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Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII

Score: 86%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: KOEI TECMO America Corp.
Developer: KOEI TECMO America Corp.
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: Strategy/ Turn-Based Strategy/ Simulation

Graphics & Sound:

Tecmo Koei has quite a few games featuring the characters and stories of the three kingdoms of historical China. While the Warriors series are mostly hack ní slashes (some historically close to accurate and some just using the characters), the new Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII is a strategy game. You will fight battles, but theyíre more strategy than running around killing.

Visually, Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII is very similar to the Warriors series, with some exceptions. Donít ask me why a character like Dian Wei looks extremely different. Maybe they were going for more historical accuracy as he does seem to look more like a historical figure now, dressed in more traditional clothing with hair rather than a shaved bald head. The thumbnail pictures look a lot more like historical figures than the characters that you fight as. Maybe itís because they are more detailed on the still images, but the thumbnails also tend to look more like the right age range for the characters.

Just like the Warriors series, Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII is entirely in Japanese with on-screen text. Since itís mostly strategy, this really isnít a problem. The text never gets in the way of the fighting. Even when you are fighting, it is more or less turn-based, so you wonít find the text covering any fighting like I have complained about in the Warriors series.


Gameplay:

When you first load Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII, it will recommend that you go through Hero Mode to learn how to play the game. Since I have not played any of the previous Romance games, I cannot tell you if the Main Mode is the same as them. I will echo the recommendation for Hero Mode, as Main has absolutely no instructions on how to play.

When you start up Hero Mode, you will see only one scenario that you can play. You have to unlock the scenarios in Hero Mode in order, but you can go back and replay a previous one at any time. The first scenario starts you with Liu Bei, who starts out the son of a weaver. This is further back than I remember the other games explaining. He signs up to fight against the Yellow Turban Rebellion as he is idealistic and worried about the chaos the rebellion will cause. He first meets Zhang Fei when he is looking at the sign-up poster. Zhang Fei introduces Liu Bei to Guan Yu. Long story short, they both follow Lui Bei since he wants to restore the Han Dynasty for the people. The next scenario takes you over to Cao Cao, who has to leave town and gather people on the road after failing to assassinate Dong Zhuo. After that, you go on to Lu Bu, who also has his hands full with Dong Zhuo. While you are getting the history lesson, you are also learning how to play the game from the characters that best represent that part. Liu Bei teaches you about visiting people and making contacts, while Cao Cao teaches you how to force your rule and debate and Lu Bu teaches you about fighting. As you keep on going, you will learn more and more about how to gather people and rule an entire nation.

Once you have learned these lessons (or maybe before you complete all of them, if you are impatient), check out the Main Mode. Here, you will select a historical scenario and see if you can manage to complete it. You do not have to go in order and you can select any of the scenarios. After you select a scenario, you can then select an officer to start up the scenario. You can view the recommended officers and historical officers. You can select any of them, but your choice will determine the difficulty of your game. After your officer selection, you can change out any game settings that you want.


Difficulty:

Hero Mode is only as difficult as you are slow to grasp the concepts. Itís not meant to be particularly hard on you, but there is a lot of instruction to get. If youíre in a hurry and trying to skip through things, you might miss something important and not know how to do it later. The further you get in the scenarios though, the more difficult they get. Itís not meant to be a total cake walk all the way through.

As I mentioned before, in the Main Mode, your difficulty is going to be affected by your officer selection. If you choose someone who happens to be your favorite, but has no resources at that time period, you are going to find it quite difficult to compete. Of course, once you select an officer, you then get to change your difficulty in the game settings. You can choose Low Level (default), Mid Level, or High Level. I am sure somewhere there is someone that can take the weakest officer on the High Level and win, but that person is definitely not me. I like to stick to the officers that were historically in charge. The other settings can affect your difficulty a bit, depending on what you want to deal with. For example, you can turn Force Trend to Fictional and the game will not make the various factions act like they did historically. This means that you have no clue what to prepare for because any faction could attack at any time.


Game Mechanics:

Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII is more or less a turn-based strategy game so as such, the mechanics are relatively easy to get. You simply select what you want to do and it follows in turn. This is pretty obvious when it comes to city management. You will have a number of actions that you can do each turn and this number is based on your character. There are going to be some nuances, though, when it comes to battle. Sometimes you will have entire armies trying to battle other armies for control of cities and towns. In these situations, you have to direct units where you want them to go. This is more of a live-action strategy but you can pause the battle at any time and re-direct your units. Doing it this way will let you have more granular control and almost make it into a turn-based mode.

You will also have to debate other leaders and some one-on-one battles. For these, the system is a bit different. You will have five options that you can choose from and you will have a number of dots above your character. These represent your focus or spirit, depending on if youíre debating or dueling. Each of the options will be a various amount of power and use or restore those dots. Obviously, these are different names in debating and fighting, but itís still the same system. You will have to balance doing a large strike with using up your power, which is represented by the dots. You can restore your dots, but will either do a smaller damage or no damage, depending on how much you want to restore. Itís really just a balancing act and your actions will depend on your personal style and the opponent you are trying to take down. While it might seem complicated, youíll get the hang of it pretty quickly.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII is a very complex strategy game that will let you take historical scenarios and test your skills against the great leaders of history. Can you compete? You wonít know until you try out Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII!


-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

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