When it comes to a series that has as many installments as Romance of the Three Kingdoms, it can be difficult to jump right in if you’ve never played before. Luckily, there are good tutorials and understandable game mechanics which, while involved, can be learned by a player with a little determination. Yes, I found that determination is what it took for me to push through the convoluted menu system and try to dig deep into what fun could be had here.
I personally have only played one other RotTK and that was the seventh installment on PlayStation 2. As a fan of history and video games, I was immediately immersed in the time period and the historical characters. The amount of real historical figures that you can take control of is staggering and I loved learning more outside of the game about some of the most intriguing warriors. Because I loved RotTK7 so much, I found it difficult to put certain features out of my mind and concentrate on the mechanics of RotTK14.
The historical characters are all still here and in fact they have added hundreds more. You can still create your own generals with familial ties to real figures and you could have a lot of fun creating your own faction and putting them into very specific scenarios throughout the romance timeline. My Johnny Yune dynasty didn’t do all that bad against the early power of He Jin!
While many new features have progressed over time to get to where they are in RotTK14, there are a few features that a player like me regretfully misses. Firstly, you better enjoy being the Liege Lord because there is no longer options to being a ronin, general, or prefect under an AI ruler. That means that you won’t be working your way to the top of a famous leader’s ranks, but you will have all the responsibility and stress of the man or woman in charge. With that system comes a lot of micromanaging and there are many diplomacy options to try. Once I was familiar with the game’s options, I found that many were undercooked and I didn’t use half of them. There are certain things that your prefects can do by themselves but as leader, appointing people and advising them in which ways to govern just gives you more things to worry about as you try to strategically fight back in sieges on all borders. Heavy lies the crown for sure.
The battle system is now one that is happening on the same map as all of your other political dealings. That means that there are no more specific battle areas in which you can try to use a little more strategy for when you’re severely outnumbered. This gave me a feeling of less control in battles because there aren’t as many options to tell your individual generals to try. It was more of a point and click and hope your forces last longer. They’ve also taken away specific military unit factions. In RotTK14 you conscript soldiers at each of your cities and train them with your powerful generals, but they are just soldiers. There’s no cavalry, navy or bowman units. All of those buffs pertain to the general leading these soldiers. If the general can take advantage of shooting arrows from a far then his soldiers can. Instead you’ll get an advantage in battle by surrounding enemies and “coloring in“ the area around their forces. There is still plenty of strategy, but the micromanaging and the lack of individual general control during battles gives more to worry about, but less to feel in control of.
The music in the game is serviceable and there are a few nice compositions here. As with all strategy games, you are bound to be hearing the music quite a bit and even good songs can get old when you have a long play session. I was questioning a couple of the tunes as they sounded a little out of place for the historical setting (one song feels like it could be in the Harry Potter movies), but they are good and can be switched off.
RotTK14 is a game that I would recommend to history buffs and strategy game lovers. If you are willing to put in the time and learn all the games systems, there is some fun to be had. If you are someone who is easily frustrated or who dislikes micromanaging then it’s not the game for you. Although, for me, RotTK14 does not live up to the previous installment that I had played and loved, it’s nice to finally get another series entry optimized for NA and it’s even nicer to be able to take it anywhere on the go with Nintendo Switch.