How could the late game be improved?

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Trunting

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I have roughly 70 played hours in CK3, but I've never managed to finish a game. This is partially due to the lack of challenge after having reached the king title, partially it might have other reasons. But how could this be improved? Let's have a look at other PDX games.

Stellaris has the end game crisis. This could hardly be implemented in CK3 1 to 1, but still there could be certain endgame events like the discoveries made by Portuguese sailors in Africa or the rise of Timur (which was implemented in CK2 btw).

EU4 however, has new endgame mechanics. Now, again, this is not transferrable 1to1. What we need, I think, is something like a new economic basis, which changes in the late medieval era. The medieval period saw economic growth, but also saw the crisis of the late middle ages.

I believe, modeling this crisis, but also modeling the technological progress of that time, could lead to a more satisfying endgame experience.

There could be trade guilds like the Hansa or religious orders meddling in wealthy affairs.

One other factor would be the
Renaissance.

What, if you could:
- let a painter paint a picture of yourself
- change you coat of arms in special ways
- have certain item combos, based on which paintings you possess
- build certain monuments, where you could place those items

Those would be my ideas for adding late game content.
 
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fodazd

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I think the mongols are supposed to be something of an endgame crisis, but they come too late and are too weak to really be a threat by then. Maybe they could be buffed by a game rule?

For me, the main problem is that there isn't really any challenge left once my realm gets big enough. The main way to fix this would be ways to make the game harder (also via game rules), but I think managing a continent-spanning empire should be a bit more interesting in general. I agree that having to consider the demands of trade guilds or religious orders would make it more interesting.
 
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Blodhevn

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Building monument / Creating Holy sites-Temples, Special buildings through decisions & trigger events (something like artifact bonus events?) and universities. i want more freedom when creating my fantasy/alternate history. doesnt make sense there would be no university in say a Abkhazarian Empire that sprung up after the khazars & alan in the area if they were the highest development/progressive-tech savvy nation in the world for 300 years.

but i dont think that would help too much when it comes to late game. as it is the AI that makes it too easy to attain king-empire title & we outscale ai hard. and there are never any AI nations besides sometime byz that is of decent size.
 
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Sc4r3crow

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The major problem is CKIII isnt a map painting militaristic strategy game, it's a storytelling game.

Players will manipulate succession by disinheriting, forcing their kids to take the vows, murder their children, imprison and execute their children to guarantee primogeniture from the start, while the AI will be dealing with partition until late game. It's ok when you're going for achievements since you pretty much gotta do it to get them, but playing the game without cheating succession makes it for more interesting gameplay.

Players will revoke titles until they're at desmene limit, while the AI rarely does that. You can see the AI rarely revokes titles from their vassals and its entirely based on the character's traits. It's common for the AI to let their vassals keep their titles even after rebellions, while the player will never forgive rebellious vassals, they will revoke their titles and create weaker vassals after a rebellion, making for a much more stable realm.

And last but not least, the military and economics. Knights are way overpowered and players will bring in the best knights available to them, while the AI wont. MAAs are important, but the AI cares more about their court than their MAA. The AI wont build up their domain. The AI will declare stupid wars, especially after RC. Now the AI will relentlessly start artifact wars that will bankrupt them, spending shitloads of money on a war for an artifact it couldve otherwise saved the money and sponsored an artisan that wouldve produced a better artifact for much cheaper.

So, if you're bored, you either start playing for achievements, which can be fun, change the way you play the game or find another game. But then almost every strategy game becomes trivial when you learn to play them, unless its a game with tons of RNG, very few tools to mitigate said RNG and a steep learning curve, CKIII only has the somewhat steep learning curve going for it.
 
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chelvo

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Well, there is a natural event starting in the timespan of the game that would be perfect as an endgame crisis no matter of planning and conquering can avoid.
The Little Ice Age.
A large increase of Sickness, Devastation, debuffs to tolerance of minorities, increased harvest failures, etc.
 
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Naughtius Maximus

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The largest problem has been insufficient internal threats. Not arbitrary event fired ones. I mean organic ones borne about by vassal discontent, chiefly via factions. They're not nearly threatening enough.

