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Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham Review – Many Roads to Israel

Paradox recently released yet another DLC for Crusader Kings 2, Sons of Abraham, and I was able to play through it a bit to gather some impressions of the newest content.  I was very enthused by The Old Gods, and was excited to see what new adventures awaited me in Sons of Abraham.

Sons of Abraham focuses, as the name suggests, on the “Abrahamic” faiths, or Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.  The biggest addition is the presence of Jews and the addition of Jews as playable characters, where in previous versions of the game Jews only existed in flavor events or mods.   There is one playable Jewish kingdom, inhabited by a number of playable dukes and counts, but the potential to edit a ruler as Jewish, or branch out from Khazaria, presents many opportunities to players seeking to establish Judiasm elsewhere.  There are events to reform Israel and create a re-established Jewish church should the player be adventurous, but this would require displacing the powerful Muslim inhabitants at the game’s start, a fairly arduous task.

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The Khanate of Khazar is the one playable Jewish area in the Old Gods start date of 867 A.D.

Christianity and Islam also benefited from a number of additions with Sons of Abraham, with Christianity receiving the lion’s share of attention.  Both faiths received a number of interesting, and sometimes bizarre, flavor events, adding some depth and new content for older players accustomed to the usual flurry of repetitive events.  Muslims received some new events involving the competing “schools” of Islamic thought, allowing the player to influence the course of Islam in its more formative years.

For Christian players, extensive pilgrimage events were added (much like the Hajj to Mecca), and every Christian ruler can choose to embark on a pilgrimage to a number of holy Christian sites.  These pilgrimages are not pure flavor – they can have very beneficial, and very deadly, repercussions. My first ruler, for example, died of pneumonia on his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, much to my chagrin.

Catholics can also take advantage of the revamped Papal elections mechanics, which up until now were considerably less transparent and largely predicated upon the player bribing the Pope after his election.  Instead, wealthy players may now influence papal and cardinal elections, filling the college of cardinals with friendly candidates, and ideally, having an in with the Pope even before his election.  This grants the player benefits ranging from wealth to excommunicating his or her enemies, as well as calling crusades.  Crusades and Holy Orders have been expanded and further flavor added alongside the other religious events, making both more common and more impactful upon the game.

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The college of cardinals election screen. You first need to get your bishops appointed cardinals, then try to get those cardinals chosen as Pope. A little cash can really improve your chances.

My experience with the DLC was somewhat underwhelming after The Old Gods, in large part because nowhere near a comparable amount of content was added. The AI and religious mechanics certainly do appear more dynamic and interesting, but unlike previous DLC, there is no new scenario or vast array of new characters at your disposal.

While I was certainly eager to see Jews added to the game, they inhabit only one corner of the world, and only have a few events related to conquering Israel.  I was pleased to see the AI utilizing Anti-Popes and the Crusade mechanics to great effect, including non-Christian nations, but much of the new content simply made the world around me more dynamic, while not offering a great deal of new content for myself.

For veteran players, the additions will be most welcome, and it is without a doubt that Crusader Kings 2 without the Sons of Abraham DLC is considerably less complete than those with it. That said, the new content contains considerable flavor events, and unless one is really eager to play the Jews, does not offer many innovative new mechanics to which we have become accustomed with each DLC release.

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Some pilgrimage events can have very unpredictable outcomes. My count was afflicted by depression during his pilgrimage – apparently his inner thoughts were quite dark.

For ten dollars, I can hardly caution the purchase of what is essentially a large (and very necessary) patch to the game, but if you’re fine without playing as the Jews or going on pilgrimages for a short time, unless you have ten bucks laying around going to waste, it may be best to wait for the next steam sale or bundle before making the purchase. Let us know your thoughts on the DLC down in the comments below!

This review is based on a digitally downloaded version of the DLC via Steam on PC provided by Paradox Interactive.

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