Romance of the Three Kingdoms is one of the greatest novels of Chinese literature ever written. The story has been retold time and time again, spawning multiple media including movies, television programs, anime, mange, and even video games. Much of Koei Tecmo’s long running (and highly successful) Dynasty Warriors series draws inspiration from the historical novel, so it’s little wonder that Koei Tecmo has decided to release Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII: Fame & Strategy Expansion Pack Bundle. Boy, that’s one mouthful!
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed)
Genre: Tactical Strategy
Release Date: April 25th, 2017
At its core, RoTK XIII is a turn-based tactical role-playing simulation strategy game, combining plenty of elements from multiple genres into one all-encompassing war gaming experience.
Although Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII is the thirteenth installment in the strategy series, this is the first title to grace Western shores, with previous title only released to the Asian market. Its origin spans as far back as 1986 with the original Romance of the Three Kingdoms game being released on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII was released back in July last year to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the series. It received mixed reviews back then, and the Fame & Strategy Expansion Pack attempts to rectify those issues whilst building upon the game.
At its core, RoTK XIII is a turn-based tactical role-playing simulation strategy game, combining plenty of elements from multiple genres into one all-encompassing war gaming experience. Set in second-century China, players can experience the life of an officer living in the Three Kingdoms era.
The choice of officer is diverse, with over 700 different officers to choose from, ranging from lowly class citizens, right up to becoming emperor, making RoTK XIII a unique and enriching experience. Each character is different with varying stats affecting how well they perform in any given role.
RoTK XIII isn’t just about action and conquering, with your power to influence also playing a key to your success. Arguing over domestic policies in a turn-based debate complete with health bar may not sound all that exciting, but as you throw out assertions and proclamations, it feels so darn satisfying to overcome your opponent. These types of mini-battles also feature in battles on the warfront ranging from a duel battle to a debate, adding an extra layer of complexity to combat.
Battles take place on a battlefield grid, where you control a small battalion of soldier or the entire army depending on your current rank. Most battles you’ll be storming a stronghold where unit placement and combat offensive all play an important part of the decision making. If all that wasn’t enough to contend with, morale also plays a crucial role. From buffing and debuffing troops, to exterminating an opposing force at a quicker rate, there’s more going on in RoTK XIII than meets the eye.
Asides from flat out winning, satisfying objectives improves your overall score, which in turn increases your officer rank and unlocking Prestige titles, a new feature of the Fame & Strategy Expansion Bundle. Prestige titles unlock new actions based on a chosen Prestige, impacting your officer’s life.
Whether you’re familiar with the romanticized writings of author Luo Guanzhong or not, RoTK XIII does an amicable job with its introductory tutorial of Hero Mode.
The Bond System feature affects your relationships with other officers within your dynasty. Performing tasks like assisting others, having chats strengthens your ties. Even though RoTK XIII is based on three kingdoms, you can choose to forgo your allegiance and craft out your own destiny as supreme ruler. Having strong bonds will determine who follows you and who will try to topple you from your self-annotated podium.
Whether you’re familiar with the romanticized writings of author Luo Guanzhong or not, RoTK XIII does an amicable job with its introductory tutorial of Hero Mode. The opening sections are filled with historical context and detailed explanation of the features and how to play. It can be intimidating at first, but once you grasp the basic mechanics, the automated sections helps to establish familiarity which makes the game surprisingly easy to get into.
Hero Mode is a perfect entry point for newcomers as it focuses on the story of an individual character while teaching players the mechanics and goals. There’s also a Main Mode where you control a character through different scenarios throughout the Three Kingdoms period, with all the turn-based complexity as the developers intended the game to be played. The game spans from 184 AD, with your ultimate goal to unify China, however the game ends when 350 AD is reached or your character dies. Once it’s game over, you can do it all over again.
There’s plenty of replayability here as the character and choices you make during each play through alters the experience each time, even if some of the scenarios such as the Yellow Turban Rebellion. How historical events unfold can also be customised to be historical accurate if you want. You can also choose your allegiance with one of the three warring factions if you so wish.
Gameplay becomes increasingly addictive the more you invest in nurturing your chosen officer.
As with any strategy game, the graphics is not going to blow you out of the water with its many, many menu structure system. It’s all about choice and being in control which RoTK XIII does pleasantly well. The soundtrack is suitably oriental in flavour, featuring soft percussion tracks to uplifting orchestral scores with backing vocals.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII – Fame & Strategy Expansion Pack Bundle is an in-depth and robust gaming experience. Gameplay becomes increasingly addictive the more you invest in nurturing your chosen officer. The impressive amount of individuality and customisation is sure to please fanatical fans of the turn-based genre.
In saying that, Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII – Fame & Strategy Expansion Pack Bundle won’t be for everyone. It involves a great deal of thinking, patience and time investment to truly appreciate. It’s surprising it’s taken Koei Tecmo this long to bring it to the English-speaking gaming community, but I’m very glad they did.