Players expect their realm to hold no matter what, and dislike internal challenges ripping their progress up. Problem is that just makes sandbox type long games unchallenging over time. It's also quite unhistorical, as few if any large realms survived longer than a hundred years at their greatest extent before weakening from succession disputes (claim wars,) provinces breaking away (independence,) or some form of regime change.

As seen in say, Civ, Total War, other Paradox titles, and other campaign like games, with no notable internal challenges, external challenges eventually stop engaging the player.

As you grow larger external threats become much less so. Eventually there's not enough resources on the map to pose a threat and the fun in the campaign is gone. If you can win against 70% of the world with 30% of yours, the next war will be 69 vs 31 and the thrill of the challenge is done. It just becomes an increasingly boring grindfest to fight 68% vs 32, 65% vs 35, 50 vs 50, and so on, and so on.

This focus on external means to engage the player eventually runs into this dead end, something we a find shortly into this and the other games mentioned.

This is why it is very important to have legitimate internal challenges, such as stronger factions. Factions that can usurp or implode the realm of even the player. This is currently unlikely due to general design of the game favoring players, the already existing stat (and opinion) bloat, and undoubtedly future stat inflation.

Most importantly internal scales much better than external, since the larger you get, the more relevant and threatening these factions become as they have more resources to work with. The ratio of liege's directly controlled territory vs vassals gets increasingly more vassal sided the larger the liege gets.

Edit: For large realms this increase makes getting larger require more management and politics to keep vassals in check. Eventually you just get stretched too thin, whether it be a disastrous battle shrinking army size, annoying vassals via tyranny or prolonged offensive wars, a failed murder attempt at a political rival. Then one errant knife, one regency, or one weak ruler, and the house of cards collapses. Realm could be given to another, realm could fracture, and from there springs new relevant rivals for your now smaller blob, refreshing the external threat and providing new goals to the player. Regain old size, contend with rivals, scheme to have yourself placed back on the throne.

For those keeping to a small realm, the increase in internal threats from vassals still has the liege to play politics and pick sides in order to stay in power, which again is a much more natural way to keep the player engaged than "more random events."
 
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There need to be more Mongol-like invasions from powerful off-map factions for late game fun. Maybe one from the west, instead of the east. Maybe they could even come from somewhere across the Atlantic Ocean...
 
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nyanmurai123

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The issue is that the AI will never grow strong. Stuff like Real life Seljuks, Timurids, and Mongol Empire don't happen so there's really no final boss. In EU4, countries like Spain, Ottomans, Austria and Russia usually grow to be the final bosses of your game so there's a lot of challenge left, but in CK3 AI can't even keep their land together let alone become stronger. The fix for this would probably be to add historical events so that countries which grew to be powerful in our timeline could also become those threats they were in the game. A little historic railroading (like making the Seljuks actually conquer stuff like they did irl, making the mongols a threat or timur) would go a long way on it's own. Improving the AI would also really help
 
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spooq

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I would like to see a set of historic factors introduced that change the way the game is played towards the end. I really don’t want the challenge to be some fake external military. It’s boring as hell. Players should absolutely be allowed to blob till halfway through the game but then the challenge should be neither internal factions nor external empires per se, but changing circumstances. The challenges in a typical playthrough should first be external, then internal, then circumstances.

First of all, famine and disease. This shouldn’t just kill noble characters, it should change the economic basis of feudalism. The surviving nobles should find their peasants are much more powerful relative to the value of the land. Number of available levies and tax income should plummet, affecting the balance of power for factions and revolts. Peasant factions get to keep their high numbers.

Secondly, religion needs a lot more internal conflict within a single faith, or splitting that faith up. Ground-up regional schisms should be possible, not just weak little heresies that never get traction. Maybe cultural ideas like concubines force a debate on polygamy within Catholicism, for example. Culture and religion bouncing off each other, different ideas in different areas. Let the Emperor and his Kings and the Head of Faith argue about what is and isn’t being prosecuted. The Pope really needs to stop being just another vassal king who has a special call to arms. If the Great Schism has been mended, force another one, and have it make sense based on the character mashing too many conflicting ideas into one empire, or two huge Catholic empires with different cultures that can’t agree how to interpret the scriptures.

