Koei Tecmo is a developer that loves to keeps its franchises rolling. The Romance of the Three Kingdoms franchise began in 1985 on several systems, it is loosely based on several novels, Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Records of the Three Kingdoms. This is the first time that a Romance of the Three Kingdoms game found itself on a Microsoft console and Koei Tecmo started with the biggest and most immersive. The story of Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII: Fame and Strategy Expansion Pack takes place during China’s history during the Han Dynasty which had lots of internal strife and warring. The story follows the Shu Han, Cao Wei and Eastern Wu kingdoms; how they are warring and what they are doing to gain control of China. If you’ve played a Dynasty Warriors game you will be familiar with most of the starring characters in this game. What you won’t be used to is the strategy element of this game, Dynasty Warriors is all about speed and hacking and slashing, Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII: Fame and Strategy Expansion Pack is the exact opposite.
As I said in the previous paragraph, this tale takes place during the end of the Han Dynasty when life was very uncertain for the people of China. The Yellow Turban Rebellion, led by Zhang Jue, had just begun and was throwing China into turmoil. Three heroes join together to stave off this rebellion and get China back to being great again, they were Cao Cao, Liu Bei, and Sun Quan. Names that you probably remember from other Koei Tecmo franchises. Billed as a historical simulation game it is nice to see a developer take us through history that we might not have been taught when we were younger. Personally, I love history, we can always learn from it and if we know enough about it, we can never repeat it. That being said I enjoyed watching these huge historical heroes on my screen and I led them to victory, but probably not as smoothly as they led themselves. My strategy is a bit sloppy, but it did get the job done and China was saved.
The controls of Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII: Fame and Strategy Expansion Pack are easy but extremely daunting. Going through the Hero mode is basically your campaign, but it is also a HUGE tutorial so that you can actually enjoy the game. I’ve never played an RTS before so I didn’t know what I was in for, thankfully Hero mode allowed me to learn all the aspects slowly and with some ease. There is a lot here, so I’m only going to go through the basics, or I’ll bore you like Chemistry bored me. When you are in a town your screen is covered in the town and with some glowing buildings, those glowing buildings allow you to do things in the game that can make your army stronger, your city stronger, build relationships with your officers and make deals with other leaders to strengthen your position in the realm. As you accomplish these feats and make your town and army the best in the land you come across some mini-games, for lack of a better term. I found myself surprised as I was suddenly debating a subordinate over whether or not I should woo a certain lord to my favor. I bested him due to the fact that my Intelligence skill was so high, but those debates got tougher as I moved along. I enjoyed duelling a lot, I was very good at it and only lost my first try because I didn’t read the tutorial, whoops. Duels are basically the same as debates, instead of whipping someone with your grey matter you whip them with a staff and gain War points.
Main is the mode that Hero mode has prepared you for, these are the huge all-encompassing historical battles. Maybe it is just me, but these battles took hours for me; I don’t know if I’m bad at them or I was too scared of wasting all this time by losing but there is no quick win here. To be honest, I enjoyed the Hero mode better than the Main mode, it was probably the hand holding, but I also felt that I learned much more about China’s history in the Hero mode. I’m a sucker for that, I can read who won a sprawling battle, but I like to know how they got to that point. The battles don’t interest me as much as what brought them to that point and what happened after. I did enjoy razing the countryside for China, but those long hours could drag at points which made the battle feel more like a chore than an adventure.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII: Fame and Strategy Expansion Pack is great for fans of the series, it is huge in scope and has hundreds of playable hours hidden away in it. For the newcomer Koei Tecmo really makes you feel welcome, they walk you through the tough points and don’t let too many game mechanics beat you in the head right off the bat. Being a newcomer to this franchise I am glad they baby-stepped me into the controls, I had a hard enough time hitting goals within the time limit knowing what I doing. Had they not done that I may not have been able to write this review for out for you. I don’t know if I would recommend this for a newcomer though, some parts of the game felt as if it was a chore, and the super fun duels and debating didn’t happen as often as I would like. However, since this is one of the first RTS franchises on a console I would go for this one should I want to get into the genre. There is no one better than Koei Tecmo to teach you the ways of RTS, and you’ll learn a little bit about China along the way.
An Xbox One Review Key of Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII and its new Fame and Strategy Expansion were provided by Koei Tecmo for the purpose of this Review