Killing the Past, Looking to the Future: Hitman 3 Review

Io Interactive’s most recent three Hitman games have all been outstanding in their own ways. The first, released way back in 2016, introduced us to the games’ more episodic format and elusive targets. Hitman 2 fleshed out the mechanics and design of its predecessor while boasting more intricate, dynamic levels. Finally, Hitman 3 stands as the capstone of what Io has been calling the “World of Assassination” trilogy.

While not without issues (including launch week server problems, Epic Games Store exclusivity, and the Hitman 2 import controversy), Hitman 3 has largely had a strong initial showing. The missions are elegantly designed and the settings are each evocative in their own ways. That’s not even mentioning one of the most interesting elements of the game – it’s surprisingly engaging story. Without further ado, let’s get into what makes Hitman 3 the perfect finale to Agent 47’s adventure.

Gameplay: 4/5

There won’t be many surprises here for seasoned Hitman fans, even if your first experience to the series was the soft reboot in 2016. Io’s signature level design is back, making for intricately crafted levels that wind around on themselves in mazes that are a delight to unravel. Making exploration even more interesting is the presence of unlockable shortcuts – paths through levels that are initially locked from one side until you open them, after which they remain accessible in each subsequent playthrough.

Aside from the shortcuts and a few extra features like a camera that lets you scan intel items and keycode locks, Hitman 3 plays a lot like its predecessors – which is by no means a bad thing. Hitman and Hitman 2 were a blast to play and the third installment is just as fun. While it’s not going to be everyone’s jam, for those who enjoy the feeling of unwinding a puzzle box of a map one step at a time, there’s really nothing better.

Originality: 3/5

Hitman 3 doesn’t make too many changes to the main mechanics from its previous titles, which is probably a smart move. The few new mechanics introduced are little iffy if we’re being honest, with the camera often feeling a little unnecessary while the keycode locks can easily send players to the internet looking for quick answers. They’re interesting ideas on paper, but neither of them are explored to their fullest extent here.

What does work quite well is the shortcut mechanic. Hitman games love their complex maps, often with hidden paths through them to allow experienced players efficient passage from one side of the level to the other. However, players may never find these hidden paths, or may stumble upon them very early, before really seeing the full extent of what the mission has to offer. Shortcuts provide an answer to that problem – you won’t just happen across one because it’ll be locked when you first encounter it, and once you do open it, the location will be cemented in memory because you actually had to take action to open it. It’s a very nice addition that neatly complements Hitman 3’s exploratory gameplay.

Accessibility: 2/5

For a game released in early 2021, it’s a little surprising to see the lack of accessibility options in Hitman 3. This is especially notable as 2020 was a banner year for accessibility in gaming, but Io seems to have dropped the ball a bit in this area. There are all the baseline accessibility features – subtitles, control remapping, and difficulty modes – but the absences speak much, much louder here.

There doesn’t seem to be any colorblind mode in Hitman 3’s settings, nor can certain quicktime sequences where you need to button mash or hit buttons in quick succession be turned off. The subtitles also consist of large blocks of text that may be difficult to read quickly. These issues could always be fixed in future patches as Io has been known to release monthly updates for previous Hitman games, but it remains to be seen if accessibility options will be a part of them.

Look: 5/5

If we’re being honest, Hitman 3 is not the most graphically impressive game of all time. That being said, I think you’d be hard pressed to say that it doesn’t just look good. From the opening level in Dubai where the sun streams in onto gold gilt to the splendor of the vineyard in Mendoza, it’s all very pretty and shows that Io’s art department knows what they’re doing.

The level that stood out in particular to me personally was Chongqing, a Chinese city that houses a secret facility below and a makeshift laboratory above. Something about the rain-soaked, neon-lit streets just stood out as especially beautiful, giving the level a sort of gritty noir feel that made one of the most visually interesting places in the game.