Thirdly, without having to code in the Renaissance, Republics should begin to become too rich and then start to cause trouble. Bonus points if Republican trade is a disease vector. Maybe Republics can be quick to hybridise cultures with those they trade with, and that can cause it’s own problems. Or let them diverge into Republic-appropriate traditions like City-Keepers, Maritime Mercantilism, and of course Parochialism. Then that culture starts to spread along coasts, up rivers, towards high development regions. The system is there now, just use it. I see Republics as a little fire for feudal lords. Keep them under control and they will keep you warm with taxes, let them grow too much and they will burn your house down.

All of these would make players have to pivot from what they have been doing, to deal with new problems. Blobbing yet another chunk of land won’t solve these issues and might even make them worse.
 
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La Clef

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The issue is that the AI will never grow strong. Stuff like Real life Seljuks, Timurids, and Mongol Empire don't happen so there's really no final boss.

Mongolic invasions are to me a huge disappointment compared to what they were in CK 2. Mongols were the final boss. I remember playing the Byzantine Empire or the Abbasids and feeling threatened to lose everything when the Mongols expanded and submitted one by one my powerful neighbors.
 
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Alssadar

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Looking at the stats from CK2 and CK3 for the endgame achievements, it shows that not many people make it to the end either (at least unmodded and without any incompatibilities along the way):
CK2 - Seven Centuries (769), 1.8%. Persistent Survivor (867), 1.7%, and Survivor (1066), 1.9%
CK3 - End of an Era (867/1066). 2.7%
I'm sure Paradox has some numbers that can confirm it, but they did say that the reason they chose 867 and 1066 start dates in CK3 was because very few people chose the later start dates. I never did either, until they added in the ruler challenges at the end of CK2's lifespan, but that was mostly because I played very slow campaigns while working towards those 1453 achievements (and writing my AARs). Paradox said one reason was because people liked having a long time to play, which is pretty fair, but I'd argue a different reason: the end game currently plays the same.

The main gameplay loop is expanding your realm, moving up in rank from count to emperor, and trying to get primogeniture for a stable succession & siege technology to outpace your enemies' love for upgrading castles and not economic buildings. Outside of that, most of the things at the start of the game play out the same way as they do at the end of the game. The early start dates has some dynamism, like tribals becoming feudalized eventually, the crusades being declared, and holy orders being created. But, after that, the only major shift to power is the Mongols ravaging their way to the Caspian Sea and kinda mukking around.
Your upgraded buildings increase strength of units by a percentage, with no drawbacks. You can play tall and build new buildings with each tier of technology, your steward never leaving your capital, but that remains the same method for improving your lands even if you did expand. Your armies can grow in size due to development and buildings, but you're always relying on your men at arms to do the heavy lifting. Your vassals will always join some faction to put your 68 year old, childless aunt on the throne the second you pass on to your son. You can tear away rights from your vassals and demand more levies and taxes from them, but it's a large opinion malus for 0.3 more income and 150 more levies from a man with two kingdoms who'll revolt anyways because he desires your land. The Byzantines will grow larger and the HRE will have two dozen simultaneous revolts at all times.
Unfortunately, it's part of a product of history, and how CK's abstractions make it a lot easier to become a strong and centralized state that just wasn't possible for men whose only knowledge of the world was what was directly in front of their face, what was relayed to them, or whatever their holy tenants proscribed to. In CK, it's possible to conquer and kingdom and fully integrate it into your domain, whereas many cities would revolt the second the king's army crossed the nearest river on the way back home. But trying to make that into a mechanic would just be really arbitrary and slow, especially given the current gameplay style, so it's really hard to accurately try to represent France and England having small wars, chevauchees, and large wars for 100 years without it being offputting for players who just want to take some land and have it be theirs.
Returning to the early statistic, only 2.7% of ironman/achievement-compatible players reached the end. If Paradox had some metric about when people quit the majority of their campaigns, I'd bet the statistic would be something (and this is just a guesstimate) that 90% people are usually able to blob for their first hundred years or so, achieve what they wanted, and then give up by the mid 1200's, after all the vikings have settled down, Genghis Khan isn't going to impact their realm or hasn't arrived yet, all the important kingdoms have been taken by Crusade/Jihad/Holy War, and there's nothing to challenge them or make them change what they're doing: they've "beaten" the game, so to speak. This is why many of the features added to CK2's lifespan were about adding things without timegates, which you can argue is one reason why so few people chose to play at the Rise of the Hansa (1241) for 200 years, as they could do all the same things in 867 for 600 years -- but why would Paradox timegate something to the 1300's if so few people would ever reach that gate anyways? Would adding in gated mechanics make people want to go that far, or would it just be a waste of time and resources?

