With Crusader Kings III releasing today after an eight-year wait, we thought now would be a perfect time to take a look at five of the best Paradox Interactive games that you can play in 2020.
There has been a lot of anticipation surrounding the release of Crusader Kings III, especially as Crusader Kings II has been a fan-favorite for years. Today, we’ll be primarily looking at some of Paradox Interactive’s best grand strategy games that you can play today. We’ll look at what time period they take place in and the features that made them special for so many fans.
Paradox Interactive isn’t the type of company to let a game stagnate either, most of these games have a DLC list that can be eye-watering to look at – but it’s all great content. If you’re looking for a game that will be updated for years to come, Paradox is a great bet.
Release Date: February 14, 2012
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux
Starting with the earliest game on our list, Crusader Kings II isn’t your average strategy game. Instead of the broad style of playing as a single country, you’ll aim to forge a dynasty in Crusader Kings II that will last through the ages.
Just like the famous Habsburg dynasty, you’ll aim to litter your descendants through the world, marry them off to forge alliances and claims on a rival throne. Playing as a character is a rewarding role-playing experience in Crusader Kings that you don’t find in many other grand strategy games. You can improve your stats, complete various activities, and even pick up traits that will affect how you live your day to day life.
Taking place between the years 1066 and 1337 in the base game, you’ll have the choice to start as either a count, king or emperor somewhere in Europe. The main gameplay revolves around the decisions you make as a ruler. If you want to simply conquer other realms, you can focus on your military and forge alliances. If you aren’t the fighting type, you can plot, scheme, and murder your way to the top without so much as raising a single levy.
If you run out of things to do in the base game, you can pick up one of the many DLC packs for Crusader Kings II that improve certain aspects of the game, increase the date range or even add new countries to play in.
Release Date: 13 August 2013
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux
While Crusader Kings focuses on running a country from within while playing as a singular character, Europa Universalis IV lets you take control of an entire country, forging its path as the years progress.
If you’re used to Paradox games at this point, you’ll feel right at home in Europa Universalis IV. There are plenty of tooltips to look at, a handy ledger and most of the gameplay feels pretty similar to Crusader Kings II at first glance.
Europa Universalis IV takes place between the years of 1444 to 1821 which gives you plenty of time to meld your country to your liking. You can choose to take control of colonial powers such as Castille, uniting them to modern-day Spain and then turning your attention towards the Americas. If you want to try out some alternate history, you can take your country in a completely different direction – ever fancy creating an Italian Africa? Want to reforge the Roman Empire? Why not give it a shot?
The map is a lot larger this time around too, encompassing the entire world rather than just Europe. If you don’t fancy playing one of the recommended countries, you have the option of choosing any country that existed in that time period and leading them onto a path of glory.
Release Date: 6 June 2016
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux
Moving on to a different time period, Hearts of Iron IV follows the action of World War II in the time period of 1936 to 1948. While this is a much shorter length of time than you may be used to from other Paradox games, the time ticks over the course of hours rather than days.
Hearts of Iron IV doesn’t trap itself into a narrow view of World War II either. Instead, it simulates all theaters of war and you can play entire campaigns in countries such as Japan, Brazil, Canada as well as the big names of Germany, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
While you’ll encounter the standard set of events and decisions while playing, there is a massive focus on preparing your country for war, managing your factories, making sure supply lines are in order, building munitions, and crafting battle plans.
The combat in Hearts of Iron IV takes center stage compared to past Paradox titles – as you’d pretty much expect. The ‘larger-stack mentality’ doesn’t play as much of a role here, you’ll have to diversify your units, have strong generals, and plan your engagements to aim to surround, or even split your enemies’ forces.
Release Date: May 9, 2016
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Stellaris is a bit of a strange game to get used to at first. It tends to stray more into the 4X territory of strategy games rather than following a similar formula to past Paradox titles. This could partly be down to the setting being completely in space where you’ll meet a range of sentient creatures, each with their own history and temperament.
If you were a fan of Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri growing up, you might find that Stellaris could scratch that cosmic strategy itch. In Stellaris, you’ll be able to transform your small civilization into a large galactic power that controls not only multiple planets but multiple systems.
One of the best parts about Stellaris is choosing who you’ll play as. There are 10 different species you can choose in the base game as well as a choice of origin stories, traits, and government types and ethics. This leads to each run feeling completely different and you’ll soon be developing your own tactics to increase your chances of success.
There are a couple of great expansions to grab for Stellaris too that greatly expand on the scope of the game. These add new races, gameplay mechanics, and events.
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Linux
Finally, the game we’ve all been waiting for – Crusader Kings III. Hopefully, you’ll have already got your hands on this title by the time you’ve finished reading this, but if not, there isn’t long left to wait.
Following on from the huge success of Crusader Kings II, this game brings a modern look and feel to the franchise as well as improving on all the features that make this franchise shine.
You’ll still play as a singular character in Crusader Kings III with the aim of growing your dynasty. This time around, however, there is a massive focus on making each character feel unique, with new lifestyles to get stuck into, new events, and even 3D portraits that give you a more personable look at your character.
One new feature we’re especially looking forward to is the stress mechanic. This aims to simulate a character’s mental well-being in the game and will increase if they act out of character or against their nature. For example, a compassionate character will start to suffer from high levels of stress if they start murdering their offspring to favor a certain heir to the throne. This can quickly lead a character to an early grave and will even cause mental breaks.
This looks like it will add a whole new layer of strategy to how you manage your character. This will hopefully mean less time spent gaming the system and more time relating to your character.
Well, there we have it, our list of five of the best Paradox games to get stuck into. We expect you’ll want to pick up Crusader Kings III first of all, especially as it will be available on Xbox Game Pass. If you’re still looking for suggestions, some other great Paradox strategy games to be on the lookout for include March of the Eagles, Victoria II, and Imperator: Rome.
This is by o means an exhaustive list, in fact, it doesn’t even touch on some great non-strategy titles such as Cities Skylines, Pillars of Eternity, and Surviving Mars. These are well worth checking out if you love Paradox games but grand strategy isn’t quite your style.
If you enjoyed our list today, why not drop us a comment down on what your favorite Paradox game is? In the meantime, to keep up with the latest news, be sure to follow us over on Twitter and keep checking back here at WePC.