Story: 4/5

Hitman and Hitman 2 certainly had stories, but not like Hitman 3. The previous two titles centered on the power cabal known as Providence, and the conclusion finally tasks you with dismantling it once and for all. It’s a story that goes to some very grim places, ones that I didn’t personally expect. The game raises a series of questions, such as to what degree is 47 responsible for his actions, how strong is his relationship with his handler, Diana, and most importantly – what happens when the job is done?

It’s not The Last of Us, but it’s really quite good for what it is. There were a few twists I didn’t see coming, some moments that made me consider the ethical implications of 47’s actions, and a conclusion that made for a satisfying end to the trilogy. All in all, it was an impactful narrative that made a fascinating game that much more rewarding.

In Conclusion

The last chapter in Agent 47’s story is a thrill to play and a delight to experience. It covers unexpected narrative beats, provides closure to the series, and lets you blow targets up with explosive rubber ducks. While it’s accessibility could be better, it remains a strong game overall and one that I can absolutely recommend.

Final Tally: 18/25

City of Locked Doors and Lost Opportunity: A Cyberpunk 2077 Review

Cyberpunk 2077 is out and it’s certainly something. Following a years-long saga of marketing that courted controversy just as often as it promised groundbreaking innovations, the result is a thoroughly mediocre game from CD Projekt Red, the studio behind the Witcher series. The game itself is bursting with potential, from its three pronged tutorial system to the rich history of its chosen setting and genre to the casting of Keanu Reeves as Johnny Silverhand, legendary anti-establishment rockerboy.

For all its promises, Cyberpunk 2077 also had a bevy of red flags that should have tipped us off about the final product. A developer that rescinded its word on obligatory crunch, transphobic marketing that missed the mark on what cyberpunk is all about, and early reports of a bug-filled game all point to a final product that is painfully unremarkable. Let’s break it down.

Gameplay: 3/5

The gameplay in Cyberpunk 2077 is pretty alright, all things considered. Disregarding the occasional glitch that messes with your carefully planned strategy, it generally feels like a fun and satisfying shooter. The guns have solid weight and a good punch to their shots, katanas are exhilarating to swing about, and the leveling system is a fresh take on typical RPG perks and skills.

Where the game starts to fall apart is in content. While the core systems of Cyberpunk are entertaining, there ultimately isn’t that much to do in the game. There are the main missions, of course, which see the most variety of combat, stealth, and driving. The side missions also introduce interesting plots and expand the world, but don’t add too much to the gameplay. Then there are the gigs and the reported crimes, which flood your map screen. These are small encounters that offer extremely repetitive chunks of gameplay, most of which boil down to going to a location and then either stealing some MacGuffin or killing some target. The gameplay is still satisfying, but after a hundred same-y encounters, it starts to get a tad boring.

There’s also the problem of persistence. While a few minor choices in missions do allow you to affect their outcomes, these often aren’t very meaningful in the long run. In contrast to CD Projekt Red’s other games, your decisions are often quite limited, with very little impact on the game’s world. Combine that with a setting that feels static and unchanging, even as you complete quests that would surely tip the balance of power in Night City, and you get a series of storylines and missions that lack weight.

Originality: 2/5

This game is not derivative, which is to say that it isn’t a wholesale copy from any other game. That’s good, but it isn’t really innovating in any areas, either. Its central gameplay mechanics are the combat and the RPG elements, both of which are largely uninspired. Nowhere do we see anything fresh or new.

While the Skyrim style skill leveling mechanic is interesting and a handful of perks and cyberware do stand out from the rest, all in all it really just feels as though these systems amount to little more than a numbers game. All your upgrades just increase or decrease certain percentages – damage, critical chance, reload speed, stamina regeneration, etc. – often in miniscule ways that lack a sense of impact. The game simply doesn’t do anything new or fresh, adding next to nothing to the gaming experience you could get from a number of other titles.

