12 April, 2007

Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI - my Review

Ok, so Romance of the Three Kingdoms is my favourite novel & the history on which it is based is equally interesting. I got into the book, however, with Koei's Romance of the Three Kingdoms series which I've been playing since I was a little kid who didn't even know that the fun game she was playing was *gaps* teaching her history. RotTK XI is, obviously the 11th game in the series not including all the spinoffs like Dynasty Warriors and Kessen II and other non-Koei games.
11 is a lot of fun, its similar to 9 with one major, major improvement - it lets you control battles! I hated 9 because it felt like I was sitting by and observing the battles instead of doing what I love best in the series, micromanaging every aspect of my generals' movements and pretending that I'm the more enlightened version of Zhuge Liang.

Gameplay
Is good, very good and extremely addictive. Everything takes place on a big 3D map. The domestic system has been overhauled so you no longer endlessly send your officers to develop farming/trade/etc. Instead you build farms/markets on the map and they automatically produce gold and food and build other facilities like barracks, smithies and shipyards to recruit troops and equip them with weapons. The one drawback to this is that smaller cities are much harder to fight from since the amount of stuff you can build depends on the size of the city, but, unlike other versions, you no longer have to be in a specific city to produce specific equipment. Want to build ships in Ru Nan? Just build a shipyard and you're set. I hated in VII where you had to take the northern cities to have any cavalry units, cavalry units were good and I was always stuck with slow-ass infantry. Without all the constant development, your domestic officers are freed-up, but this is a good thing. In battles, you can have 3 officers per unit, the one with the highest rank/deeds is the leader and has the biggest impact on the attack/defence capabilities of the unit (along with the type of weapon equipped). The subgenerals add additional skills and can affect the intelligence of the unit. This means that generals like Lu Bu/Zhang Fei/Zhou Tai are no longer useless against smarter units as long as they are accompanied by an intelligent general. Yep, this means you can send people like Zhang Zhao and Yan Jun out to battle, fun times. Each character can have only one skill, most have no skills. Skills give additional bonuses such as more powerful attacks/strategies, better defence, easier weapon production. There are about 100 skills that you can experiment with and certain skills can be combined in a battle unit for some extremely powerful attacks. Instead of a monthly time frame, every turn is 10 days which makes the game seem extremely long even though not much time goes by. The Action Point system is back, and has a cap meaning you have to delegate parts larger forces to viceroys which are surprisingly capable but still annoying. The duel/debate system got a major overhaul. The debate system is pretty fun, kind of a card-based minigame, the duel system is in real time but is limited in options and a bit boring. Finally the AI, it is much, much, much better than in the RPG verisions (X, VIII, VII), your viceroys can actually defend themselves (if they have enough decent officers/supplies), enemies are aggressive (though sometimes focus on really strategically stupid targets) and do smart things in actual battle. And there's fire, lots of pretty fire.

Sound - Pretty sound, fits the game well, and changes often enough that you don't get sick of it. There is some voice acting. Units say stuff when they move, attack or be attacked and characters talk in debates and its all in Chinese which adds to the authenticity. Introductions to scenarios are in Chinese or English and are not bad. The female voices are bad also, you can choose a rough tone(which is ok), or squaky 10-year old voice (which sucks worse than George Bush playing a trivia game).

Graphics - There's 3D in the game for the first time. Its nice, but the edges are a bit rough and the girl character models are horrible (they all look like they are 10 years old). The 2d graphics and the graphic stills especially, are absolutely gorgeous though.

Replayability - Every game is different, you can add created characters and created forces to make stuff more interesting. There's multiplayer, lots of scenarios and short challenge scenarios which are hard. There's stuff to unlock, lots to figure out and each game takes a long time to finish so well worth the purchase.

Controls - a bit hard at first, but you get used to them quickly(lots of menus, and overlapping menus, and then even more menus). There's a tutorial that's very helpful though.

I give Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI 9 1/2 roasted monkeys out of 10

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