Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods is the latest expansion for Crusader Kings II and is developed in house at Paradox Interactive. If you have Crusader Kings II and some of the older DLC then you know what to expect, nothing of a full expansion in scale, but still a sizable amount of content.
There are a lot of new features in the Old Gods expansion and while it does primarily apply to Africa, the Middle Eastern, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe; it does also affect Western Europe in secondary and tertiary ways. There isn’t much crossover with the other expansions but if you also have the Sunset Invasion DLC you can also access the Aztec Religion, which I was not able to do.
My most interesting and best playthrough focused on the Pagan Norse up in the lower section of Norway, starting at 867AD. As the Petty King Haraldr of Ostlandet (one of the characters that you can chose from this period but not of any huge note) I set out to become a successful Viking.
Pagan areas are particularly mountainous to begin with and part and parcel of that fact is there are not particularly high populations there to begin with. Over the four starting territories you can surmount about 1,000 troops to lead into battle which at this early stage is enough to subjugate the other local Pagans. Subjugation is the ability to declare war at pretty much any time you choose to, against another independent Pagan; that means no De Jure claims, just I want your land, and will fight you for it.
I took that route towards the end of my first rulers reign and it works quite well, should you have the forces to take what you believe to be rightfully yours. There is a 10 year gap between declaring war on the same territories, should you fail the first time round, but it loses that prerequisite if you have the “King of” ambition. These offensive Pagans will lose prestige if they don’t start fighting after a while which can be bothersome if the land around you is well guarded or not obtainable. Thankfully there is another option, which will help you amass a reasonable fortune at the same time.
Norse are particularly well known as raiders and looters, and that is exactly what you can let them become. In a territory you own, you can set any army to become looters, then ship them off to coastal territories along Europe and raid them for gold. They will stop looting if a fort protects the gold (until you finish sieging it) or there isn’t any more to take but anything you get will be sent back to your ships, ready to return the spoils to your homeland. Having the ship nearby is essential as you will need to store the gold, as well as helping you scarper if the local territories amass armies to defeat your forces.
Pagans have their own religions and as such they have their own specific beliefs and things that surround it. They can be converted by Christians and Muslims, who you can accept with arms wide open or take a hostile approach. I personally imprisoned the only Christian preacher that tried to impose the Christian beliefs. Norse in particular can hold Great Blots, huge occasions held once every several years (if you decide to hold one) where you can sacrifice prisoners for prestige, public opinion and piety bonuses.
One of the other big draws of the expansion is specifically the Zoroastrian Religion. Unlike the other Pagan religions introduced by the DLC, the Zoroastrian religion has a goal, to reinstate itself as a major religion within the Persia Empire. Much more difficult than spreading Christianity, as it holds very few territories of its belief and is surrounded by various Pagan and Muslim Beliefs that oppose it. Starting with taking back Persia and then installing Zoroastrianism as the chief religion is the first step, before reinstating the High Priesthood and finally announcing yourself as the chosen saviour of the world; the Saoshyant. A goal designed for only the most modest of leaders to pursue, obviously.
Something I didn’t see much of during my playthroughs was the adventurers, armies that raise many men under its banners before setting off to carve out realms of their own. What little I did see of them was one vassal (not disappointed or aggressive towards me at all), packing his bags after announcing his position, before his army appeared in one of my provinces. Dwarfing my current army size at the time it numbered about 1,000 troops but swelled up to about 2,500 before setting off into the distance, never to be seen again.
As an expansion it adds a lot to some quite broad areas of the map but is clearly designed for the early game as much of it remains the same if you start in 1066. It has variable difficulties as Norse was a particularly easy territory to expand and manage compared to both Western European and the new Middle Eastern factions. Zoroastrianism is a hefty challenge due to the constraints applied from the get go and will issue a challenge to all who thirst to try out the new religious take overs. Even if you decide to stick to England there are enough changes that it should affect a playthrough via either your spread of religion to heathens or their threat as a coastal menace.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.