Accessibility: 1/5

Yes, that’s a score of one. Cyberpunk 2077 earns it through a series of missteps that are all the more bizarre in what was a banner year for accessibility in games. The most obvious (and most publicized) oversight is, of course, the braindance sequence, which includes a series of flashing lights that caused photosensitive players to have seizures. While this has since been addressed, it points to a game that isn’t very interested in making accommodations for its players.

The easiest accessibility setting, subtitles, are of course present, though they often display huge blocks of text on the screen with little time to read them. The game has colorblind modes (though other titles have done colorblind modes better) and control remapping is present but limited. Particularly irritating is the inability to fully remap actions which require the player to double tap a button, such as the dodge action.

All of these accessibility issues exist on top of a game that takes little time to properly explain its core systems. The difference between leveling and street cred, the way perks, skills, and attributes work, and the confusing world of crafting all contribute to a game that doesn’t communicate its general gameplay very effectively. This alone isn’t a huge issue (The Witcher 3 had largely the same problem, after all), but when taken together with the game’s other accessibility problems, it creates a game that needlessly locks out a large chunk of its potential audience.

Look: 3/5

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: yes, Cyberpunk 2077 is graphically impressive (so long as you’re not playing on a console from the previous generation). This is practically a given. CD Projekt Red made a show of the scale and scope of Night City, the large crowds that wandered its streets, and the detailed ray tracing that would allow for incredible sights and vistas. Look is about more than just graphics though, and if we’re being honest Cyberpunk 2077 really isn’t that visually distinctive.

There are moments where Cyberpunk’s unique aesthetic breaks through, such as during a parade through Japantown or during a handful of braindance sequences. While certain areas have their own distinct visual style such as the deserts of the Badlands or the polished sheen of Corpo Plaza, it’s all just different brands of dystopia that we’ve seen before in other media. The look of Cyberpunk is nothing special, nothing unique, and ultimately no amount of style can compensate for a lack of substance.

Story: 2/5

To get the most pressing matter out of the way first: Cyberpunk 2077 is not a cyberpunk story. It has everything that technically places it in that genre, like body modification, a combination of high technology with low life, and rebellion against corporate authority, but none of the spirit. The game is closer to an action noir title with its bombastic fight scenes and tale of one simple job gone terribly wrong. It’s got the cyberpunk aesthetic to be sure, but the story is never about cyberpunk’s driving themes – what it means to be human, how body modification changes us, and how to express independence in a world full of control.

The story is less about the struggle between human and a machine than it is about the struggle between a person and another, separate person – V and Johnny Silverhand. They’re linked by technology, but roughly the same tale could easily be told without any of the futuristic bells and whistles included in the game. The main questline is admittedly engaging and Keanu Reeves brings a rough charm to Silverhand. That doesn’t change the fact that the game is merely paying lip service to the cyberpunk genre while going its own thematic route.

Then there’s the world in which the game takes place – Night City. Here we see a setting that operates almost entirely on modern trends, despite existing in the year 2077. Social norms and systems are largely the same, just heightened. Advertising is overtly sexual with an even greater focus on women’s bodies than we see today, sex work and gambling are pushed to the fringes of society, and while language may have changed a bit it still features roughly the same slang and terminology with a few minor additions. Night City isn’t the future – it’s just an exaggerated version of today.

Now this wouldn’t usually be a problem – stories about the future are almost always meant to talk to us about the present. The problem is that Cyberpunk 2077 doesn’t seem to be saying anything about these topics. The explicit advertising, the omnipresent sex, the homeless vet sitting next to neon signs – all of it seems to exist to shock the player, to make us marvel at how depraved and excessive this dystopic world has become. It engages in no critical reflection on the issues it raises and it has little if anything to say about them.

In Conclusion

Cyberpunk 2077 is ultimately a game that failed in a number of ways. It failed to meet the incredible expectations set by its marketing buzz and hyped community. It failed its setting by telling a story largely uncritical and uncaring of the many, many themes prevalent in cyberpunk media. It failed in accessibility as it has done very little to address severe issues such as the seizure inducing sequences of the game and at times seems to actively work to exclude marginalized identities at times. While not a complete trainwreck of a game, it’s not exactly good either.

