Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI PC DVD
Published by: Koei
Developed by: Koei
Release Date: Out Now
Prior to playing Romance of the Three Kingdoms VIII on the PlayStation 2, the last game in the series to be released in Europe and the first game I'd played in the series, I honestly didn't think it was possible to have a strategy game of such complexity on the console. The game had me hooked and I eagerly awaited news of a sequel. Whilst there were sequels however, they never made it to Europe. In fact it's been over four years between the release of Romance of the Three Kingdoms VIII and Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI and the first platform it's arrived for is the PC.
Once again we're dealing with the history of Early Imperial China and the events, detailed in the Three Kingdoms literary works. Those of you who have read the books or who have enjoyed Koei's Dynasty Warriors series will be familiar with the time period, which deals with the events that came after the fall of the Han Dynasty etc., and the many characters in the game. You don't have to be a fan of the time period to enjoy this turn-based strategy game but it certainly helps. The learning curve is quite steep and it will take a handful of hours to play through the games tutorials so that you can appreciate the basics of the game. Even with the tutorials however, you still won't be fully aware of all the tactical options that are available in the game.
The game offers a variety of scenarios covering the Yellow Turban Rebellion, Cao Cao's Ascent and other events that followed the fall of the Han Dynasty. The 16 scenarios (eight of which are highly configurable) are huge in scope and to play through them all once could easily take months. The game has an extraordinary amount of replay value. The game doesn't support Internet or LAN play but Hotseat multiplayer gaming (up to eight players can take part) is supported. You can even create your own officer and use them in half of the available scenarios.
Whilst the game essentially deals with the same subject matter as Romance of the Three Kingdoms VIII, I was surprised to find the game has a very different feel to it. VIII felt more like a mix of RPG and strategy where the focus was on the officer you were playing as, whereas in XI it's more of a pure strategy game experience as you have full control over an entire force. You'll have to develop your cities with a range of facilities, employ officers and control the troops at your disposal. You'll have to make sure you've enough food for your troops and you'll also have to have a healthy supply of gold too. Your troops need gold to be able to afford the assortment of traps that can be constructed on the battlefield. Employing officers and choosing which troops to assign to them is also a major consideration. Each of the officers (there are many in the game) has their own abilities and unique skills and you'll want to recruit those who are the most appropriate for your current strategies. You also have to consider the variety of battle tactics in the game, diplomatic issues and rather unusual Duel and Debate systems. Then there's the process of acquiring Technique Points and carrying out research. In truth, there's a lot to the game and it's definitely not a game you could just jump in to without having spent time playing your way through the provided tutorials and reading the manual.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI isn't going to be regarded as one of the better looking strategy games released on the PC this year but the game has a pleasing visual style that suits the mood and theme of the game perfectly. The game has some rather pleasing visual touches such as the wisps of cloud that can be seen when you zoom out and the battle effects that occur. The opening movie is also very impressive and the portrait artwork used in the game is first class. It's a little disappointing to see the rather small 2D sprites that represent your forces on the battle field but that's a minor complaint that's easily overlooked. Fortunately for those of us who aren't rich enough to upgrade our PC every year, the game doesn't appear to be too demanding and it ran very smoothly on our PC, which is a few generations behind in terms of hardware. The interface could have been better however and it doesn't feel as intuitive as it should do. To carry out most of the actions in the game requires you to go through a collection of menus. Whilst this would have been understandable on the PlayStation 2 version, it feels a little cumbersome on the PC version.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI won't give deaf gamers any problems. The tutorials are delivered exclusively via text meaning you'll have no problems in learning the basics of how to play the game. Each of the game's scenarios has an introductory movie and these movies are subtitled. All of the important dialogue during the game is exclusively in text and you'll also see the speaker's name and portrait displayed alongside the text so you'll always be fully aware of who is saying what. The only speech that isn't subtitled is the occasional words that are given in Chinese and these are there for ambience rather than any kind of importance.
If you've enjoyed previous games in the series then Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI is pretty much guaranteed to be a game you'll enjoy. It's one of those games that can keep you engrossed for months on end. The game isn't going to appeal to everyone however. Those who have no interest in the time period and those who generally find the pace of turn-based strategy games a little slow will fail to appreciate what the game has to offer. Koei have made the game available for just under £20 and at that price it's an absolute bargain. Don't let the price tag fool you, this is one of the deepest turn-based strategy games you'll see this year and for those who enjoyed the previous titles in the series it's an essential purchase.