So that's the unfortunate state of the late game. I agree with a lot of ideas in this thread: the Black Death should come in increase costs due to the lack of population/higher wages & lower rents and decreasing levies, with the Little Ice age decreasing levy replenishment as more crops fail and diseases spread. I think a Renaissance Era of technology would bring about great construction projects and the constant funding of artwork would be a great way to spend your limitless piles of cash, as well as increase the costs of maintaining your grandeur. Republics and the rise of communes should break the "three pillars" feudal structure that holds so many mayors as subject to counts they're more powerful than. Parliaments and other government systems that slow down expansion and make enacting rules harder by increasing the feudal bureaucracy. Strengthening the Mongols to be a threat across the known world, then followed by Tamerlane's blood conquests and simultaneous Timurid Renaissance, melding Persian, Indian, and Chinese sciences. These are all interesting ideas and great historical pieces that should be modeled.

But, are they different enough that would make someone who didn't want to keep playing continue on for them? I'm not sure. I feel like whole new gameplay features that change how you play (not just the way you play, ie, numerical modifiers) would be necessary, like the shift in EU4 about Absolutism during the Age of Absolutism. Would it be something like a tech that allows people to sail to West Africa and go around the Horn? People can already do that by conquering Egypt in the second Crusade and have no logistical issues owning the Maldives in the 1100's. Would unlocking some new map zones in the Caribbean for early colonization be worthwhile? No, it's out of the 1453 timeframe and people would beg until they can do it in 900 for their Vinland games, breaking the timegate. More gunpowder weapons are just new MAA, and didn't break the medieval style of combat for another hundred years past the end date. Government reforms and systems of rule are interesting, but they can really only be presented as new menus featuring erroneously acting NPC's.
Historically, the end of the medieval era was showing great signs of progress towards the early modern period, so there's no kind of finale "endgame" challenge that can't be replicated dynamically over 600 years of gameplay. Realms fracturing under their weight was the main limiter on kingdoms/empires, and is hard to make a fun challenge.
 
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klopkr

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I always think it's weird that tech just ends in this game in the late game. It should merge into the post game centuries, even if that means a few techs you might not get all of before the end of the game.

There are literal canons and early guns by 1444, no reason it can't be an end game changer tech.
 
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Mastigos

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There comes a certain point in the campaign where you stabilize - both externally and internally - and once the threats are gone, so too is your campaign.

Yet I'd argue that playing the game as a gameplay loop to overcome "threats" and stabilize your dynasty is always going to produce the same results: boring gameplay. There will always come a time where your dynasty becomes the strongest and most internally consistent and "safe" if you make the right decisions, have the smartest and strongest people in the world, and have the strongest empire in the world both internally and externally.

Take a look at Total War: Warhammer 2. The gameplay loop is largely the same (at least combat-wise and economy-wise) early game, BUT your game is never on a timer in the "official" mode: the end of the campaign happens, in a sense, three times. The first "ending" is merely an event; overcome the forces of Chaos, and you get a "grats screen" that implies your game isn't, in fact, over.

The second and third goals is to conquer X amount of important foreign cities and Y amount of foreign cities, respectively... a short campaign, and a long campaign. The true, third "long campaign" end is literally painting about 90% of the map. But you're never racing the clock. And as your acquire more power power, the asymmetrical nations of the world like you less and less (on average) and are willing to ally themselves. And thanks to the systems in place, your army can only grow to X size without severe diminishing returns on your money -- which means that even when you have a huge empire, a last ditch effort by the three remaining enemy powers (out of 20+) can all ally together and attempt to push you back; and if you don't win that final battle, your progress (and land) can be lost, pushing you away from the goal and requiring you to regroup and try again.

In a a sense, the game isn't over until it's well-and-truly over.

