Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII Review

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The very first thing I want to make clear about this title is that it is not for everyone. If you don’t have previous knowledge of the Three Kingdoms period, or if you are not a big fan of strategy games then this is sadly not going to be the game to pull you into them. That being said I personally found this to be an entertaining and interesting game that I can see being a time sink for me way into the future.

I have been a huge fan of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms story for many, many years now and I love just about everything I can get my hands on that deals with the time period and the tales of the heroes and villains of that era. Imagine how excited I was when I discovered that Koei Tecmo was bringing a version to Playstation 4 for the franchise’s 30th anniversary and I was finally going to get the opportunity to step into the period and live a fantasy life from 700 (yes I did say 700) of characters that the game has available.

The story is immensely rich and detailed and is one that is well known in Asia but might not be as familiar to everyone else. It focuses on the Han dynasty and the struggle to overthrow the corrupt court to establish a new regime. The main instigators in the story; Cao Cao, Liu Bei, Sun Jian (later his son Sun Qian) establish three kingdoms of their own causing there to be a period of constant battles and wars. Each of the kingdoms has a huge cast of characters available to the player which can offer a great deal of enjoyment to someone who loves the history of the period.

The game has two different main modes available to play which are slightly different depending on the experience of the player. Hero Mode tells the story of the Three Kingdoms via short battles and events that occur throughout the history of the Three Kingdoms. This offers a tutorial type gameplay to ease the new player into the action gradually so they can get used to the style of game properly. The other mode is Main mode which gives a set of scenarios for the player to choose and then play to try and unify the land under one banner,

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The gameplay itself is menu based and offers a good amount of options to develop culture, commerce and farming. Each of the cities under your control needs to have a steady mix of all of these things to be successful and micro-managing the three options is the key to resource management for the military aspect of the game. Once you have built up a decent set of resources you can then invest them in military by hiring new officers, training new troops or by patrolling the territories you control to increase loyalty in your military. It is through these options and sub-menus with their various actions that the game can become overwhelming very quickly. The highly experienced strategy game player will relish the sheer volume of controls they have at their disposal, however, a newcomer to the genre may find that there is too much to think about even just to make a single decision. This is why the Hero mode is a stroke of genius because it has been developed to expertly take the newbie through the gameplay step by step in a very friendly and welcoming manner. It takes the gamer by the hand and introduces all of the game mechanics in a gradual process and playing through the timeline in this way puts into context the various events that occur throughout the span of the Three Kingdoms era.

The main focus of both modes falls primarily in the relationship mechanic between the various different characters within your kingdom. You will find yourself walking a fine line between allocating missions, throwing banquets and numerous other options to garner the best relationship you can with your chosen targets. If you manage to pull it off successfully you can even cause opposition forces to defect in the middle of a battle, turning the tide for you to force a win.

This may sound boring and tedious but surprisingly the mechanics are sound and the debates between characters play out more like a one on one battle of wit and intellect.

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When it comes to the battlefield the gameplay becomes very simplistic and after a while gets a little monotonous to experience. The amount of units you are allocated in battle depends on your character’s rank. Very little is left for you to control apart from which formation you wish your units to use and when to buff your army which sadly leaves me wanting just a little bit more to get the enthusiasm for the battles going.

There were some performance issues when I played it with movement between cities sometimes dropping fps and stuttering slightly. This was also evident in the battles where the number of units and number of arrows seemingly affecting performance. However, these things didn’t detract from the overall experience too much because the battles weren’t often the focus of my gameplay. My play style was more about the political skulduggery and manipulation of the other leaders.

Ultimately Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII is a decent console version of the game with a great level of detail into the lore and characters of the period. The political and management side of the game is incredibly detailed and allows fantastic customisation by the player. The Hero mode is where the game truly shines in my opinion with a friendly yet comprehensive explanation of the systems used in the game being introduced gradually over time allowing new players to the strategy genre to play without being too overwhelmed with the intricacies.

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Growing up with Video Games: A Personal History

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Playing video games has been one of my main pass-times for as long as I can remember and if you’re reading this it’s possibly the same for you. Everyone has their first nostalgic memories of films, music or sports events from their youth, but being such an avid gamer; I also remember the many games that I played growing up. To think of how this medium has changed from the late 1980’s to today is quite incredible unlike music and sports and to a lesser extent movies, games really don’t age well from the outside.

You would really struggle to see a game like Pac-Man, or the latest Grand Theft Auto being the same medium if put together side by side. Sure, films can look dated but even special effect heavy films stand up to movies today. Some of my favourites; Star Wars and Jurassic Park, still look great despite being decades old. Video games on the other hand look dated just a few years after coming out, unlike these old movies that still have thousands of people watching them many years later. The appeal of playing older games, unless you grew up playing them, just doesn’t seem to exist and I feel this is a waste. So I am going to go through a few of the consoles and games that I had the fortune of playing as I grew up and feel helped games to evolve in to what they are today.

