Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham Review (PC)

DLC. We all love DLC don’t we? Those Delectable Lumps of Content that make your game a little bit better, add a new bunch of toys to play with, or even gives your Horse that armour he’s always wanted. The DLC market is a constantly growing and evolving area, with constant competitions between developers experimenting with what they can deliver, and publishers experimenting with what they can charge. Meanwhile, us PC gamers mourn the passing of the traditional expansion, and try to keep up the enthusiasm for this brave new world. Like most areas, DLC is open to exploitation – and it has been. On the whole though, I think it’s paved the way for a greater and more meaningful landscape for post-launch content, and as long as we use our wallets to keep everything in check, the future can only get better.

Today, I’ll be looking at two of the newest DLC’s to wash up on my desk. Crusaders Kings II: Sons of Abraham and Rise of Venice: Beyond the Sea. Let’s take a Look.

Crusader Kings II - Sons of Abraham

You may remember I wrote some words about Crusader Kings II fairly recently, when I talked to Henrik about ‘The Plan’. I’ve since had the chance to play around with Sons of Abraham, so I’m ready to share with you some thoughts.

Sons of Abraham is the least ‘experimental’ of the new wave of DLC’s planned for the game, and in many ways represents a fairly typical PDS expansion, which means it's a bit of an anti-climax when you compare it to what came before. The Old Gods was fairly unique in the sense that, by adding a new start date and changing up some mechanics and set-ups to compensate for that (as well as the new content it added), it did a much better job of creating a ‘new’ game experience for players. Sons of Abraham is a wonderful return to form in the sense that it... doesn’t.

Now would be a great time to re-watch Prince of Egypt. Wonderful film

That’s nothing to be ashamed about, and should be expected, but it’s worth pointing it out in any case. When playing Sons of Abraham, the only true new experiences you will get will be from playing as one of the few Jewish characters in play, and then using them for goals like reforming the Kingdom of Israel. Other than that, while playing as either a Christian or a Islamic ruler, you’ll pretty much be playing the same game as before but with some enhancements. More storytelling and events for your characters to deal with, more long-term events and so on. The College of Cardinals mechanic is interesting enough, but it can be ignored for the most part and if you’re playing as anyone other than the Italians, you might as well ignore it as they seem to have an advantage which makes them hard to beat.

Pilgrimages are nice but fairly inconsequential, and I’ve noticed that characters can die a lot more now. Usually of the plague or stress, but seriously I’ve had courtiers and vassals and family members dropping left, right and centre for about 200 years now. Certainly keeps things interesting, I guess? The interaction with the Holy Orders is probably the best bit, in a way. More structure and they can have more impact on the map now, and the fact that you can cart off members of your family to the Holy Orders is quite useful. I’ve yet to really feel the impact of Henrik’s promise to make everything more expensive though. Only had to take out a loan once.

Steam RRP: £7.99
Purchase Verdict: Yes. Even though there are a lot of improvements shoved into the patch, which is free, if you’re a CK2 fan then this will add subtle new dimensions to your typical game that you’ll appreciate. Try and get it in a sale anyway though.
Score: 7/10


Rise of Venice - Beyond the Sea

Now then. Rise of Venice was a good enough game, but full of missed opportunities… and sadly Beyond the Sea is kind of more of the same. It’s not even named properly as there is no ‘beyond’ the sea, there’s just more sea. The addition of 13 new cities expands the playable map by about half, so we’re told, and the expansion is all westward along the Mediterranean to Spain, Portugal and the Atlantic. But all that really does is add more landmass that you can’t do anything with. It still just sits there and looks pretty.

More cities mean more trade opportunities and micro-management, of course, but that’s all much of a muchness. The real selling point of this DLC, if it has a selling point, is the new Doge and Residence Tasks. These missions help you play a more active role as you work your way up the ranks in the city of Venice, and when you become Doge the new content makes things a little bit more interesting. The pack also comes with a host of improvements based on feedback from the original release, and a new shop class – the NAO, popularised by Christopher Columbus as he used one to explore the new world. He was probably tired of empty landmasses and the entire population of the world shoved into a bunch of cities along the coast.

Yay! More Land! MORE EMPTY LAND!

Individually, these bits of content are ok. Nothing amazing, but they touch on a track that Kalypso seem to be missing a trick on. Considering the RRP, even collectively there’s not really enough here to justify the expense – if you’re going to throw in new ships, I’d expect more than one, for example, and even the Doge missions aren’t really enough, as they are a late game thing. But if you sold the ship on its own, the Mission pack on its own... even the expanded map on its own, priced them all individually, then perhaps that would be a system people could get into. Hell, you have to start a new game and choose the expanded map option anyway, so it’s not like it’s integrated into the base game or anything.

Not a particularly amazing release, all things considered, but at least it doesn’t make the game worse.

Steam RRP: £14.99
Purchase Verdict: No. Not for the RRP anyway, if there’s a good deal on, expanding the map by 50% and the new Doge and Residence tasks are nothing to be sniffed at, but it’s not worth the full RRP. Keep trying, guys.
Score: 5/10

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By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Dec 04, 2013
Right well anything to bolster my CKII game, that little piece of software has seen me through many a cold night.