For all the complaining we see about franchises overstaying their welcome, people generally seem pretty cool with the Musou and Romance of the Three Kingdoms series. These ancient Chinese beat/strategy mash-ups continue to provide what is ostensibly the same experience time and time again, but at this point everyone seems to be a little more accepting of the whole thing than something like Call of Duty. Far be it from me to try and understand the thought process of the gaming public, of course – I’m one of those jackasses who liked Mass Effect: Andromeda, after all.
In any case, we’ve got another content-packed iteration of Romance of the Three Kingdoms here to check out with Romance of the Three Kingdoms 13: Fame and Strategy Expansion pack.
As always, RottK is all about conquering ancient China as the leader of one of several factions. You’ve got a series of scenarios to complete that take you through various conflicts throughout Chinese history; many of these are likely to be familiar to Dynasty Warriors fans, like the Yellow Turban rebellion. Rather than smashing dudes by the thousands, though, here your victories will stem from successful strategy, resource management and even diplomacy. 13’s most unique feature might be the ability to do all this as a character of your own design; it’s some of the best self-insert Chinese history fanfiction I’ve seen, and believe me, that’s a genre I spend a whole lot of time with.
There’s no review long enough to go into every aspect of how RottK13 works; there’s a massive amount going on at all times. You have to manage your cities, keep your allies happy by assisting them in both a military and civil sense, placate your officers where need be, recruit soldiers and move them about…it really just never ends. You can go as deep into this one as you want. Successful play, of course, revolves around doing just that. I was rarely all that successful, but hey, effort counts, right?
We’re focusing on the new Fame and Strategy expansion here, though. The name pretty much says it all; the new Fame system allows your officers to gain accolades called Prestige Titles for various achievements, It’s essentially a skill tree system added over top of RottK13’s already-convoluted mechanics. More depth added to a game that’s all about depth is always good, and Prestige Titles are powerful enough that it’s worthwhile to focus on them rather than just ignoring the concept entirely. Combat, meanwhile, has seen various enhancements, including Tactics that behave like special abilities placed onto the battlefield before combat, Strongholds that provide buffs to nearby troops and the War Council where Tactics are discussed and upcoming battles are planned out.
The core of RottK13 remains intact, though, and that’s hardcore wargamer strategizing of the sort that’s not going to appeal to everyone. I’d certainly rather be on the battlefield unleashing Musou Attacks and eating pork buns. The seemingly endless litany of diplomacy, city management, army maneuvers, Prestige management and so on can grind you down if you aren’t prepared to devote some serious time to studying up on what makes the game tick. At least it’s a relatively pretty game, not to mention fairly easy to control (even on consoles like Xbox One if that’s your poison).
At the same time, the appeal is obvious; good planning and careful maneuvering can win battles just as effectively as a fully-leveled spear, after all. This is ancient Chinese warfare on a grand scale; it’s a game that rewards patient, studious players. If you’d rather think than mash buttons…and, well, if you’re willing to put in a LOT of time reading…you ought to give this one a shot. As for those who’ve already battled through the original RottK13, there’s no question this Romance of the Three Kingdoms 13: Fame and Strategy Expansion will appeal since they survived the difficult learning stages of that game. At $35, it’s certainly not cheap, so if you’re not sure you’ll definitely want to check out the original game first.