This is the sixth in a series of reviews looking at the evolution of Crusader Kings II. See the previous reviews here:
Crusader Kings II:
The Second Crusade
The Old Gods: That Old-Time Religion
Sons of Abraham: A Little of Everything
Rajas of India: My Elephant for a Kingdom
Charlemagne: Back in Time

The next expansion for CKII (the eighth, not counting Sunset Invasion) after Charlemagne was a small, focused, ‘character experience’ one. After a bit of open beta testing, CK II: Way of Life was released on December 16, 2014.

It really was focused, with just one actual feature, though of course it did cause some changes elsewhere. Patch 2.3 featured a change to the UI (right-clicking on a portrait to interact with the character—from anywhere—instead of hitting a button that character’s main screen), and added some more modding hooks, as well as properly multithreading the game startup.

Each count-level and above character can now choose a focus, one of ten different subjects to focus his attentions on. There’s two per primary attribute, and they generally provide similar bonuses to that attribute, but different secondary bonuses. Despite what the main advertising art might suggest, these pairs are just separate interests for each attribute, and not any sort of good/evil pairing.

With WoL enabled, the normal ‘improve this low attribute’ ambitions are disabled (see the Intrigue section of my original review), largely reducing them back to the original set of ‘become wealthy’, ‘become steward’, ‘have a son’, etc., ambitions. However, if you take a focus in an attribute that is low (below 8), the same ambition-driven events to raise them become available, so they’ve just been moved from one system to another. (However… the focus gives a +3 to an attribute, so if you were 5 originally, you go to 8, don’t get any special events to raise it, and go back to 5 if you switch to a different focus….)

Additionally, of these foci can generate character modifiers to ‘level up’ the appropriate abilities. These generally come in three levels, and will stay even if you change your focus. While the AI will generally stick to one focus for a character, you can change it every five years, either as needs change, or once you get the bonuses you want out of them.


As a small, focused (cough), expansion, this is a great idea. It doesn’t really interfere with anything, and doesn’t enhance some major aspect of the game, so it comes down entirely to how you feel about it. The theory is to add a bit of role-playing to the game, but for some it still feels gamey, as you can just cycle through foci, picking up bonuses (starting with some that are known to be very reliable in providing them).

I generally like it, and like pulling the self-improvement goals back out of the ambitions (I felt that was too gamey), but think a couple of opportunities were missed. The AI sticks with one focus his entire life, which is generally fine, but I think it would have been better to have some events have a chance of an AI character switching to another one (say he gets a trait that’s opposed to one of the ones the focus can grant—have a chance to switch out; or a hunting accident causes a change away from the hunting focus, or going on pilgrimage can cause a shift to theology).

I’d say this is among the least necessary expansions, but if you like CK II for the opportunity for a bit of mental role-play, it’s well worth looking at; and if you don’t, you may still find it a fun idea.