The very first time I was a guest writer for, I wrote about Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV, which was my favorite in the series. I’ve played ROTKIV too many times khổng lồ count as its strategy gaming at its best. I did play many of the games after IV, but missed IX-XII. With the recent announcement of ROTKXIV, I picked up part XIII khổng lồ see what had changed in the past decade and how the series had improved using the graphical capabilities of the PS4.

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The Romance games are almost lượt thích Pokemon with famous historical figures from the eponymous Chinese saga, mixed together with the PC strategy classic, Civilization. In terms of the Three Kingdoms saga itself, think trò chơi of Thrones fused with the works of Shakespeare, only phối in Trung Quốc around 200 C.E., và you’ll have an idea of how important và influential it is in Asia.

What’s great about the games are that you can recruit some of the best generals và tacticians in the different factions, from warriors lượt thích Xu Chu & Zhao Yun, then unite them together under your banner. The epic novels were an important part of my childhood, so the possibility of rival warlords like Cao Cao và Lu Bu serving under Liu Bei blew my mind. I mentioned this in my last article, but I loved how the game let me rewrite history. Some of my favorite characters died under tragic circumstances in the novel. Through the ROTK games, I was able to rewrite their fates. Saving Guan Yu and Zhang Fei from dying when they did (and hence avoiding the fall of a grief-stricken Liu Bei going after Sun Quan, only to face disastrous consequences) was one of my favorite parts. Not only that, but the portrait art for the series has always been fantastic, and ROTKXIII has some of the best art in that sense. It gave many obscure characters a face, especially since the cast of hundreds in the books can be hard to lớn keep traông xã of.

While the core concepts remain similar, the execution in XIII was vastly different & there were lots of nice changes. The evolution of the interface và turned based elements confused me initially, but I liked how the game has embraced real time. In previous iterations, you were given the opportunity to lớn make your commands thành phố by city, then have sầu your turn come khổng lồ an end while other warlords made their moves. Now, everything is in real time và the days tiông xã by, making things feel more natural. Need to lớn go on a diplomatic mission? The game will tell you how many days you need and actually go with your step by step through the process. You can engage in debates with the advisors of foreign leaders to try to get them to lớn vị what you want as well.


The streamlining simplifies commands & delegation is important here. So is trusting your advisors, which will in turn improve sầu your relationship and rapport. They’ll suggest a course of action via icons in the lower part of the screen, like training your soldiers to lớn increase proficiency in spears, horses, và bows, or taking steps to lớn improve sầu commerce. You can also grab a drink together khổng lồ strengthen your bond. This is an improvement over the older iterations, which basically amounted to lớn giving your followers gold as gifts khổng lồ increase their loyalty. The individual characters can also gain experience points by their actions in attributes like leadership, war, and intelligence, adding a RPG element khổng lồ the gameplay. It’s a nice feature, allowing your characters lớn actually grow throughout the campaign instead of having their stats remain the same.

Koei has added the ability lớn build facilities like a tavern & brewery (which reminded me of Civilization) as well as research different techs to improve the đô thị, lượt thích a sentiment boost or gate reinforcements. I bởi vì wish the individual cities could have sầu done more khổng lồ differentiate themselves based on their real world locations.


In the books, each đô thị had its own chất lượng characteristics và a fascinating history behind it, explaining, in part, why certain warlords wanted to acquire them. Incorporating some of those elements and maybe even allowing players lớn walk within the actual thành phố would have been fascinating. For example, seeing the lush scenery of Chengdu would make the Shu capital feel as valuable as it did when Zhuge Liang first described the lvà to lớn Liu Bei (I’ve sầu visited Chengdu before & it’s really an amazing city). Actraiser back on the SNES did a great job making you actually care about each of the regions you lorded over. ROTKXIII does have different layouts for each thành phố, but too many times, they become a list of stats that blended inkhổng lồ one another with my primary focus turning khổng lồ the border towns from where I could launch battles.

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Dynasty Kingdoms

When it comes to lớn warfare, there are some significant changes. Similar lớn the political/đô thị building aspect, the fights take place in real-time. In one sense, there is a chaotic authenticity khổng lồ the experience that makes them more engaging. You can deploy up to ten units per battlefield và gọi in reinforcements lớn assist you. The frenetic battles are lượt thích real time xiangqi (Chinese chess) and include naval battles và siege warfare. The strategic aspect can be overwhelming at first, even with the ability khổng lồ pause. I sent a few armies to lớn take over an opposing castle, only to lớn face a flood of reinforcements pouring in all at once against me. It was a tough battle that I lost, until I realized I could use this as a ploy. I’d sover out one massive sầu army first, which would cause reinforcements from my enemies to send their armies & leave sầu behind only nominal forces to defend their other cities. I’d sover in other units khổng lồ mop up those other areas. Rinse và repeat.

My biggest disappointment is that the graphics look like they could have been on the PS1 or PS2. I know the ROTK games have never been about the graphics, but ROTKIII has fantastic cutscenes và Koei has shown they can recreate amazing battles in the Dynasty Warrior games. XIII’s cluster of low-polygonal soldiers moving about the battlefield felt just a notch about what I’d experienced on consoles from previous generations. At the least, I was hoping to see the armies led by the officers I’d chosen. While there are portraits of the generals above each army, I wanted khổng lồ see the stronger warriors actually mow down foot soldiers in battle. Seeing how each of the characters fights in the book was part of their character building, like the way Guan Yu kills a dangerous foe before the wine he was offered by Cao Cao cooled down, or Zhang Fei faces off against the entirety of Cao Cao’s army by himself on the Changban Bridge.

