[Review] ROMANCE OF THE THREE KINGDOMS XIV: Diplomacy and Strategy Expansion Pack Bundle

  • Developer: KOEI TECMO
  • Publisher: KOEI TECMO
  • Release Date: 11/02/2021
  • Price: £57.99 / $69.99
  • Version: Nintendo Switch
  • Review code provided by KOEI TECMO

Introducing: Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV Review

Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a deep series both in terms of gameplay and history. It’s one I’ve always wanted to dive into but for one reason or another, haven’t. That is until now. ROMANCE OF THE THREE KINGDOMS XIV: Diplomacy and Strategy Expansion Pack Bundle. Okay, so that’s a mouthful. I’ll refer to it as RTK from here out. RTK XIV (that’s fourteen if you’re not current with the Final Fantasy games) was my first taste of the long heralded strategy series. And it was absolutely satisfying. As one who grew up on Civilization and other grand strategy titles, RTK made me feel right at home. This is the type of game that can suck hours away and melt stress. It lives up to the adage of, “just one more turn.”

Three Heroes Swear Brotherhood

One thing that is immediately apparent, is that RTK is replete with cultural history and lore. With dates, events and key people surrounding the Han Dynasty in China circa 169 AD. I didn’t realize this at first, but Romance of the Three Kingdoms is based on a novel by the same name by Luo Guanzhong. RTK is partly historical with mythological hints of larger than life heroes who shaped China around this era. The story isn’t the main aspect of RTK either, as the gameplay is king. I was surprised to be drawn into the lives of the feudal lords and ladies as much as I was. Playing the game even prompted me to buy the book. Not only is the story line exciting but it’s intriguing as well, with the campaign scenarios following much of what took place for the time.

Gathering Arms

RTK is a simulation strategy game. Also known as a grand strategy game. You almost act as a guiding hand from the heavens above while looking down on a sprawling map. Not controlling any one character but multiple cities, provinces and vast armies. Sweeping across the map and conquering land is your key objective. With more land and areas under your control, you can have a massive influx of the key resources. Which are grain, supplies. money, and soldiers.

There is a lot to micromanage in RTK, which is one thing I love about grand strategy games. I spent a lot of time assigning various officers to maintain the different cities and townships I had taken over. Careful balance is required as leaving a city exposed can garner a sneak attack from opponents. And to start, you only have a limited number of officers. Additionally, each city and army unit has a morale meter which requires attention. A lot of these factors require an officer to fill extra roles in city management, such as training or recruiting new troops. Recruiting obviously brings more soldiers into the city to bolster your army while training keeps up morale.

While a lot of aspects require your close attention, combat is automated. You’ll still position your troops on the map, which is hexagonal. Once in contact or range with an enemy, they’ll likely duke it out. You can have defensive buildings erected in most areas which will help keep your troop count high. Once you construct an army with a lead officer, you can pick their main formation which has tactical advantages or disadvantages. It’s important to know what you want to do with your army before sending them to explore and conquer at free will. If you want to search mountainous terrain, you likely don’t want a unit of catapults. In order to yield the best results of a newly acquired town, you have to conquer all of the land surrounding it in a given area. This is done by having your army move over each hexagon. This will sap your turns if you have a slow unit carrying out the order.

Brother Oppressing Brother

As I mentioned above, just one more turn is the perfect mantra for RTK. This is an epic game which takes hours to master. I was hooked and kept coming back for more. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. There is a ton of content, scenarios and officers to explore. RTK will have a permanent place on my memory card as it’s an easy one to come back to time and time again.

There’s so much more to the gameplay to cover in a simple review, however.  Mind, I’m not writing a walkthrough. But RTK XIV has a host of other features. There are foreign nations you can trade with for monetary benefit. Sneaky tactics like misleading enemy generals and convincing them of easy prey but in reality leading them into deadly traps. You can spread lies and attempt to steal away enemy officers for your own employ. I once had an officer betray me only to capture him later. I could decide his fate. Attempt to reemploy the traitor? Set him free or simply imprison him? I had him executed. Like I said, there is a lot to do in this game and I was learning more at ten, even twenty hours in.

A Gallant Warrior

RTK’s main focus is on the gameplay. It’s not surprising then, that the graphics are pushed down the line a bit. The troops and cities are mostly basic renditions with little flare during battles. With different levels of zoom, you can see the cost in the graphics when pulling in close. I wasn’t bothered by this aspect as many grand strategy titles follow a similar approach. On the other hand, the artstyle used to depict the officers was used beautifully. The character portraits are extremely varied considering the amount of officers available. These portraits help carry the story and even get used when triggering special attacks.

Though the artstyle is a mixed bag, the music is not. The soundtrack was excellently put together with appropriately themed tunes. Songs never overstayed their welcome and added to the era’s ambiance. The sound effects did reuse assets from time to time, but again, that’s standard for this style of game. Nor was it a distractor while playing.

Behind the Screen

I was a bit worried that RTK wouldn’t perform well on the Nintendo Switch considering how massive the game is and everything happening on the screen at any given time. I didn’t run into any laggy moments or slow downs. The game never froze or crashed on me. It ran smoothly both in handheld mode and on the big screen. Again, I was worried about screen size for this title but my concerns were unwarranted as it’s displayed well regardless.

The only problem I found was with the game’s AI. Whenever I ordered an army to conquer a land, they would move all the way to the edge of the area, minus one or two hexes just to turn around and move to the opposite side. Then they would have to turn around and go back, just to cover what they missed. This resulted in a lot of wasted time and was a bit of a nuisance when I had a whole country to take over.

Final Wrap

Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV sucked me in. Not only did I enjoy my time with the game, it made me want to take a step further in learning about the Han Dynasty and Chinese history and culture. It’s an engrossing game with a lot of value for its price. It may be tough if this is your first attempt at a grand strategy game but you don’t need experience with the past thirteen entries to enjoy or understand it. This was my first RTK game and I had little trouble jumping in. Fortunately there’s several quick and easy tutorials to get you started. If you’re a fan, then you’ve likely already made the purchase. If you haven’t yet, then you absolutely should.

Pros

  • Deep Strategy
  • Countless Hours of Gameplay
  • Rich History and Lore

Cons

  • Not the Brightest AI

Verdict

ROMANCE OF THE THREE KINGDOMS XIV: Diplomacy and Strategy Expansion Pack Bundle delivers an epic strategy title perfect for the Nintendo Switch.

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