Historical simulators have had it’s place in PC/console gaming libraries for a long time. Dating back to the mid-80’s for PC/consoles, Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a game based on the series of classic novels of the same name written by Luo Guanzhong. It’s famous due to its romanticization of a very rough period in Chinese history that lasted for over a century leading to the unification of China. It’s been since 2007 that we’ve seen a Romance of the Three Kingdoms game in the West. Fans of the series, including myself, have been waiting for a version to come to the West and Koei Tecmo, in honor of its 30 month anniversary, has finally delivered with Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII.
Prior to Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII, it was not very friendly for those not already familiar with the existing mechanics. Luckily, we now have a very in-depth tutorial in the form of Hero Mode. Not only is this a fantastic tutorial that covers all the mechanics of the game, but it also gives you a fantastic rundown of the historical background into the game. I found this mode to be a fantastic crash course into the history of the Three Kingdoms period, as well as familiarizing myself with the vast amount of officers and leaders.
Similar to the Dynasty Warriors series (which is also set within the Romance of the Three Kingdoms period), each faction has it’s own set of officers. Selecting an officer can show some background information, as well as some flavor text, which helps to understand where there strengths and loyalties lie. The beautiful thing about this is that no matter what point of the game you are at, you will always understand the motivations, preferences, and morality behind a choice that officer is making – whether they are in favor of your faction or not. Each officer has different stats that are key to their effectiveness in certain positions. The stats are Lead, War, Intelligence, and Government. So if you were wanting to go to battle, you would want an officer whose stats in Lead & War were higher. There are also mini-games that occur in Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII. One of them is a duel that takes place randomly (I haven’t been able to recreate it 100% of the time, so feel free to correct me) during battle, where your characters stats dictate their effectiveness (so in this instance, War) which can play a massive role in the tides of battle, as well as a turn-based debating game when there is opposition to a political move. Personally, I loved the Debate mini-game. You are given the option to use the skills Assertion, Provocation, Proclamation, and Rebuttal, which lead to some intense word-attacks (read: hilariously bad insults) that deplete your opponents life bar. Whoever has the most health at the end of five rounds is declared victor. You also have the ability to modify historical officers in the Edit Officer feature, where you can give them a more realistic look and feel, or max every single stat and ability and breeze through the game. These officers are even transferable into the main section of the game. Promptly titled Main in the menu, the campaign mode puts emphasis on multiple different scenarios that were pivotal in the Three Kingdoms period, including the ever famous Yellow Turban Rebellion. You can either align yourself with a warring party, or became a lone-warrior who builds his own warring faction. The latter is a “new” feature, that has been seen in some of the entries to the series, but was never a consistent mainstay. I was glad to see this option in Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII.
The battles themselves are also very interesting. When fighting, you are taken onto a flat screen in which you control a group of soldiers, or if you’re a high enough rank, the entire army. Some battles allow you to place troops in strongholds, but most of them (during my play-through, anyhow) thrust me right into battle having to charge right at the enemy. The battles themselves have many factors to them. The biggest and most important factor is morale. Morale controls the pace in every single battle. By taking strongholds and defeating enemy officers, you can drop the enemy morale, leading to their troops dwindling faster. At the end of each battle, you are left with a score. The score itself plays a major part in affecting your rank. You can increase this score by taking certain objectives given to you during, or before, the battle. The 3 highest ranking officers post-battle will also earn extra prestige, which goes towards increasing their overall rank.
Despite all the good that Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII brings, there is also some bad. The controls, while ported well for the PS4, just lack the quick movements that a keyboard & mouse has to offer. The combat, while interesting at first, become very easy as the process is relatively simplified in comparison to older entries. I also experienced some minor frame rate issues when navigating the map. Overall, Koei Tecmo did a fine job in bringing Romance of the Three Kingdoms back West. From the updated visuals, fantastic depth of strategy, and the much-needed Hero mode for newcomers to enjoy the series, Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII is what strategy gaming fans have been waiting for.
The review copy was provided by Koei Tecmo.