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Crusader Kings 3: Legends of the Dead DLC review – Infectious fun

Crusader Kings 3 brings the Black Death a-knocking at your door - maybe if you tell it a really good story it'll leave your lands alone?

Our Verdict

Legends may have their lacklustre elements, but the Legends of the Dead DLC makes up for its shortcomings with plenty of fun plague-y content to excite Crusader Kings 3 fans.

Crusader Kings 3: Legends of the Dead essentially adds two main features to the medieval rulership simulator: Plagues and Legends. Plagues are pretty much perfect, as they are in Crusader Kings 2: no notes. Legends are a really great idea, but their implementation feels a little under-baked.

The new DLC gives diseases a massive overhaul, making them much nastier and more constant. Plagues can now pop up and spread around the world, leaving devastation in their wake. Preparing your provinces to brave the storm is an interesting challenge, and the range of horrendous diseases, plus the realistic way they crop up and proliferate is really enjoyable.

This aspect of the DLC adds a much-needed bit of difficulty and unpredictability to the game, since you can never truly rely on things like succession plans to work out the way you want. Those darn kids are always dying at the worst possible moment.

Of course, there’s also the Black Death, a late-game (or not, depending on the options you pick in game setup) threat that can easily wipe out your entire family, quite literally spelling the end of your game. Seeing the tide of the apocalypse lap ever closer is sure to shake up any playthrough that’s gone a bit staid.

One interesting detail I enjoyed is that the diseases are sometimes named after particular rulers or regions, depending on where the disease originates. That little bit of flavor really stuck with me, and serves as a reminder that people often blamed individual rulers for the effects of plague (which is why they can affect the new legitimacy meter).

Moving on to Legends, a more unique and interesting idea than plagues, which, while the standout feature for me, could benefit from building on similar features found in the Crusader Kings 2 DLC.

The idea with Legends is that your characters can promote stories and chronicles about their deeds, either real or exaggerated, and gain all sorts of benefits for doing so. You basically make your character into a social media influencer, avidly trying to get as many people as possible to retweet their tales of derring do.

Some of these Legends unlock modifiers, while others give you meaningful decisions to make, like legendary buildings or new special title claims. I like what Paradox was going for here, and for the most part it works well.

There are some fun and powerful benefits to reap, and the variety of Legends is pretty good. You can tell everyone about your holiness, your family’s great heritage, the time you killed a deer and it was super gnarly, or make up myths about single-handedly vanquishing Satan.

But there are a few big issues. The first is that the historical Legends (rather than the generic ones that crop up during the game) are not very evenly distributed. You’ll find most of them in Western Europe, with many spots not getting their fair share of unique content. Making this more frustrating is the fact that there isn’t currently any in-game way of checking what Legend Seeds will be available for what characters or regions.

Secondly, Legends represent a surprisingly large money sink, and yet disappear alarmingly quickly. Chronicler seems to be the most profitable career you can have in the medieval world, based on how much gold your storytellers suck up. If only writing work was still valued so highly.

It shouldn’t be possible for your legacy to disappear before you’ve even shuffled off this mortal coil, yet currently this happens easily and there’s no way to reverse the process. The unfortunate side-effect is that Legends can feel unrewarding; your deeds can feel even more inconsequential and ephemeral than they did before, the exact opposite of what was intended.

Finally, compared to previous DLC like CK3 Tours and Tournaments, I find the Legend system quite unintuitive. Whereas traveling to and hosting various events was brilliantly immersive, while playing Legends of the Dead I find myself constantly pondering what a ‘Legend seed’ is or what it means in real terms to ‘complete a legend’.

The actual written parts of the Legends themselves are sometimes perfectly fine, whereas other times they seem full of awkwardly stitched together generic paragraphs that don’t actually relate to anything your character has done.

If I win a major offensive war, or gain a new title, while I have a legend going, it feels wrong that that isn’t incorporated into the Legend. It forms a disconnect between my expectations of how a Legend should work and the DLC’s actual mechanics, momentarily breaking my immersion.

This awkwardness is present in events too, with characters gossiping about “the reason for your legend” as if a living character’s legend was a new car, or side-project, an entity that a medieval person would actually speak about.

Legitimacy is the final new feature added into this DLC, though as always it’s hard to entangle which parts come from the paid content and which are in the free update.

I really like Legitimacy. It seems like something that should’ve always been in the game, a concrete measure of your perceived right to rule, and a factor that rulers of the time always had to worry about and shore up. Having low legitimacy will cause all sorts of problems, from no one wanting to make an alliance with you, to higher chances of a powerful faction turning on you.

The new Legends system is a powerful way to gain bucketfuls of Legitimacy, but there are lots of other means to restore it – from winning wars to holding activities. But simultaneously, loads of things you’d quite like to be doing will hurt your legitimacy.

You should maybe think twice now before marrying Nelly Nobody from 1000 km away, just because she has the coveted Genius trait. You might want to avoid disinheriting half your sons to avoid the bad effects of Partition inheritance laws.

Like the stress system, Legitimacy creates more things to balance as you go about the king-ing business. It encourages realistic concerns and behaviors – and meshes with the rest of the game in a way I find Legends don’t quite manage to.

Overall, Legends of the Dead is a very solid DLC, and I think it’s worth the $20 Paradox is asking for it. I have my particular quibbles about the Legends system, but overall think there’s a lot of fun to be had with the added content.