Knights of Honor II: Sovereign review (PC)

Knights of Honor 2: Sovereign is the somewhat unexpected sequel to Black Sea Games’ 2005 original, and offers the kind of grand strategy gameplay that’s usually reserved for PC gamers. In a season full of console reviews, it was a good reason for us to power up Steam once again and dive into some medieval empire-building across Europe.

While it was fairly well-received, the first Knights of Honor didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. At the time I remember thinking that it at least visually looked quite a bit like the Stronghold games with the castle-centric screenshots and gameplay I saw, and at the time I was more drawn to the Total War games while also playing Stronghold. Knights of Honor 2: Sovereign offers a more well-rounded experience and evokes memories of games like Grand Ages with its epic scope and visual style, and makes me feel like maybe I missed out when I didn’t spend a lot of time with the first game.

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From what I gather, however, the sequel features an expanded scope in terms of gameplay, and gives you numerous paths to success. You have to try and expand your empire across Europe, and can do so by embarking on the warpath or engaging in political intrigue – sneaking your way towards growth through a bit of back-stabbing or diplomacy. Or a combination of the above – the choice is yours.

It helps if you’re used to similar games though – or perhaps the first game. Knights of Honor 2 doesn’t have the smoothest onboarding experience out there and isn’t afraid to rely on the player’s experience within the genre. Tutorial-wise, that means you’re getting more of the “here’s how we do this in our game” treatment than a step by step guide toward the best ways to play. As a result, even experienced players will run into a bit of trial and error, and there’s quite a learning curve involved here. Not a huge issue if you’re familiar with the genre and already know that the best games aren’t mastered until you’re spent dozens of hours with them, but not exactly newcomer-friendly either.

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Things simultaneously become more interesting and complex once you start interacting with other empires. Your first moment of contact may very well be of the friendly kind, with a plea for help, but your reply will start to shape your relationships with other nations – on both sides of the various conflicts that are happening in Europe at any given time. Get comfortable with the game’s mechanics, and before long you can start scheming your way through Europe – even marrying off your kids in order to get a foot in the door somewhere.

And while a lot of those elements are happening on the surface, Knights of Honor 2 also offers plenty of opportunities to explore the more shadowy sides of empire-building. If you don’t just want to have knights settle things on the battlefield, you can also send out spies and try to overthrow others that way.

There are other and similar games out there, but if you enjoy this kind of grand strategy then you’ll enjoy Knights of Honor 2. It’s a bit of a rare breed of game, so it’s great to see another one you can easily get lost in – I just wish it was more streamlined in terms of its mechanics.

Score: 7.7/10

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