I’m not a big fan of real-time strategy games. When I was a teenager and all my friends would hang out and played Starcraft I’d just sit around getting bored. I could never understand the appeal of setting up bases, building your forces and laying siege to your opponents. Now a decade and a half later I received a review code from Koei Tecmo for Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV the fourteenth entry in the long-running strategy franchise. Will it change my mind?
The first steps into history
I’ll start with the positives because sadly they are few. Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV is a historically based strategy game and my favourite part is the history. The game wears its historical facts as a proud badge and I love it. Each character gets a detailed bio explaining their background and where their lives lead. It’s a large roster and they each have their own stats and abilities that can affect the outcome of skirmishes between your forces and your opponents.
There is also the score of the game. It’s beautiful, the orchestra perfectly encapsulates the mood of the era you find yourself in. Also for people who enjoy this genre of game there is a lot of content available and the length of each scenario is impressive.
Finally, there is the potential of this game. I did enjoy the fleeting moments of control and building my forces and sending them out into the world was fun but then the game kicked in with its mechanics and everything fell apart.
The sacking of Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV
Right here we go. I do not know how to play strategy games. I’ve never found them engaging but I thought it’s been a while maybe I’ve changed and I will enjoy the strategy building, the politics and conquering of China.
This did not happen. I played through the same scenario multiple times and I couldn’t beat it. It didn’t matter if I played as a different force or the difficulty was at its hardest or easiest I got stuck in limbo. I couldn’t die but I couldn’t push through the enemy forces and live my best life. To add further complications it didn’t feel like I had any control in any situation I found myself in.
All the abilities my forces had available to them the enemy had as well but unlike me, they seemed to have unlimited resources. Whenever I felt like I gained some semblance of power the other forces would push me back BUT they would never conquer my main force so I was figuratively and literally trapped. It also didn’t help that the UI of the game is problematic. I couldn’t see everything that was going on around me. There was also the loading time between phases. It was surprisingly long.
An issue that surprisingly irked at me was the lack of quality in the presentation. The graphics at best were PlayStation 3, at worst high-end PlayStation 2. The dialogue was also terrible. It took away from this historic epic.
The biggest issue I had was I never knew if I was failing due to being a terrible player or because the system itself was broken. So I brought over another member of the GamEir team and he too believed that this system was flawed. The learning curve of the game is astronomically steep. The game is not welcoming to newcomers and from what I’ve learned from previous entries is that this has diminished in quality.
The ultimate takeaway is without control I could never be a true force in ancient China. This was a disappointing and boring time of my life I can’t get back. I can see why people can enjoy this genre but this is the failure of said genre.
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