There exists a strong temptation to excuse all of Cyberpunk 2077’s flaws. Those who remember The Witcher games fondly and appreciate CD Projekt Red’s generally ethical stance on consumer relations may be inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt and stick with the game as patches, free DLCs, and major content releases come later in in the game’s life cycle. As it stands, however, it’s hard to see the latest title from the Polish company as anything other than a disappointment.

Final Tally: 11/25

One Hell of a Game: Hades Review

Death is inevitable – a fact that is especially true in Supergiant Games’s newest title, Hades. This roguelike (or roguelite if you prefer) puts you in the role of Zagreus, son of Hades as he tries repeatedly to escape from the Underworld of Ancient Greek myth. As with all games of the genre, death is something you’ll experience often, especially in the beginning as you face down the daunting challenge of escape.

Gameplay: 5/5

In short, Hades is a blast to play. The combat is fast-paced, fun, and full of exciting moments. The various enemies, worlds, and bosses you encounter are each unique and require different strategies to handle. Each run presents you with an assortment of boons from Zagreus’s relatives on Olympus, ensuring that no escape attempt is quite like any other.

That’s not even delving into the various meta-level decisions to be made before you even begin your journey through the Underworld. Each run starts in the House of Hades where you can talk to various characters (more on that later), purchase permanent upgrades with the various currencies earned on your previous run, and select which of the six different weapons you want to use – once you’ve unlocked them, of course.

While Hades is built around the experience of grinding your way through a dungeon, it’s also simply fun enough to make the experience worth coming back to time and again. The game encourages varied styles of play by granting players more resources if they select different weapons rather than sticking with just one, and all of this doesn’t even touch on the Pact of Punishment, which lets you set your own difficulty through the game. All told, Hades is an incredible game that will have you coming back to it even after you see the credits roll.

Originality: 4/5

Hades main claim to fame is the way it tells its story. The narrative is woven around the roguelike nature of the game, with characters remarking on your deaths and defeats each time you perish. You can’t actually see the whole story without dying multiple times as certain dialogue only activates after repeated conversations and on specific events.

Aside from this, Hades will be very familiar to anyone who’s played previous Supergiant titles such as Transistor and Bastion. It has its own mechanics and systems, of course, but it shares the isometric view and the satisfying combat of those games. You can see the echoes of previous titles in Hades, but in a good way as the game captures their best qualities and adds its own unique flair.

Accessibility: 4/5

There are two perspectives to consider regarding accessibility – how well does the game teach players its systems, and how much of an effort does it make to be playable by everyone? Hades shines in each category, with only a few minor oversights. The game is very straightforward from the beginning as you initially only have access to one weapon and no permanent upgrades. From that point on, the game slowly builds in complexity as you unlock more challenging weapons, invest in skills that unlock new mechanics, and even discover new skills to obtain. Once you unlock the Pact of Punishment, the game can be as easy or as difficult as you want, making it beginner-friendly while also presenting a challenge for more experienced players.

There are also some nice features to accommodate anyone who can’t for whatever reason, play the game as intended. A generous God Mode grants increased damage resistance each time you die, a number of options let you toggle subtitles and screen shake, and the controls can be remapped however you like. The notable absentees from the options menu are subtitle font customization and colorblind modes, which could serve to make Hades that much more accessible if they’re ever added in a future patch.

Look: 5/5

Look isn’t just about how detailed the graphics of a game are, but also the art design and animation. Hades excels in this area as beautiful character portraits accompany every snippet of dialogue and each zone is visually striking. There’s no confusing the dungeons of Tartarus with the lava-flooded fields of Asphodel or the verdant land of Elysium. Each power up you acquire changes the appearance of your moves as well, and the weapons themselves have aesthetic changes that reflect their upgrades.