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First up I have to say that the first games I played were on a ZX Spectrum, the best game I remember playing from that era were the Dizzy games. This was an 8bit home computer that even at the time looked pretty primitive. Blocky colours made up all of the games and I am pretty certain this is why Dizzy was made to be a white egg, an egg who wore boxing gloves. As with many games of this era it was a 2-D Side scroller, the best of all the Dizzy games was the third- Fantasy World Dizzy. The Dizzy games were platform games that required you to solve puzzles to progress, of course these games look terrible by today’s standards but the puzzle solving mechanics of the game is still fun to play today. The loading times of the cassette based Spectrum are not missed at all, the noise, the painfully slow build up of a title screen that could take tens of minutes and the high risk that when you got to the end of the tape it would crash and you would just start over again, thankfully this is something that is well and truly resigned to the past.

Following on from the ZX Spectrum, I was lucky enough to have a Mega Drive and of course the best games on the mega drive were the Sonic titles, with number two being my favourite of them all. Again these titles were still 2-D based thanks to the limitations of the hardware of the time. The speed with which Sonic could move through the opening levels was something I had never seen before and it really did blow my mind away, the music was also something I hadn’t heard before, in comparison to the Spectrum, which was limited to just screeches, bumps and rumbles- virtually all the games had the same sound effects throughout.

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This was also the era of video games that started to have movie tie-ins, something that has kind of disappeared lately with many movie based games being released on the mobile gaming platform. I would imagine that this is mainly due to the production time of modern games can take several years, twenty years ago a game could be created in a matter of months by just a few developers. Some of my favourite movie based games I played were Batman on the Amiga, the ability to drive the Bat mobile through the city was just incredible and no Batman game has done the Dark Knight justice until very recently with the excellent Arkham series of titles from Rocksteady. Jurassic Park on the Mega drive was also a game I spent many hours on. You could play as a Raptor, which as a young child whose mind was easily blown, watching the incredible effects that brought the dinosaurs to life was a dream come true. As I have said movie based games have really disappeared on home consoles with the last half decent title being maybe King Kong- which came out in 2005, nearly ten years ago.

The next console I owned was maybe the most influential console of my life time, the Playstation revolutionised games and brought them into the 3-D era and had full stereo CD based sound giving it a quality that surpassed anything before it. I spent far too many hours playing on this console, a console that had more memorable titles than any other console I owned whilst growing up. The first game I owned on the PS1 was Crash Bandicoot, a superb 3-D platformer that was created by Naughty Dog, a studio that has gone on to become, (in my opinion) the best in the industry. The Playstation was also responsible for two of my favourite video game series: Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid. Resident Evil was the first game I had played that genuinely terrified me, it introduced me to the genre of survival horror and I couldn’t get enough. The best of the series was Resident Evil 2, I can still remember playing this all night with some friends over a weekend and completing both scenarios. Games kept on growing in size and length on the Playstation with the higher capacity memory available on CD’s.

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The greatest game I have played of all time was also on Sony’s incredible first foray into the home console market- Metal Gear Solid was something I had never played before. It really was like playing through an action movie. It had everything from the clichéd espionage plot to a completely new way of playing an action adventure, it introduced the wider market to stealth action, so many games before had you running round with an infinite amount of ammo blowing enemies to bits, MGS on the other hand rewarded you for not indulging in mindless killing, instead you had to sneak your way into the compound and this title had some of the best Boss battles of any game. Who could ever forget the encounter with Psycho Mantis and that ending battle on the top of Metal Gear, bare knuckle fighting with Liquid, I must have completed this title more than ten times and I have yet to grow tired of it.

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Sadly whilst growing up I never owned a Nintendo console. It wasn’t my choice, as I never knew what was waiting for me under the Christmas tree and in all honesty I don’t feel as though I have missed out too much, as I now have had the chance to go back and play through games such as Mario and Donkey Kong Country. The Playstation 2 came out around the time I left school, so games from then until now hasn’t influenced me in the same way. I still spend far too long playing games, but now I have the luxury of being able to buy exactly what I want and when I want, so the experience is very different now and games have evolved. Where games used to be confined to bedrooms and regarded as something of an anti social hobby, but as gamers have grown up they are now in the living room and an integral part of many peoples down time and hobbies and with online game play and chat they help people stay together and enjoy their favourite past time.

 

I have grown up with games and the older I have gotten the more I enjoy playing them, I love going back and playing through some of the best titles of my youth, I also love buying some of the old consoles and playing through games I never had chance to when they were released, if you haven’t played many or any of these games then I highly recommend that you do, not only will you play through some hugely entertaining titles but you will also appreciate just how much games have changed and largely for the better.