Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII is a military strategy game released by Koei. The game is based on a Chinese book of the same name, and has spawned video-game spinoffs before, with Dynasty Warriors being the most famous example. As someone who played Dynasty Warriors as a kid, I was very excited to be re-immersed in this compelling world. However, I found this excitement to quickly be misplaced. To be honest, I struggled to play through this game. Not because it is hard, but because it is dull.
There are two modes, Hero Mode and Main Mode. Hero Mode is essentially a tutorial, introducing you to the leaders of the main factions in the game. You ought to play the Hero Mode to understand how the game functions. However, it dips you into the most boring part of the game first, namely 2-D character relationships boiled down to one line of overly blunt dialogue. In the first mission you must talk to Zhang Fei in order to make Guan Yu’s acquaintance. You meet him, and say hi, and he says you look like a strong warrior, and that he will introduce you to Guan Yu. There is no character building, no well written relationship to keep you going. Just bland, dull, formulaic words to get you from point A to point B. You then travel to a neighboring city for 7 DAYS to get ‘Refined Liquor’. And then you travel back for 7 DAYS. Which is fine. Or would be if there was anything genuinely more exciting to this game.
The way the game functions is just tedious. Combat is linear, and tends to be just sending men in to kill one another until one of you is left standing. There is no nuance, and complexity serves to detract from the game rather than to improve it. It lacks the clean look of a Civilization or even Total War game. It is jumbled, forcing you to go through confusing menus to reach some unclear objective. And even if you do the right thing, finding out how to do it immediately can be infuriatingly hard. In one mission I had to recruit a new general, who took 141 DAYS to recruit. Which was a lot of time sitting around and waiting.
There are interesting ideas here, in spite of my own lack of enjoyment. The idea of managing cities whilst also fighting is very interesting, and crafting RPG style relationships between commanders is vastly different from other kinds of RTS. If done well, the relationships could be springboards for conflict and betrayal, forcing you to choose between aiding different friends at different moments. That would be fascinating, but it is something that I did not come across, and the poor quality of relationship building means that even if it were to arise, the decision would be purely pragmatic, and not weighed by emotional connection, which to my mind would make it infinitely more interesting.
I give Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII: FAME AND STRATEGY EXPANSION PACK a 5/10.