+ New Muslim mechanics
+ More events
+ Decadence implementation
- Wars escalate too quickly
- Learning curve
Final score: 8.5 / 10
Controller support: No
Windows XP or Vista or Window 7
Intel Pentium IV 2.4 GHz or AMD 3500+
2 GB of RAM,
2 GB free hard drive space
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 or ATI Radeon X1900 video card
Direct X compatible sound card
Internet connection for multiplayer
When Crusader Kings II was launched earlier during the year, the biggest critique from the community being linked to the fact that only Christian rulers were available to play and less than half a year after the development team at Paradox Interactive has moved to solve the problem and launched the Sword of Islam expansion, which can be bought digitally from inside the game store.
The Muslims are defined by two core mechanics: the ability to take more than one wife and the Decadence mechanics that’s linked to family size and can bring down a huge empire in almost no time.
The harem mechanics means that a Muslim ruler can acquire more bonuses from his wives and there’s a hunt as the game begins to snap up the best possible matches (the Middle East and North Africa seem to be a sellers’ market when it comes to young women with solid skills) and then every wife death is like a stab through the heart, both because of love lost and skill drops.
More wives mean getting more children, which is all well and good as long as they are girls with skills that can lead to marriage and food relations with neighbors.
But often (and I wonder whether Paradox has loaded the dice for this mechanic) boys are in the majority and that leads to big problems for Muslim rulers.
Dynastic Decadence affects both income from own ruler territories and martial prowess for the dynasty, which means that getting a high value can easily lead to a monetary down spiral and to a lot of losses in battle.
Unfortunately, the only way of getting rid of it is to make your demesne as small as possible, get land to as many family members as possible and, as a last resort, get rid of those who have a high decadence level themselves.
I thought that killing relatives was rampant in my Christian games, but the whole “pruning” process becomes even more important in Muslim games and a good spymaster becomes a crucial asset as heirs and brothers are either thrown in jail or killed outright.
Paradox Interactive has managed to really capture the essence of how Islamic rulers behaved during most of the Middle Ages and I often felt that Sword of Islam led to some narratives that were as plausible as the real history we learn in school.
There’s no graphics improvement in Sword of Islam because the core game was only launched at the beginning of the year, but there’s plenty in the way of new art and the development team has managed to create lovely images and styles for the various Muslim cultures without falling pretty to the temptation to go over-the-top.
The music of the expansion is also interesting but, for a game that can swallow up so much gaming time, a little more variety would have been appreciated and the gamer is better served by picking his own soundtrack.
Multiplayer has received no new options in Sword of Islam, but the overall improvements to the game mean that it’s even more fun, even if the increased variety can put some people off.
It’s hard to review expansions for games like Crusader Kings II, which deliver so much in the core package, but I see Sword of Islam as an actual integral part of the vision that the development team at Paradox has for their game.
Those who already have the original Crusader Kings II should get the extra content as soon as possible and play as a Muslim ruler in order to get a very different experience from the one they are used to.
Other players should take a look at the our Softpedia review for the initial Crusader Kings II and maybe pick the game up, play at least for a couple hundred years and then decide whether they are interested enough in order to also get Sword of Islam.
Gamers should also keep in mind that most major mods will move to use the new expansion as a base for their changes and that might be reason enough for a lot of people to make spend money for the expansion.