Since I recently went about the task of (finally!) writing a review for Nerdy But Flirty (going live soon) on “Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods,” I thought I should take a few moments to discuss my feelings on the games produced by Paradox Interactive.
Those of you who know me or have followed this blog since its early days know that I’ve covered quite a few of their titles in the past. Paradox is a company that I really wish I could like more than I do. Although they have made some very successful non-strategy titles (like “Magicka” and “Cities in Motion”), they gravitate towards historical (and sometimes fantasy) strategy titles. If you have ever played any of their titles, you certainly will know that the people who are designing these games have an obvious love of history. It is apparent that they want to take their love of history and bring it to life in a realistic and enjoyable way for the player. They’ve tackled modern history, feudal Japanese history, and, of course, European medieval history, to name a few genres. Each time they set about this, they try to set up a system whereby the player takes the role of the leader of a domain, small or large, and sets about seeing how history would unfold if things went a bit differently. One of the best things about these games is that they often offer the ability to control a smaller state (like the Grand Duchy of Lithuania) and see how it would have been had different choices been made. All of these details can really come to life if you use your imagination.
Where the company often fails, though, is in creating something that is too overly ambitious and gets bogged down in the details. They often either spread themselves far too thin or they focus on the “bigger players” and forget about the little guys. This sometimes results in titles that are meant to be over-arching, but instead focus on a very Westernized view of things. This was especially the case in “Magna Mundi,” a game I previewed in January 2012 but which, thankfully, got the ax before its final release.
Sometimes I wonder: maybe if Paradox sat down and rethought their game engine, put more research into other non-Western political entities, and tried to make a menu system that didn’t frustrate people more than please them, would their games be able to really spark a greater interest in history and grand strategy? Some of the periods they want to cover would be cool to have used in college courses. Professors could use the game to show some alternate series of events. If more time had been put into creating a better engine for “War of the Roses,” a really neat medieval simulator and third-person combat game could have resulted. Instead, the engine was just so clunky that it made playing it, in my opinion, not fun at all.
The good thing is that Paradox does seem to listen to the fans (they did can “Magna Mundi” after all, potentially due to the very bad press some people gave it), and they have made an effort to cover other political systems (as is the case with “The Old Gods”), so maybe they will listen in regards to their game engine and give that one an update too.
What do you guys think? Have you had any experience with Paradox Interactive and their games?