Rewarding the faithful with Holy Fury

The Elder Speaks

Gather round, young folk, the Venerable Elder Mordaith has come to bring you news of the realm. A story of bitterness and defeat, revenge and reconciliation, faith and fury. But enough about the 2018 geopolitical map, let’s talk about something more palatable. You know, the Crusades. Today we are going to take a gander at another DLC for the game which is equal parts famous and infamous, Crusader Kings 2. The new DLC, Holy Fury, promises to add a new depth to both the pagan and the so-called proper faiths. (By the Allfather, what blasphemy, where is my axe!)

2012 was a pretty big year for gaming, lots of venerated titles came out, which still hold strong now almost 7 years later. Diablo III, Dishonoured, Hotline Miami, Spec Ops: The Line, Borderlands 2, Xcom: Enemy Unknown, and Telltales The Walking Dead. That is a collection of many iconic games, many of them still going strong or having a lasting impact on the industry. With so many staggering titles out that year, you’d forgive an old fella not instantly noticing a game put out by some Swedish company, with a platypus logo, for a genre he didn’t even know he yet loved.

Crusader Kings 2, a game that I’ve sunk more time into singularly than all the other games on that list combined, released that same year, and no one really anticipated the effect or endurance it would have. While not for everyone, the game that is often viewed as a flagship title for Paradox Development Studios, brought grand strategy to the forefront, and introducing players to the joys of plotting fratricide and declaring holy wars. Many thought that DLC 14, Jade Dragon was going to be the swansong for the series, yet here we are almost a year later with something that wasn’t expected but dearly needed.

I’ll tell ya kids, the list of new features that Holy Fury promises to bring in is so extensive that it would be several paragraphs all unto itself. We’ll cover the highlights section by section, but rest assured that the claims that it has a little something for everyone are true. With previous DLC there was a clear focus, and while one would say that the big ol’ Crusade shield would be the main meat of this outing, they would be wrong. This is so jam-packed with stuff that every style of play barely escapes unaffected. So, raise your levies, and lets march on through this prepared invasion of content. (Ugh, ok, arrest me, banish me, and seize my lands, that was terrible.)

Specific Battlefield events are just one of the many things we got to see.

The Lord Giveth… 

Full disclosure, when I started playing Crusader Kings 2, I had a pair of significant problems with the game. And both were in the title. I could barely figure out how to be a good king, and keep my lands together. Also, I was complete garbage with the actual crusading part. Now, after many hundreds of hours of gameplay, I can breeze through the formation of a kingdom and can weather even the most terrible of Gavelkind situations, leading to massive empires of Vikings – but I still had a problem playing as a Christian. The problem was the Crusades. The always seemed unimpactful, hard to navigate, and generally just confusing. It has been an issue with Crusader Kings 2 for some time, that most people just figure out or ignore. Holy Fury changes that, and let me tell you, kids, I found myself crusading with the best of them in a short time.

So, there was this really terrible, opportunistic Irish lord. He had some pretty impressive blood running in his veins, but that generally just made him a higher tier of a scoundrel. He convived and plotted, he schemed and snickered, and he kicked his neighbours when they were down. Soon, he had half of what would be Ireland under his belt. Then the Pope came a knocking. Determined to take back the Holy Land, said the Pope. All good Christians will help out. Sensing further opportunity, the scoundrel – let us call him something random – Conchobar, yeah Conchobar. Anyway, Conchobar decided to toss 200 of his ill-gotten coins to the Pope, dictate his brother as the beneficiary of his efforts and prepared his troops.

The new Crusade interface has loads of information – but is easy to take in.