On a smaller note, the House of Hades where you begin can also be customized to your taste. Everything from rugs to flowers to paintings can be changed. You can buy new furniture for various characters, renovate the lounge area, and furnish your bedroom however you wish. It’s a small addition that nevertheless allows everyone to bring their own style into the game.

Story: 5/5

Without getting into spoiler territory, Hades has an excellent story. It’s interwoven into the roguelike mechanics, inseparable from the experience of dying repeatedly as Zagreus tries to make his way out of the Underworld. Even apart from this unique twist on video game storytelling, the actual plot is very compelling, granting you more than enough motivation to reach the surface even after dying for the umpteenth time.

Any discussion of a Supergiant title would be incomplete without talking about the voice acting. Whether it’s the narrator in Bastion or the transistor in, well, Transistor, Supergiant Games has a history of exemplary voice work. Hades goes all out in this department as every character is fully voiced with thousands of lines of dialogue packed into the game. All of the gods, furies, shades, and floating severed gorgon heads come to life with their own distinct personalities. Hades is a masterpiece of both voice work and storytelling, each of which complement each other perfectly.

In Conclusion

Hades is an incredible game, full stop. It has a few minor (very minor) stumbles here and there, but nothing that should put anyone off of buying it. Even if roguelikes are usually your cup of tea, there’s a very good chance that you’ll wind up loving Hades.

Final Tally: 23/25

A Calming Journey: The Last Campfire Review

The Last Campfire is the latest title from indie studio Hello Games, and it puts players into the shoes of Ember, a lost little sprite of some kind navigating a strange and mysterious world. They seek the titular Last Campfire, where they will move on to something else – exactly what, it’s not clear. Each area you explore is dotted with the Forlorn – beings like you who turned to stone when they gave up hope. Helping them sends Ember into a miniature landscape where they must solve a short puzzle in order to help the Forlorn come back to themselves.

Gameplay: 3/5

The gameplay of The Last Campfire is largely fine. It deals with small puzzles, none of which are too difficult to figure out and often focus on positioning some object in the space in a specific way. This becomes very apparent once you acquire the lanthorn, an object that allows players to manipulate certain objects in the environment to create new paths or remove obstacles.

The systems of The Last Campfire are interesting, but they never really combine in any interesting ways. The first puzzle where you need to protect a flame from getting blown out is not that much more complex than the last puzzle where you do that again. Working out the solutions is still a satisfying task, but the game’s systems largely stand on their own.

Originality: 2/5

An indie game about dealing with difficult emotions through puzzles! Now where have I seen that before? All jokes aside, The Last Campfire is distinct from other similar games such as Gris, Rime, and Journey. Its gameplay and story are different from those titles, and it has its own art style that sets it apart.

However, there isn’t really anything new in this game. Spatial reasoning puzzles make up the bulk of its gameplay, which is nothing that hasn’t been done before, and the various other systems like fire and wind management aren’t very remarkable either. It’s not derivative by any stretch of the imagination, but it doesn’t bring any fresh ideas to the table, either.

Accessibility: 3/5

The Last Campfire is a mechanically simple game – and that works very well for it when it comes to accessibility. Players are limited to three total actions – move, interact, and play the lanthorn. This dramatically reduces the learning curve compared to other games which have a number of complicated systems using a myriad of buttons to control things. The Last Campfire is an exercise in control-minimalism, which makes it very easy to understand how to play without any real tutorials.

The absence of certain other accessibility features is notable, though. There is no colorblind mode and no option to remap the controls (at least on the Switch, where I played the game). There is no way to increase the text size of the narrative popups, either. The Last Campfire still winds up being pretty accessible due to its simple controls, but could improve in some areas.

Look: 4/5

One of The Last Campfire’s best selling points is its artistic style – the game is just nice to look at, from the gloomy caverns to the swampy marshes. The characters’ designs all really stand out as unique and memorable, ensuring that you won’t soon forget the massive pig that demanded treats, or the lonely fisherman waiting for a bite.

