Posted: March 1
Playtime: 150 hours
tl;dr at bottom for the simple people :p
Crusader Kings II is a dense, challenging grand-strategy game, with a focus on menu interaction. You choose an initial character and then navigate feudalism as his/her descendants. There are no goals in the game per se, which means that you are free to play the game in whatever way you wish: role-play, try to convert Catholicism to Protestantism via the Lollards (Google it), or crusade against Islam. That last option raises an important point: any crusade you undertake will probably be of your own initiative, since in roughly 150 hours of play I have spent about 45 minutes on official crusades: this is a game of feudalism, not crusading. And a massive game it is too: there is a wealth of land to squabble over, diplomacy options to mess around with, intrigue to slither through, and larks for all. And digital larping for all as well, if you're into that sort of thing.
The first thing you will encounter is a cliff-like learning curve. Watching an online tutorial, reading the game manual carefully, and doing a "test playthrough" should teach you the basics in a few days. When I say test playthrough what I mean is regard your first game as an experiment, and do everything that you can: declare war, marry, assassinate, fabricate claims, etc. Click every button and see what the results are while expecting to fail. Don't let initial frustration at "losing" keep you from this fantastic game! After a while, you will be so usewd to the interface that it will seem strange that it was ever confusing.
Once you have the interface down, you can enjoy the meat of the game. There are tons of things to do, events to experience, and wars to fight in medieval Europe. Try starting as a count for a smaller game with plenty of intrigue, or play as a king and change history with sweeping invasions. The options really are endless, and well supported by the clean, detailed interface and map.
On the DLC side, there are some excellent expansions for the game available. I personally recommend purchasing The Old Gods, Sword of Islam, Legacy of Rome, and The Republic, if you want the full experience. The other DLC (i.e. Charlemagne, Rajas of India, Sunset Invasion, and Sons of Abraham) are okay, but not really amazing. Consider them only on sale, in my humble opinion.
On a side note, this is a great game for historians such as myself, and a good way to learn a little something about pre-modern European history.
Now that the gushing is over...
good soup. hot. warm feels.