Timing it, so he arrived on the shores of the Holy Land just before the other Crusaders, Conchobar took the lead of his troops. He waited for the Pope to give the thumbs up, watched as other Crusaders started moving their troops in, and made sure his men were first on the ground. Victory after Victory went to the possessed lunatic that people would eventually call ‘The Sword of Jesus’, and many were not sure if the Pope merely turned a blind eye to him and his soldiers’ interactions with the locals or was ignorant of them. A house of pleasure stay here, the murder of an innocent there, and rumours of worse atrocities. Conchobar would later say ‘There is no such thing as an innocent heathen.’ The Crusade over, it was easy to tell that the Sword of Jesus had done the most in the name of the Lord, his brother was given the rule of Jerusleum, and himself, the Pope showered with riches and glory. The thousands of coin from his victory allowed Ireland to be formed within months of his return, every holding being fitted with the best structures money could by, and on the eve when the Pope was to come and perform the coronation as the King of Ireland, Conchobar passed from this world.

From Camp Fever.

Hell of a thing.

He should have invested some of those coins in a hospital.

My beneficiary got Jerusalem, but look, an option to take over him as a character. 

So, that was my quick story about my first time with the new Crusade mechanics, and boy howdy, what a difference from my previous interactions. Everything laid out easy to read on the Crusade shield, targets, options, suggestions, and ramifications clearly placed in the tooltips. For many players, the Crusade overhaul will be the crown of this DLC. But really, isn’t that a phrase for the new coronation mechanic?

You want to be a proper ruler? You gotta get coronated. Plan a party, big or small as you would like, ask a religious leader to oversee it, and you have yourself an added extra layer to leading your dynasty. Plus there are fancy hats. Can’t forget about them.

Get that party started!

So, you’ve lived a good Christian life, you served the religious heads, and your piety is beyond question? Well surely you have earned your place in the afterlife, but what about your mortal legacy? The Saint system allows for some characters, after their death, to become venerated Saints (or ancestors – if you are of the Pagan persuasion.) These Saints allow some special events, but also those descended from them gain a Bloodline. We will talk more on Bloodlines next, but rest assured they are fun.

Blood, Sweat and Tears.

Egill had lived longer than most followers of the All-Father. Denied time and time again a glorious death in battle. He now knew his time was up and he was shamed to go peacefully in bed at the age of 79. An unfitting end to the Sea King known as ‘Wolf Spirit,’ who alongside his companions in the Wolf Warriors set out on the Legendary Quest almost three decades ago. He still remembered the look onKing of Englands face when Egill personally bested the so-called champion. A brute for a brute, indeed. By their return home, the tales of their deeds had already spread. He and all his kin would forever carry the Marauder’s Blood. Their skill in battle, lust for gold, and a knack for finding the best treasure in any sacking, a fact among the other living legends. Well, maybe his family will forgive him an honorless death with such a legacy. Maybe his son Obsidian will fare better.

Spoilers, kids. Obsidian died equally peacefully 6 months after taking the throne. It was tragic. But at least he had one of those new sweet bloodlines to brag about. Bloodlines are created through legendary members of the family, great warriors, infamous villains, Saints and venerated Ancestors, and so on. They are passed down, and each has a set of rules that can be viewed to see how it is inherited.

This was perfect for my family of raiders. We sure love our booty boats.

If I am being sincere, Bloodlines are what got me really hyped for this expansion, and they work exactly how I hoped the would. They take an effort to get but are not some impossible dream. And while I am unsure exactly how it becomes available, sometimes characters will get an ambition to found a Bloodline, and it will include several specific goals that they can hunt down. Making a Bloodline can occupy a great deal of time for that early part of the game that can sometimes be a bit slower, however gaining multiple bloodlines through good strong marriages, that is a much more daunting task, and one that can require a sizable amount of juggling and spotty alliances.

Speaking of things that are difficult to manage, let us talk about early game succession laws. I won’t go into much detail, because I only really had experience with one, and that was the Elder system. So, long and short, there are some new laws for passing on your titles, and the one I played with when it was available, was Elder. Basically, the elders of your realm all got to vote on things. The system clearly shows you which elders are voting for which candidate, why they do or do not like a candidate, and what the elders’ current opinion of you is. There are also some neat little events that trigger and depending on how much the Elders like you it could be a boon for your prestige or bane.