It’s not the most graphically demanding game, to be sure, but it still looks beautiful. Everything about the world, no matter how strange and disparate it may seem, works together to achieve a cohesive visual philosophy. Its takes some talent to make a boat building robot, a massive bird creature, and a tortoise chef all fit into one aesthetic, but this game succeeds.

Story: 4/5

The story of The Last Campfire is its other major draw. It’s a solid tale about the challenges of moving past difficulties in life. The nature of these difficulties are left vague for most characters, with only brief hints given to the struggles they face, letting the story feel relevant to any number of personal challenges. The message seems to be about helping people, and how that can help you on your own journey as well given that Ember must bring back a certain number of Forlorn in each area to progress.

One element that I personally didn’t care for was the narrator. The actual narration was fine, and the voice was never obtrusive or unpleasant, but it felt largely unnecessary to have someone speaking the dialogue and descriptions that appeared onscreen. This game felt like it could easily have followed in the footsteps of those I mentioned earlier (Gris, Rime, Journey) and done away with narration – and indeed, much of the dialogue. This may be my own preferences, but the narrator just made the voices of all the characters feel too similar and didn’t seem to contribute to the story enough to warrant their inclusion.

In Conclusion

The Last Campfire is a pleasant and relaxing game, albeit not a very challenging one. It’s a nice few hours and can be very cathartic if you’re taking a break from more intense games. While it’s not the best game ever made (really, what game is?), it’s certainly worth the cost and makes for an enjoyable experience.

Final Tally: 16/25

A Medieval Storytelling Machine: Crusader Kings 3 Review

I’ll preface this review by saying that I have not played any of the previous games in the Crusader Kings series. The full extent of my experience with the grand strategy genre begins and ends with Civilization V and VI. That being said, the past few weeks of playing Crusader Kings 3 have been a blast as I’ve tried and failed and tried again to establish my dynasty’s dominion over the medieval world.

For my fellow newcomers to the Crusader Kings games, the latest entry in the series feels a lot like what might happen if you put Stellaris, medieval history, and various RPG elements into a blender and set it to puree. The result is an absolutely incredible experience, one where you play not as the immortal concept of a nation as in the Civilization games, but as real people with their own motivations, traits, and beliefs. Crusader Kings 3 does a wonderful job fulfilling the fantasy of guiding your dynasty through the ages, which we’ll get into more in depth now.

Gameplay: 4/5

Crusader Kings 3 has a mixture of gameplay, seemingly drawn from a variety of genres. Most apparent are the events that occur on the game’s map, where you can see the borders of your territory grow and fluctuate. This is also where battles happen as you direct troops to fight other armies and lay siege to enemy holdings. Beyond the map, there are dozens of menus linking together the complexities of medieval society, allowing you to interact with members of your court, grant titles to vassals, manage your council of advisors, and deal with matters of succession.

On top of all that, the game heavily features RPG elements, which manifest in a few different ways. Most obviously are the skill trees that each character possesses where you can spend skill points to unlock new abilities and effects. Certain events will also often crop up, either organically from the interactions between characters or just at random. These events will shift the way the game is played as they can provide new information for you to work with or give you free skill points, should you pass a few ability checks.

The disparate parts of the gameplay do work very well together, though not always in the most transparent of ways. I had some difficulty figuring out the finer details of warfare beyond “the bigger army wins” and was very confused when my massive force was routed by a company half its size. It doesn’t make the game unenjoyable, but it does mean that newcomers especially will often find themselves in unexpected situations with no idea how they got there.

Originality: 4/5

I’m given to understand from what I’ve heard on the internet that Crusader Kings 2 did a lot of work paving the way for Crusader Kings 3’s hybrid grand strategy/RPG formula. Still, Crusader Kings 3’s execution is absolutely splendid as the various systems feed into each other in wonderfully unexpected ways.