While there are duels in ROTKXIII, the one-on-one confrontations plays out more like rock-paper-scissors. I know this is the way it’s been in the past, but some evolution here would have sầu been welcome, especially if they gave players more control over the individual fights.

A lot of my requests have sầu to vì with the fact that with every new iteration, my expectations grow. There are several Three Kingdoms TV shows & movies, & the battles are some of the most memorable parts with long arrays of soldiers facing off against one another. Often times, the victory isn’t about who has the most soldiers; it’s about which generals and tacticians understvà the enemy psychology lớn exploit them. This was the case in the John Woo directed film, Red Cliff, which was about the great Battle of Chibi from the Three Kingdoms, showcasing the machinations of Zhuge Liang and Zhou Yu against Cao Cao.

ROTKXIII doesn’t recreate that epic scale, but clumps individual units until they kind of blover inkhổng lồ one another. With the power of the PS4, I wished Koei could have brought battles from films like Red Cliff khổng lồ life. It didn’t have to go full Dynasty Warriors, but more accurate visual representation would have made the game’s battles have so much more gravity. Instead, I have to admit, at times, it felt lượt thích the tactical strategy analog of grinding for experience levels (each castle powering up your force).

One other change I felt conflicted about was that soldiers are no longer drafted as a comm&, but automatically enlisted depending on the city you’re in and its population. I didn’t lượt thích this change because it took away from the sense of control. While untrained soldiers don’t last long against battle hardened ones, this automation at times felt like it prolonged battles as foes would just keep respawning indefinitely.

But ultimately, the most important question & the one that matters most is, how fun is Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII? And that’s the thing. Despite all my gripes, despite my longing for better visuals, I couldn’t stop playing. The core of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms games are so good, all these decades later, I spent several nights unable to stop playing it.

I generally select Liu Bei and piông chồng the timeline when the three kingdoms are already set up with tactical genius, Zhuge Liang, by my side. There are six scenargame ios & a story mode as well that serves as a useful tutorial campaign và an introduction to the story.

A big reason I wanted to dive back inkhổng lồ the latest Romance of the Three Kingdoms game is that there’s a newer version of the Chinese show that I’ve sầu been enjoying. The actor who plays Cao Cao, Chen Jianbin, was awesome. Cao Cao is often portrayed as an evil warlord, but I liked this more balanced portrayal of a leader who instituted a strong meritocracy và brought order khổng lồ the world. Chen Jianbin does a great job showing Cao Cao’s charm, leadership, & ruthlessness when it comes to lớn achieving his objective. “I’d rather betray the world, than let the world betray me,” Cao Cao famously declared. While he’s magnanimous to those who serve sầu hyên ổn loyally, he’ll also take whatever steps are necessary khổng lồ secure his power.

What makes the series so attractive are the timeless stories. Fate, injustice, persistence, and interpersonal relationships are at the forefront of every scene. There’s the supremely powerful, but ultimately incompetent, Yuan Shao, who is as frustrating a boss as a person can have sầu. There’s Sun Ce, toiling under a master he hates, until he seizes his own destiny và carves out his own empire in the Wu region.

The story occurs across multiple generations và small actions that happened decades ago come baông xã to lớn have a major impact later in the narrative. While some of the story is “romanticized,” as the title suggests, it’s based on actual history, making it all the more compelling. Just recently, I was going through a very difficult time, struggling with the situation. In Episode 14 of the Three Kingdoms show, I was deeply moved to watch the plight of Liu Bei during a disastrous campaign where he’s ordered to attaông chồng the rebel, Yuan Shu. The cchiến bại friover he appointed as governor of their capital, Zhang Fei, loses the thành phố in a drunken bout lớn the rival general Lu Bu. Liu Bei then finds himself pinned between the fiercely treacherous Lu Bu on his rear, and his enemy, the corrupt warlord Yuan Shu. Liu Bei’s trusted friend, Zhang Fei, has failed hyên ổn, he’s lost his family, & his life is at risk. “There is no refuge for us,” Liu Bei states in despair. “We can neither go forward nor retreat. Is Heaven truly determined to lớn destroy me?” In this moment of trial, he doesn’t get upmix & try to lớn get vengeance or retrieve sầu the castle that was stolen from hyên ổn in what would have sầu been a futile attempt, despite his generals wanting to do that. Liu Bei carefully considers his options, & acts with humility and compassion towards Zhang Fei. His acceptance of his fate, and his strength in confronting defeat with dignity và honor, was very powerful for me, và a reminder khổng lồ always keep your eye on the bigger picture.

There are so many stories like this I can recount, numerous times where lessons from Three Kingdoms have helped me navigate some of the trickier situations in my life. The chance to simulate some of my favorite stories is what makes all the Romance of the Three Kingdoms games so special. And it’s also why decades from now, despite any quibbles, I’ll probably still be playing whatever number the series is at.

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Peter Tieryas

Peter Tieryas is the author of Mephụ thân Samurai Empire & Cyber Shogun Revolution (Penguin RH). He"s written for, IGN, và Verge. He was an artist at Sony Pictures và Technical Writer for LucasArts.