The Elder system did something interesting to my Viking game. It made me not feel a panic to push to Feudalism. Our tribe was the terror of the Shattered world, our lands held together by paying respect to our elders. With that, I was able to extend my time as a tribal, and even after reforming, I still question if it was the right thing to do. The way Elder is handled also works with the other elector based systems, and anything that can make it more intuitive and not feel like you are being tossed around in the stormy sea at the whim of fate is a good thing.

One last thing in this little section is a new option available to pretty much everyone, (I never saw someone who I could not use it with) that is the Sway and Antagonize system. It is pretty simple. You can select one character at a time to sway, and another to pester. If you are swaying someone, you will have events trigger where you can increase your relationship with them. This can have added unforeseen effects on the character you are trying to bring to your side of things. Antagonize, the end goal is to insult and annoy until they hate you and are your rival. This paired with the new Personal Combat System makes for an excellent setup to have lots and lots of dramatic duels.

Egill may have antagonized more than a few that stood in his families way.

For a diplomacy hound like me, this is a fantastic addition. I have forged alliances and marriages with this system. Also, I have sent many an enemy to their honourable death in the single combat that followed me pushing them emotionally, too far.

Righteousness and Revelry

When his firstborn was 14, the brothers and sisters of the Wolf Warriors suggested to Egill that the young one is allowed to join. Taking a few moments out of his daily life he indicated to his heir apparent this course of action. Before long the young man was sitting at a table with his patriarch relishing in the glory of his initiation duel, nursing a well earned black eye. While proud, Egill was relieved the duel hadn’t cost him his beloved son. Many more members of the dynasty joined the exalted warriors of the wolf, but few would ever be as grand as Egill.

Heroes are nigh unstoppable fiends on the battlefield. 

Gonna say it, gonna say it loud, gonna say it several times to anyone who will listen. Warrior lodges are just what the court physician ordered. Not only are they wonderfully flavoured societies that pagans can gleefully leap into, but they fully utilize the newly revised duelling system. There is just so much flavour jammed packed into these it isn’t funny. With the Wolf Warriors, I got a real sense of the shenanigans that these proud folk were always getting up to, how they were viewed in society, and how the legends of their heroes were forged – and sometimes exaggerated. Like (and honestly, linked to) the new Bloodline mechanic, this prevents the early Pagan game from feeling stagnant. Egill was easily my most badass of Crusader King 2 characters, he had one more grand accomplishment under his belt. He reformed the Germanic faith and brought the will of the Thunderer into a new age.

Pagan reformation has always been a fun goal. It is something that I still rushed right from the start because it was a stepping stone to Fuedalism and away from the nightmares of Gavelkind. But now, reformation brings its own rewards. I performed two reformations in my time with Holy Fury. The Germanic faith and the African faith. And both had two very different feels to them, and that is absolutely perfect. Why did they feel different? Was it new perks hardcoded into the game? Nope! It was the unique ability to customize your reformed religion, and it is glorious.

The Germanic faith was pretty much the same. An underlying encouragement of battle and war as a foundation. Important doctrines being the traditional Germanic reformation boats, raids and all that good Viking stuff, but also a focus on Ancestor Veneration, which as we mentioned allowed for the Pagan flavour of Saints. But a big choice was the creation of a hierarchal church with a central leader. Not having religious control to declare Great Holy Wars was strange, but it was cool to be able to excommunicate members of the faith and lay claim to their lands.

The Germanic Faith endures!

The African faith, on the other hand, was an entertaining story. The dynasty I played in the creation of Ghana had an abundance of female rulers. All the males kept dying, the women would take over and have times of hardship because of the troublemakers and their fragile male egos. So when the Queen of Ghana saw that her chance to reformer her faith had come, she did so with her four daughters in mind. Declaring the faith to be cosmopolitan, and accepting of other religions, she went further an laid down the doctrine that true African countries would only be ruled by women, and men, should they prove themselves, could handle clerical matters on a regional basis.

