Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII Review

By Shawn Collier on October 6, 2016

Despite making its debut all the way back in 1985, most western gamers probably haven't heard of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms franchise. While its a mainstay PC franchise by default, the major installments have been ported to consoles in the past. And while western audiences have had the Dynasty Warriors franchise, it's generally by all accounts an absurd take on the more grounded narrative found in Romance of the Three Kingdoms. So how will gamers approach the PS4 console port now that Koei Temco has brought it westward?

For those uninitiated, the narrative of the game centers around Luo Guanzhong's Romance of the Three Kingdoms works, written sometime around the early 14th century. The narrative encompasses China's history as its houses rise and fall during the conflicts that envelope the country. While the game, especially if you play in the Hero mode, does a good job of delivering the narrative in chunks to newcomers to the period without making it overbearing, there still is quite a fair bit to digest in terms of people, places and events that shape that era's history.

Upon starting up a new game, players have two choices in terms of what type of scenario they can pick from. There's a choice of either the pre-made scenarios ranging from actual historical ones to what-if types, or an option to attempt to have your avatar rise up the ranks and unite China under them. As far as the avatar you play as you can choose from either historical or fictional characters, or create your own character complete with some quite lavishly detailed artwork.

What I found interesting about the singular unit mechanic in Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII is that you really do get the sense that your actions in the game matter, as your rank, location, and relationships with other people influence the authority you have in the game's world. As an basic example, let's say you didn't like the lord you were currently under. You can conspire with the lord's officers to create a revolt and usurp power right from under the lord, just like in real life. But on the flip side, let's say you suppressed a rebellion. In that case you may get your own territory to rule over. So it becomes a game of what stakes you want to play and how much you're willing to risk.

Since this is a strategy game, there's also military battles present both at land and sea. Making sure your units are sized up properly against the opponent is all well and good, but Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII really wants players to utilize its ability mechanic alongside the traditional tactical military formations most strategy players are accustomed to. These abilities come in the forms of various buffs, such as offensive buffs. As an example, if you attack an opponent with units from both sides while buffed offensively, you may have enough manpower to overtake them and become the victor.

While this all sounds well and good, for some players the sheer amount of information the game pushes at the player in terms of stats and menus might turn off some players, even with how much the developers tried making the interface intuitive for console players. The console port tries its best to make almost everything it can menu-based, with some menus giving the option to even auto-resolve themselves. It's just the sheer amount of menus that becomes too much for some players who may not be used to this genre, but those who are willing to adapt will pick up without much trouble given enough time.

One other thing that should be mentioned is that the voice acting comes in both Japanese and Chinese, which is a nice touch for those who want both an authentic and sub-voiced experience.

Final Thoughts

If you are a strategy genre fan, this game will be right up your alley. It doesn't hurt that, outside of some menu issues where the developers slightly overpacked things, the UI generally works decently enough on consoles for a genre that normally is relegated to the PC. PC still may be a better platform overall for this type of game, but it's worth trying out if you have even a inkling of interest in the genre or the historical period the game is based around.

A surprisingly good console port of what's normally a PC-specific genre.
You really feel like your actions matter due to the influence mechanic at play.
The buff system in battles brings an interesting touch to what's otherwise dry battles.
The overwhelming information in the menus could turn off some players.
There's a lot of history, especially for newcomers, to take in.
The UI tries its best to work on consoles, but it's still more optimal on a PC.
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