Romance of the Three Kingdoms X Review

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Graphics: 6.0
Sound : 6.5
Gameplay : 7.5
Multiplayer : N/A
Overall : 7.1
Review by Andy Levine
Romance of the Three Kingdoms X is the franchise’s tenth installment, and one that fans of the series are sure to enjoy. Taking you on a journey through Ancient China, you must work with different officers militaristically and diplomatically in order to unite the war-torn lands. The game’s original war strategy experience doesn’t vary much from previous releases, but the few new twists and turns in this latest offering will deliver satisfaction to the more devout patrons.

The whole purpose of Romance of the Three Kingdoms X is to unite China, and the game reaches completion when one ruling force totally dominates the region. While it may seem that the game should follow a very linear path, there are many different ways for the end result to be achieved. From the start, you have the option to choose between Historical and Fictional modes. Romance of the Three Kingdoms’ Historical mode will convey parallel plot twists to those found in the book of the same name, while its Fictional mode contains officers who act differently and is devoid of historical events. In both instances, you begin by selecting one of 650 available officers or, if you want to, you can even create your own. You can choose to be a free officer, vassal, prefect, viceroy, or sovereign, depending on how involved you want to be in the ruling process. For example, you can be a free officer and roam the countryside fulfilling random requests and tasks, or you can amass your own rogue army on a conquest to take over China.

Depending on which path you choose, and how you play the game, you can expect to enjoy several alternate endings. In order to succeed, whether you are a servant boy or a commanding leader, you will have to travel through a series of menus—which will take some learning to become familiarized with. A large portion of the game involves speaking with different people and carrying out their requests in order to gain a better reputation. The menu-driven gameplay usually consists of pressing the ‘circle’ button to confirm actions as you travel throughout the city and, for the most part, it is more tedious than entertaining. During the latter part of the game you can expect to rummage through menu after menu instead of spending time on the battlefield. The overall plot is especially luring towards history buffs and control freaks, but the prolific amount of menus filled with pages and pages of text is not favorable by any means.

Once you get past the game’s foundations—largely involving the organization of your kingdom—the in-depth battle system makes the conquering experience duly rewarding. While you do have the option to allow the computer to fight battles on your behalf, you would perhaps be denying yourself the most gratifying element of the entire game. Once you assign forces to attack a specific city, your troops will then begin marching towards their objective. Whether they defeat a rival commanding officer or obliterate an opposing army is entirely up to you, but you must finish your hostile takeover within a 30-round time limit. The battlefield is divided up like a grid, where different types of units can freely move about, just like any other turn-based strategy game. However, a dynamic twist is implemented to allow for a fair balance during battles. A very simplistic weakness system, where archers are vulnerable to foot soldiers, foot soldiers are vulnerable to mounted soldiers, and mounted soldiers are vulnerable to archers, allows for the most strategic players to be victorious…even with a smaller battalion. You won’t come across too many battles that are complete pushovers, and likewise you won’t find yourself becoming frustrated through seemingly impossible clashes. Aside from taking over other kingdoms, there are several mini-games that can be played within a city’s walls. There are one-on-one duels and debates that appear sparsely to diversify the gameplay a little. By winning debates and duels you can increase the livelihood of your empire or build upon your officer’s fame by completing fairly simple tasks. Once you forge beyond the game’s horrifying menu problem you will find a strong strategy experience that is certainly on par with today’s genre standards.

Visually, there is nothing to boast about in Romance of the Three Kingdoms X. The character portraits have a fitting hand drawn feel, but this is the only noticeable feature as you forage through the different menus. Most of the game doesn’t even allow for visual enhancements, and even action on the battlefield is nothing especially memorable. The environments are very basic and lack variety, and the individual character units are incredibly small and devoid of precise detail. While it is, of course, important that a game function properly rather than merely look pretty, hopefully future titles in this series will implement the option to create visual enhancements.

Like the graphics, the music and sound effects are also somewhat basic by today’s standards. All of the menus are driven by text-based speech, and there’s no dialogue narration on show, either. The background music plays constantly, but it is only really noticeable during battle when you hear the banging of war drums over the marching of the troops. There are only a few different sound effects used on the battlefield, which are utilized sparingly or only when needed. The audio flow works nicely to complement the game, but there is nothing audibly present to make you truly appreciate the struggles faced on the battlefield.

In conclusion, Romance of the Three Kingdoms X is a commendable addition to the Romance series. Die-hard fans can rejoice over the release of this latest title, and even newcomers will find enjoyment once past the arduous learning curve. The game would’ve benefited from a few more obvious enhancements, but it is still extremely easy to be captivated by the enthralling storyline and engaging strategy experience.