There was a time when retailers could set their watch to the release of a Koei game. Buyers could tell you almost to the person exactly how many copies of titles like Romance of the Three Kingdoms or Nobunaga’s Ambition they would be able to sell.
These hardcore war sims were an institution. It’s a shame they haven’t really improved that much since the halcyon days of the 16-bit console wars.
Those Who Like It…
Wading into Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI having never played one of its prequels is like diving into university calculus two days after learning to add. It’s overwhelming.
Overwhelming in a good way, if you’re a fan. Yes, that statement is an enormous cop-out in most reviews. But in this case, it’s the absolute truth. If you’re a fan, you will love Romance XI. Balancing budgets; building farms and markets and government buildings; keeping your peasants happy while recruiting idealistic young men; sending said young men out to be slaughtered. Good times.
Basically, if looks aren’t important to you; if a great personality and big brain is your thing, this is the game for you.
However, if eye candy or a smooth entry into an untested genre is your thing – look elsewhere. Romance XI is played almost entirely through menus and sprawling, gridded maps where units and buildings are difficult to discern even if you’re playing on a 42-inch screen.
And while the game has an extensive tutorial mode, you’ll still feel completely lost when you start the game proper. And chances are, unless you have a knack for the genre, you’ll continue to feel that way until you finally give up on the game.
Pimp My War Sim
The Romance of the Three Kingdoms series needs an upgrade. Not so much in the basic play mechanics – they are and always have been solid. How else would this series have remained so popular for so long? But it needs a visual and interface overhaul. How much better would the game be if, say, you didn’t need a PHD to play it? Or if some of those massive battles you see your little stick-men fighting were done in glorious 3D? The mind wobbles.
Article by: Greg Sewart
Video produced by: Michael Benson