Compared to other strategy games of its ilk where players often act as omnipotent gods, directing their forces for centuries with singular vision, Crusader Kings 3 has you play as real people, continuing on as your heir after death. This means that your strategy may have to change dramatically at a moment’s notice. One such instance from my game saw a silver-tongued diplomat get replaced by his shy son. With the realm descending into chaos since my new character couldn’t bring himself to talk to anyone without getting stressed about it, I elected to start waging some wars, executing prisoners, and investing heavily in the Dread mechanic, which let my socially awkward king intimidate his rebellious vassals into submission. This one course of action involved everything from war declarations to the intrigue system to the skill trees, combining all the elements of the game to create a wholly unique experience.

Accessibility: 4/5

I’d heard of the Crusader Kings series before buying this installment, and while I’d considered buying it before, the thing that always turned me away was the perceived complexity inherent to the games. These are dense titles, difficult to parse for newbies and unforgiving to beginner mistakes. Crusader Kings 3 is arguably just as complex, but it circumvents this by employing a variety of useful features, such as its tutorial and an ingenious tooltip system.

The tutorial takes place on the island of Ireland, and walks new players through most of the mechanics and features needed to understand how to play a game. Even after the tutorial proper has finished and you’re into the main game, windows will pop up every time you encounter a new system that may need some explanation. It does make for a lot of reading, but it also does a very good job of explaining the basics of the game. For deeper complexity, the tooltip system is a great help, as hovering over a highlighted concept brings up a window explaining it. You can then hover over any terms inside that tooltip, which will bring up another window, potentially building a tower of tooltips onscreen. It’s an excellent way to dispel confusion and answer questions, as it is completely determined by the player’s own inquisitiveness.

One area that the game does fall short in is accessibility for disabled players. While not requiring the same twitch reflexes that many other games do given its generous pausing mechanic, I couldn’t find any options for things like a colorblind mode or control remapping. It does let you scale the size of the menus, which could benefit players with poor vision, but it is largely devoid of these accessibility options.

Look: 3/5

Crusader Kings 3 looks fine. It’s better than previous games in the series, which featured static portraits and cruder graphics, but it also won’t be winning any awards for its visuals or breaking any video cards. The animated character models are nice and they allow for a stronger connection to the events happening onscreen as you can see the expressions of the characters as they react to all manner of things, from stillborn children to hosting a feast.

The map also looks quite good and does fine job of scaling its detail depending on how close you zoom into it. Zooming in close gives you a detailed look at your holding, including all the castles, cities, farmlands, and forests contained within. Zooming all the way out turns it into a paper map without much detail save for the names of the nations. All told, the games is visually pleasing – just not in any particularly noteworthy way.

Story: 4/5

This category is a little trickier than the rest. Crusader Kings 3 doesn’t really have a story, per se, but rather exists to help you tell your own story. The game sets up the stage, then sets you loose to forge your own path. Will you reign as a tyrant king who seizes land from all his vassals? Will you employ diplomacy and kind words to mask the dagger held behind your back? Will your dynasty prosper and spread across the world, or will you tumble into obscurity and be forgotten?

The story of Crusader Kings 3 is, ultimately, unique to every player. All of the systems and events and characters in the game work to help you tell that story, be it one of triumph or defeat. While it may not be as affecting as a written story that’s been plotted out and designed to evoke certain feelings, it’s still a special sort of experience, and it’s one that I personally can’t get enough of.

In Conclusion

Crusader Kings 3 is a good game. It effectively combines the grand strategy and RPG genres to create a unique experience, is more accessible than previous games in the series, and lets you tell your own individual story. While it does stumble in a few places, it’s never bad enough to distract you from the absolutely incredible game you’re playing. I whole-heartedly recommend this game to anyone looking for an interesting new twist on some classic video game genres.

Final Tally: 19/25

Gameplay: 4/5, Originality: 4/5, Accessibility: 4/5, Look: 3/5, Story: 4/5