However, emphasis should be put on the fact that TW:WH2 is a combat-oriented game. CK3 is not. So I believe that there needs to be something to keep you engaged beyond painting the map until the timer runs out. There needs to be a reason to continue playing until the game doesn't let you anymore.

There will be a silly sub-faction of players on this forum who will point to CK2 like it had the answer; if anything, it was even worse. Hardly anyone bothered to play CK2 all the way until they can no longer do so, just like CK3. Both games shared the same problem. And that is because there is no reason to play after the drama of creating and sustaining your empire is "over" and you've painted the map so much that the nations of the world, even when allied, have no chance to beat you.

So there needs to either be 1) destabilizing factors added to the game, that don't feel forced and artificial, to keep your interest late game; and 2) reasons other than internal stabilization and external threats to keep one engaged with CK3's late game. I'm hoping that the "Struggle system" can accomplish both, but I know that's a lot to ask from one new addition to the game. I think the "Struggle system" is certainly a step in the right direction, but more needs to be added specifically to the late game to keep people interested. I'd suggest specifically shifting your focus to address late-game issues if you truly want to advance your game and take it to the "next level." The only true disappointment in CK3 is that it's supposed to be a long but ultimately timed game, that doesn't capture your interest late game because in order to make it to late game, you exhaust everything interesting about the game. There needs to be something added to keep players engaged in the last 2-3 centuries. That should be the apex of your experience, everything you've been working towards. It doesn't feel like it in form or function.
 
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Both games shared the same problem. And that is because there is no reason to play after the drama of creating and sustaining your empire is "over" and you've painted the map so much that the nations of the world, even when allied, have no chance to beat you.

By the way just like the EU- and Total War games? When the threaths and challenges are overcome, the fun is gone.
 

Mastigos

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By the way just like the EU- and Total War games? When the threaths and challenges are overcome, the fun is gone.

Funny how I wrote a ~6 paragraph mini-article about the problem with end-game CK3 and the only response you have is to quote two sentences.

If you bothered to read my entire post instead of skimming it to find something to disagree with (and I say this because you have a history of attacking my posts, generally in the same ways) you would already know what I said the differences between CK2/CK3 and Total War are. How I said they're not directly comparable because the CK series is about creating a dynasty and Total War is about, well, warfare.

There are lessons to be learned by comparing CK2/CK3 to TW, but there are also important differences to always keep in mind. Two very important differences is that in TW:WH2 your game isn't going to end at a certain date; and the TW series has different values than the CK series. TW is about combat, first and foremost; CK is about building a dynasty and creating a story, first and foremost.

In order for CK3 to stay meaningful into the late game, one must feel the final years are the apex of creating your story: you finally have all the technology unlocked, you finally have the most power and tools at your disposal. It should be the most exciting time in the game. Instead, it's the time where the drama, tension, and stakes are at their lowest instead of highest. And while "threats and challenges" can play a part of that, it's mistaking the primary focus on CK3 (and CK2) on conflict and warfare, both internal and external. Yes, there should be additional layers of threats and challenges in the late game; but it cannot be confined solely to overcoming the negative but also enabling the positive to flourish in a way not possible before the end-game is reached. The combination of additional internal threats, external threats, challenges and difficulties (like disease) *must* be accompanied by positive and lasting changes to cement your dynasty the best at X, or the rulers of Y into the far distant future, or maintaining a peace that lasts until Z, or the dynasty that produced the best orators or swordsmen or leadership or technology or religious influence in the world, for as long as possible.

It has been mentioned before and absolutely bears repeating: the late game should be the most dramatic, fun, free, challenging, unstable (in certain ways), stable (in other ways) rewarding era in the whole game. This is everything you've been working for. You have the most options. The most power. The most influence. And with all this, you should have the most allies, the most admirers, the most enemies, the most threats, the most at stake. You should be glued to your seat for the final 200 years. Instead, it seems that everyone's interest wanes in the end game. And it's a damned shame, because it should be the "endgame" of your plans - you win or you die; where you can pull off feats you never could before only because you have access to your full roster of abilities. But in the "you win or your die" phase, you should also be able to "die:" the more ambitious your plans, the more you can fail miserably.

You should be glued to your seat for the final centuries of your game, racing against the clock to establish your goals (which should be your personal agenda, supported by game rules; and if they aren't supported by game rules, add more game options).

