, tamed down colors. Your army includes 3D renders of knights and others, with detailed design, but not a design that stands out as especially modern.
Expansions and DLC
Expansions and DLC can’t make up for a lacking base game, but what they can do is extend your gameplay, the overall replay value, and add dimension to your game.
Crusader Kings 3
Crusader Kings 3 offers two flavor packs and one expansion pack, with two on the way. You can purchase an expansion pass for $34.99 to access all available DLC. As much of this is still upcoming, there is little information about the DLC, though it has been announced that Crusader Kings 3 will not rehash DLC from previous games, meaning that there will be a new experience.
Europa Universalis 4
Europa Universalis 4, on the other hand, already has a good deal of DLC established. In fact, there are already 16 unique add on packs. You can purchase them all in a bundle with the base game for an eye-watering $256. Other options include four and five-pack options, which range from $85 to $95.
Price aside, the expansions range greatly and include everything from the Wealth of Nations to the Art of War, Third Rome, and countless others.
Each DLC comes with features to expand your gameplay, mostly through new populations to interact with, new worlds, and new items and mechanics, including, but not limited to: ships, government systems, religion, trading, hordes, diplomacy, spying, and more.
All told, not every DLC is worthwhile to every player, but the DLC add ons do supply a good deal of new gameplay and cities and worlds to make the game feel fresh.
Winner: Europa Universalis 4
What is the point of both Crusader Kings 3 and Europa Universalis 4? That’s the heart of the question when it comes to core gameplay features, and perhaps where the biggest differences between Crusader Kings 3 vs Europa Universalis 4 lie.
Crusader Kings 3
Crusader Kings 3 is set in the dark ages–either 867 or 1066, and goes up to the mid 1400’s. The gameplay focused around establishing dynasties and control over cities and entire worlds.
You control armies, manage religions and government systems, and can develop your own tenets and doctrines. Increase your influence and power as you interact with others and make demands. You also try to expand and establish your legacy as you control more land and populations.
Characters are nuanced and dynamic, with specific characteristics that influence their behavior towards others and even include a genetic system that can be passed down.
In addition, each character features a lifestyle, as well as skill trees, to influence their abilities and personality. In addition, I love that characters can establish a reputation for their behavior.
War and Spying
Both war and spying play central roles in gameplay for Crusader Kings 3. You can manage armies by recruiting, researching technology, and hiring mercenaries.
In addition, you can raise more revenue by raiding enemies and demanding ransom money for prisoners. Spying abilities include employing a spymaster to uncover plots against you and blackmailing or influencing others through personal relationships.
Europa Universalis 4
One of the main differences between Europa Universalis 4 vs Crusader Kings is what you’re managing. While you manage a feudal dynasty in Crusader Kings 3, in Europa Universalis you’re controlling a kingdom within a country.
You’re more worried about managing the kingdom, as opposed to the legacy and reputation focus of being a leader in Crusader Kings 3.
Nation Management and Monarchy
You build your nation from the ground up and manage a monarchy system, in which you make critical decisions that can shape your success and development.
You must rusk over provinces, all of which impact periods or pieces or chaos. Nation management includes diplomacy and military intervention, as well as financial investments. You can choose to manage primary through taking over in trade, power, or influence.
Diplomacy and Trade
One key goal is to form alliances that can help you grow in strength and defend against enemies. You can also use alliances to grow and expand to establish your name in new territories. Trade, in the meantime, can be conducted to build your own prestige but also finance and find new capabilities for your land. Trade is largely controlled by merchants throughout the world.
War, both by sea and by land, is not just about enlisting. You’ll also have to grapple with issues of both morale and discipline, adding a bit of nuance. I also like that there is strategy incorporated into warfare: you’ll need to assess your enemies’ strengths and weaknesses.
Religion and Technology
As is the case with Crusader Kings 3, religion and technology also play a role in your success in Europa Universalis. You have the ability to send out missionaries to try to gain influence for the religion of your choice.
Each religion has its unique capabilities and plays a role in influence over allies and enemies alike. For technology, you work through to unlock new methods that help you establish more efficiency, great means of production, new forms of governments, and even improve morale.
In addition to the single-player version (which operates with chance events), you can also play with others over the internet.
Winner: Europa Universalis
While I love the more advanced characters of Crusader Kings 3 more in many ways, there’s just a bit more overall gameplay complexity and features for most players for Europa Universalis.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Is Crusader Kings 3 difficult?
Answer: Crusader Kings 3 is pretty easy to pick up, even if you’ve never played a past Crusader Kings game. It’s fairly intuitive, and once you get playing, it’s easy to become immersed for hours of gameplay.
Question: Is Europa Universalis 4 worth it without DLC?
Answer: Europa Universalis 4 is worth it even without DLC. While DLC may greatly enhance your experience, the base game still is solid, with plenty to occupy your time for at least a long while.
Final Decision: Europa Universalis 4
Both games from Paradox are well-liked for a reason, but right now, with so many DLC options, plus other features like multiplayer, and a little more options in terms of overall management, I prefer Europa Universalis 4. Buy on Steam Here.
Of course, I applaud Crusader Kings 3 for its character depth and hope that there will be further updates to the game in the future. Buy Crusader KIngs 3 Here.