The Queens of Africa shall lead us in divine glory!

The list of reformation options is truly staggering, and offer many amazing chances for fantastic Elseworlds stories. I for one, welcome our new religious overlords, be they bloodthirsty or benevolent.

Broken times and the World that never was

There is a whole lot in this DLC, as I’ve mentioned, and in my opinion, you are getting your monies worth. If all the listed above were it, I’d still be happy with the price tag, but there is one more major feature that needs mentioning because it is more than a bit bonkers. There are two new start modes for the game, allowing for a complete change up and tinkered experience for your next attempt of domination over the land.

Would you prefer a world where the Karlings were not handed the big blue blob on a silver platter? Where the great Empires could not start out swinging their retinues around? What you may be longing for is the more symmetrical start that is offered by the Shattered World mode. Basically, it allows you to shatter all the great empires and kingdoms. From their ashes we saw, in our Viking run with Egill and family, duchies created out of around 5 counties, some vassals peppered in, and of course, us ruling at the head.

The large volume of high-quality PDX sliders in this game allows you to give each shattered world a custom feel. We kept our basics pretty much down, but we did tinker with ages in our run with Egill and the Wolf Warriors. In our shattered world all rulers started between the ages of 16 and 25. It made for a very young and robust world, full of hope and optimism, and scurvy. The scurvy had nothing to do with age, but dang it cropped up a bunch. Anyway, very off topic, sorry. The Shattered World mode is bound to be popular among circles that want to see if they can take on a realm of enemies that are more or less on the same footing. You know, except for those great conquerors that you can opt to have in. Those folks, their Bloodlines, and legendary gear sure can be a hassle when you get close.

The other new start is Random World. Now full disclosure, I have not yet a chance to play it. But I have generated a few maps and watched some other talented streamers give it ago. Depending on your settings you can play anything from a map where cultures and faiths of old have been shuffled up and deposited all around, where somethings stay the same and others differ significantly, or even a world where cats, dragons, ducks and more have empires alongside entirely fictional cultures and religions.

Who wouldn’t want to play a kitten ruler?

I know lots of folks are going to be looking at Shattered World as their preferred, for me it will be Random. I love alternative world stories, I mean come on. I always play with Sunset Invasion on. Who does that aside from a madman? Random will allow for stories unlike any other to be found in the emergent world of Crusader King 2. Again, many sliders, many options, and lots of love and care. I mean those animal portraits alone, that is a courageous use of company resources there Paradox, and I gotta say I approve.

Dreams of Glory

If you haven’t been watching my Twitch streams of this DLC in advance of the launch, or maybe just not fully paying attention to the words I’ve laid down here, this Holy Fury is a damned masterpiece. If this is to be the final DLC for this venerable series, then hot damn, they did a great job. I feel like I barely scratched the surface, to go over every new thing this adds would be an undertaking that just wouldn’t be feasible. So, taking that into consideration, you are getting your money worth at 22.79 in Canada Coins.

The expansion leaves me with an impression that few DLC have been able to lately. We live in an era where even quality companies that we love and trust are producing DLC that seems shallow. While I’ve always found Paradox a step above the others in their content, this one takes the cake. They improve on aspects of the game that I never knew needed tender love and care. They add mechanics for increased replayability, making sure we have the tools, as players, to keep the excellent stories coming for years.

I rarely give out perfect scores, I usually can find something to click my tongue at and tut like a crazed shack dwelling hermit, but Holy Fury merits it. This is going to replace most peoples recommendation for ‘Must Have’ DLC. Any future content for this game will be judged by this one, its depth, and its player empowerment. A real gem in the crown of the Crusader Kings 2 dynasty.

So yeah, 10/10. Would personally put 127 fools into the ground for the glory of the Allfather again.

Review by Joshua Smith
This review was given by the company free, for the purpose of review and advanced Streaming.

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