Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII – Fame and Strategy (XB1) Review

Can I review a Dynasty Warriors Game Instead?

Back on the Xbox 360, I played Dynasty Warriors 6, a game that I quite enjoyed for a time. It didn’t have the best graphics, but it was simple, mindless fun with addicting progression. Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a long-running strategy game franchise that deals with the same material, but lacks all of that fun and simplicity.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms 13 and the aforementioned Dynasty Warriors series dramatize the political and military struggle that China went through around 200 AD. The three main Kingdoms Wei, Shu, and Wu all maneuvered for control as the Han Dynasty collapsed. In Kingdoms 13, players can pick between dozens of leaders from all three factions and decide who is friend and foe.

Price: $69.99
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC

Hero Mode

The game recommends that players start with ‘Heroes Mode’, which puts the player in “story focused” scenarios to explain game mechanics and provide some story. At least that’s the intention. These tutorials cumulatively take dozens of hours and are bad at explaining systems, and even worse at making the material interesting.

Let’s tackle the tutorial function first. Never have I played a game that told me so much, but made me so confused about what I was supposed to do. Have you ever had someone try to explain something to you that they know all about – they go way too fast and skip key things because they assume you know more than you actually do? – well that’s what playing through this game felt like minute-to-minute. After reading how to do something, I was never 100% sure how to do what I was just told to do. The translation process couldn’t have done this any favors.

The other way that this mode misses the boat is that it completely fails at making what is actually interesting stuff compelling in the slightest. Similar to spitting out tutorials that aren’t clear enough – names of people, places, and things are thrown out with blistering pace, as if they mean anything to the average westerner. There’s also no nuance in the story telling, as the perspective of each tutorial is always changing. I only saw things from their perspective – where they always believe themselves to be great and have great hatred for the opposition.

Game Basics

The main objective of the game is to gain influence through diplomacy and war. There’s an impressive list of things to do to improve cities, armies, and your character’s attributes. It’s unfortunate that all of this was explained so poorly and a lot of it just requires waiting for long countdown timers to end.

When words don’t work, armies collide. Units of soldiers are represented by a letter that displays their unit type, and time pauses once you select one or more of them. Players can zoom in to see rudimentary armies shooting arrows at each other, but there’s really no use in that, it’s better to see how the battle is unfolding from afar. Units are smart about defending themselves and attacking nearby enemy units. The RTS part of the game would be the highlight if the framerate wasn’t always abysmal.

Not including the fine-looking pre-rendered cut scenes and the cartoon stills of the characters – as they speak in subtitles – the game is downright ugly. Poor-looking, canned environments will be used over and over again regardless of where an event is taking place. The UI is a mess that really appears to be made for a mouse and keyboard exclusively.

At times I could see the appeal, but there’s just too many core problems with this game to recommend it to anyone who hasn’t already immersed themselves in the series. The mixture of boredom and confusion made me wish I was doing just about anything else.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Written by
Wyatt is a recent college graduate of Ohio University’s Journalism program. He’s an Xbox guy, but loves playing great PlayStation exclusives. Also, he has far too much nostalgia for the old Nintendo.