Old Game Tuesday – Romance of the Three Kingdoms
Yes, another Koei game, actually I will cover the whole series of games, at least the ones I’ve played. Romance of the Three Kingdoms games are at their core turn based strategy games centered around the eponymous timeframe in Chinese history. You’ll remember that from my talk about Destiny of an Emperor. There have been eleven games in this series (though not all made it to the states I believe), on platforms ranging from the NES, PC, Amiga on up to the Wii. At their core, the games are basically the same: you are building up your territory both economically and militarily, gather troops and generals to your banner, and waging war against your enemies.
I played I on my NES, but my favorite versions were IV and X. IV, playable on SNES and PC (win 3.1!) was a great example of what the earlier games were like. You had to improve your territories by repairing dams, improving farms for food, and had to balance increasing the size of your army with not stifling population growth. Battles could take several forms, with field battles (where your advisor could set traps of pitfalls or bales of hay to set fire to), duels (where a powerful general could take out an enemy army in one fell swoop) and gate battles where enemies could try and bash your gate in and take the city. That was another thing you had to build up and improve. While not for everyone, the strategy was deep and satisfying for me, trying to find the right balance of domestic and militaristic improvement.
ROTK X, played on my PS2, was at it’s core the same style of game, with one big difference – it was played ONLY from the perspective of one single general, who could be the ruler of a territory, a vassal of another ruler, or just a masterless warrior wandering across China. As an example, I played as Zhao Yun, one of the Five Tiger Generals of Liu Bei but at the beginning of the earlier scenarios, a free general. You can improve your standing in the world by taking tasks to improve whatever city you are in, in the hopes of being recruited by one of the rulers. I eventually caught on with Liu Bei, and at that point you get your tasks from your ruler. You are still being tasked to improve various holdings or train troops, with the added benefit of getting to fight in the great wars. I did well, and was left in charge of a city of my own. As you advance like that, you get more and more freedom to act. I eventually conquered all of China for Liu Bei, with he and some other generals gaining a few territories without me, but then Liu Bei died, leaving his son in charge. Liu Shan, being distrustful of how much power I had, banished me, though part of the empire rebelled and came with me. It’s a very realistic event for the time period, and played out very cool.
There is zero appeal here to folks who prefer games like Dynasty Warriors, but if you like strategy games, or city-building games, check it out. ROTX X via Amazon has a few used copies, otherwise check your local used game store.