Is Crusader Kings 2: Jade Dragon The Last CK2 DLC?

  • Windows
  • Simulator
  • Strategy
Crusader Kings 2: Jade Dragon Paradox Interactive

Crusader Kings 2 has been out for more than five years now and has seen vastly more DLC in its lifetime than just about any other strategy game. In fact, it’s still actively supported over nearly the same stretch of time between Civilization V and Civilization VI. And now, Paradox has announced yet another major DLC: Jade Dragon, which introduces China as a non-playable power. The DLC looks exciting and feature rich, but the truth is Crusader Kings 2 is showing its age—and despite excitement for Jade Dragon, we have reason to believe and even hope that this will be the end of the line.

Crusader Kings 2: Jade Dragon: End Of The World, End Of The Game?

Jade Dragon takes the world of Crusader Kings 2 farther to the East than it has ever gone, well beyond the lands of India to the Far East. Although China won’t be playable or even physically on the map, it will still exert considerable influence on states in the East, both the Hordes and India itself. The Jade Dragon DLC in some ways seems like a follow-up to Rajas of India, which added India as a playable region but has been less widely adopted than some other DLCs as a key part of the game. Both those regions and the Hordes should be much more interesting now that they’re facing a potential threat/economic partner to their East.

That’s all well and good, but—as many players have commented—Crusader Kings 2 needs more than just a new region. The game—which is truly incredible, and both extremely innovative and influential on later strategy games—is starting to show its flaws. It was the first in the current quartet of actively supported Paradox Development Studio games, followed by Europa Universalis IV and the much newer Hearts of Iron IV and Stellaris. The CK2 engine is noticeably older (it was the first iteration of the current version) and performance worse than the other games. And so many other features have been added through DLC over time that the game is ridiculously complex and intimidating for new players.

Moreover, various much-requested features are apparently never coming to Crusader Kings 2, and comments from the developer team suggest that’s because the additions are too complex for the current game. The most notable features in this line are cadet branches of a dynasty and naval combat. Other major changes to the system of title creation, the Papacy, and the interactions between lord and vassal seem beyond the scope of the game. None of these are slights against Crusader Kings 2; it’s just a rather old game, with a very passionate fanbase that has kept it alive for years longer than even the development team thought possible. They have done their best to continually improve it and make it better, but at some point, there’s a limit.

The introduction of Jade Dragon may in some ways be an acknowledgement of those limits—rather than adding major new underlying systems, it adds a significant new ancillary feature that only applies to one part of the world… and makes that part more complete. It also adds a lot of quality-of-life features to the rest of the game, improvements to make the general flow of play more satisfying.

Once it is, even Paradox may acknowledge that it’s time to move on to Crusader Kings 3. In a cryptic comment, the game’s Product Manager Lead even said that “I can neither confirm nor deny that the upcoming DLC is going to be the last DLC, and that's all I can say for now.” Make of that as much or little as you will. The company has learned so much from CK2 and, in large part because of the game, has become a major independent publisher in its own right. It has many more resources now than it did five years ago, and we know the company is working on other projects already as well. Jade Dragon will be a great DLC… and it may well be the last. If this is the end of the line for Crusader Kings 2, so be it—it has had an incredible run. Bring on Crusader Kings 3.

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