Something has to change to reverse the late game situation entirely. Until that happens, the late game of CK3 share the exact problem with CK2: a lack of interest in the late game, when the late game should be the absolute culmination of your efforts and you are able to use your full options -- which you have spent hundreds of years and generations building -- to create a masterstoke. Instead, it's a slow loss of interest.

Think of Order 66 in Star Wars: the culmination of generations and thousands of years of Sith manipulation. It's dramatic and the most interesting period of Sith rule. If some game rules, or additional systems, or additional challenges, or even a system which could predict how your Dynasty would fare into the far future based on the friendships and rivalries that were in place at the end date -- ideally, all of these thingss and more -- we'd have a fulfulling and fun end game.

I'm saying this now: if CK3 was at its best in the end-game instead of the early-mid game, it would be the one of the best games of all time, instead of just being an exceptional game and one of, say, the top 50. Missing a fulfilling end game doesn't ruin a game, but it severely curtails the potential of the game. And at this point, addressing the end game should be one of your top priorities.

Every single end of a campaign in CK3 should end with a bang, not a whimper.
 
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Funny how I wrote a ~6 paragraph mini-article about the problem with end-game CK3 and the only response you have is to quote two sentences.

If you bothered to read my entire post instead of skimming it to find something to disagree with (and I say this because you have a history of attacking my posts, generally in the same ways) you would already know what I said the differences between CK2/CK3 and Total War are. How I said they're not directly comparable because the CK series is about creating a dynasty and Total War is about, well, warfare.

There are lessons to be learned by comparing CK2/CK3 to TW, but there are also important differences to always keep in mind. Two very important differences is that in TW:WH2 your game isn't going to end at a certain date; and the TW series has different values than the CK series. TW is about combat, first and foremost; CK is about building a dynasty and creating a story, first and foremost.

In order for CK3 to stay meaningful into the late game, one must feel the final years are the apex of creating your story: you finally have all the technology unlocked, you finally have the most power and tools at your disposal. It should be the most exciting time in the game. Instead, it's the time where the drama, tension, and stakes are at their lowest instead of highest.

Something has to change to reverse the situation entirely. Until that happens, the late game of CK3 share the exact problem with CK2: a lack of interest in the late game, when the late game should be the absolute culmination of your efforts and you are able to use your full options -- which you have spent hundreds of years and generations building -- to create a masterstoke. Instead, it's a slow loss of interest.

Think of Order 66 in Star Wars: the culmination of generations and thousands of years of Sith manipulation. It's dramatic and the most interesting period of Sith rule. If some game rules, or additional systems, or additional challenges, or even a system which could predict how your Dynasty would fare into the far future based on the friendships and rivalries that were in place at the end date -- ideally, all of these thingss and more -- we'd have a fulfulling and fun end game.

Every single end of a campaign in CK3 should end with a bang, not a whimper.
You got me wrong. I read all you wrote and did not disagree, on the contrary. I just came to think of it, other similar history-based strategy games can't cope either.
 
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Mastigos

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You got me wrong. I read all you wrote and did not disagree, on the contrary. I just came to think of it, other similar history-based strategy games can't cope either.

I'm sorry, and I sincerely apologize to you. I'm so used to being attacked that I immediately go into defensive mode - which can make me unpleasant sometimes. I agree with your general point as well; I just think that a game like CK3 needs a combination of external and internal threats in the end-game and positive reasons to continue your campaign, like finally unifying two rival houses, or bringing a rogue offshoot of your Dynasty back into the fold, or cementing your reputation at X as the best in the world for centuries to come. And these challenges -- both negative such as internal threats and external forces, and positive challenges like establishing a just and righteous world order -- NEED to be supported by game mechanics, or else people will continue to lose interest in the late game.

The end game should be a game wide open and rife with possibilities and the clock should be something you hate to see end, instead of something you're waiting for to end so you can start a new file. End game CK3 should be the most exciting and compelling time; an era which is a reward that you've survived and sacrificed to reach. It should be the strongest period of the game, not the weakest. And if Paradox can pull that off, CK3 would be a genuine masterpiece instead of the game with one great weakness that holds it back from being truly genre-dominating.
 
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