Pages Menu

Categories Menu

Posted on Aug 23, 2018 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

“In peace you are an able subject; in chaos you are a crafty hero!” Romance of the Three Kingdoms Part XIII Computer Game Review

“In peace you are an able subject; in chaos you are a crafty hero!” Romance of the Three Kingdoms Part XIII Computer Game Review

Rick Martin

Romance of the Three Kingdoms Part XIII Computer Game Review. Publisher Koei Tecmo Games Co., Ltd. Price $59.99 (available for PC on STEAM)

Rick Martin

Passed Inspection: Very immersive, excellent graphics, beautiful music and visuals, models almost every aspect of Han Dynasty military and court life.

Failed Basic: there is so much in this game that it is difficult to learn even with the training “Hero” mode, needs a complete manual, sometimes crashes

Years ago I cut my teeth on the Keoi strategy game series with Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Nobunaga’s Ambition on my Nintendo and then Romance of the Three Kingdoms II and Nobunaga’s Ambition on my Amiga 2000 computer! That would have been around 1989 or 1990. Nobunaga’s Ambition was set in Japan during the Sengoku Jidai (focusing specifically from around 1568 to 1603 AD) while Romance was set in China during the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. These games were an amazing breath of fresh air and allowed the players to control a province in Japan and China and try and unify the country using both political and military means. Both games have been followed with sequels which expand the complexity of the game play while taking advantage of the new graphics and processing powers of our modern computers.


I reviewed the newest Nobunaga’s Ambition release called Sphere of Influence back in 2015 and loved it:


Now Keoi has released the newest edition of Romance of the Three Kingdoms and it is available on STEAM!

The minimum system requirements are:

OS: Windows® 10, Windows® 8.1, Windows® 7, Windows Vista®
Processor: Pentium®4 1.6GHz or over
Memory: 1 GB RAM
Graphics: 1024×768 over or 1280×720 over display
DirectX: Version 9.0c
Network: Broadband Internet connection
Storage: 7 GB available space
Sound Card: 16 bit stereo, 48KHz WAVE file can be played
Additional Notes: Shader model: Version 3.0, VRAM: 256MB over

The game boots up with a beautiful graphic representation of the main characters (there are many) as well as the battles. Upon starting the game, you are provided with options to set up preferences, load saved game, edit the historical characters or play either scenarios or in “Hero Mode”. Hero Mode provides shorter training scenarios and on-screen help to get the player in to the game but even with Hero Mode, there is so much to this game that the new player (or even the experienced player who has played past versions of the game) will be taxed to figure it all out. The PDF manual and on-line help forums and FAQs will have to be utilized to get the full experience out of the game.

Per Koei’s website, “There are a total of six scenarios in the game, from the “Yellow Turban Rebellion” in the year 184, to the “Yi Subjugation” in 214.

Yellow Turban Rebellion
February 184 Zhang Jiao, the leader of the Way of Peace, leads his followers in a revolt against the Han Dynasty.
This uprising would eventually lead to 100 years of unrest and turmoil throughout the land, while simultaneously giving rise to some of the
greatest heroes of the age.

Anti Dong Zhuo Coalition
January 190 In a show of force, Dong Zhuo seizes control of the capital, Luoyang, causing a coalition of warlords to band together
against the newfound threat. With Yuan Shao as their leader, they rise up to put a stop to Dong Zhuo’s tyranny.

January 195 Lu Bu, Liu Bei, and Sun Ce rise up to lead their respective forces amidst a land divided.
Kingdoms around the land rise and fall as each of them strive to seize power for themselves and unite the fractured nation.

The Battle of Guandu
February 200 Having conquered the Hebei region, Yuan Shao faces off against his longtime nemesis, Cao Cao, in a struggle for supremacy.
As Cao Cao and Yuan Shao prepare for battle, the three sworn brothers Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei look to reunite after a long separation.

The Three Visits
September 207 Cao Cao, possessing the largest force in the land, and Sun Quan, looking to expand his own influence, prepare for war in
Jiangnan, presenting an opening for Liu Bei, who has been patiently waiting to make his move.
Seizing upon this opportunity, Liu Bei joins forces with Sun Quan to stand against the mighty Cao Cao.

Yi Subjugation
June 214 Liu Bei pacifies Yi Province, successfully dividing the land into three main factions.
A series of battles unfold between Liu Bei, Cao Cao, and Sun Quan as each ruler struggles to gain the upper hand.”

After picking the scenario, you start out by picking from dozens of historical characters to play. Each character is rated for his or her strengths or weaknesses, wisdom, battle prowess, horsemanship, skills with bows or spears, etc. Plus each character is ranked for social status as well as how they relate to the hundreds of non-player characters in the scenario. There are status screens which show nothing but who you’ve met and what your status is with each person! These interpersonal relationships are a major key to success in playing this game. For example, while playing the warrior Cao Cao, I have spent countless hours trying to impress a female character enough so that she will write a letter of introduction which will then allow me to attempt to befriend a great general who can help me with my rise to power.

The game falls under the genre of “real time strategy” and it utilizes a turn sequence in which you pick your actions and then press the play button on the turn timer to see the actions play out. You can pause the timer to give other actions or even cancel an action, or you can increase the speed of the turn. Some actions take months to accomplish and you can watch as time goes by and the seasons change. In addition, random events such as forest fires or other disasters or even military invasions can occur which may cause you to adjust your actions or re-assign other computer controlled characters to other tasks.

Until you become a higher up member of the government, you are just a member of the court who can suggest military missions, public work projects, training initiatives for the local troops, expanding of the city or planning for farm expansion, attempt to establish alliances or gain followers, etc.

As you complete these various tasks above, depending on how well you do, you gain in experience and political power. This political capital can be expended and allow you to rise in rank and honor.

Computer controlled characters interact with you and ask you to help solve their problems. Some of these problems require you to negotiate with other characters or even to fight others in duels. The system for negotiating and for dueling utilizes the same type of procedures but is based upon different characters skills. Negotiations utilize your character’s wisdom and intelligence as well as verbal skills. In a duel, it’s a battle utilizing your strength, dexterity, weapons skills and perhaps your horsemanship skills. The designers have incorporated a matrix of responses, both of you and your opponent, and then the choices are modified with both characters’ appropriate skills. The result wears down either the will or the health of each character. Whoever loses the most will or health has failed the negotiation or duel. Some reviewers have compared this to a simple “rock, paper, scissor” comparison but this is a simplistic and not very accurate criticism and after examining the choices and the modifiers, there is much more to this and, as a game designer myself, I admire the design process.

As you gain control of military forces, you can engage in “forceful negotiations” or full scale warfare! You have control of infantry, archers, cavalry as well as various skilled warriors. Using the mouse, you can zoom in and out and watch the action from different perspectives plus you can give additional orders to your generals or your troops and see how the commands play out. Use your knowledge of strategy to help out in the battles. For example, in the battle whose pictures accompany this review, I had my character, Cao Cao lead an army of three other leaders and their troops to put down a rebellion by another warlord. I sent one force through some heavy woods to burn down an enemy camp, while another force which was slightly faster and lead by a smarter commander was sent to outflank the main enemy position and lay siege to their main fort. Meanwhile I took my most able commander and he and my character performed a frontal attack on the two enemy armies and cut off their advance near a strategically important bridge. After their camp and fortress were destroyed, I sent a runner to my two other commanders and had them come up behind the main battle. As the two enemy armies began to retreat, my pincher operation was complete and they were destroyed by the two forces to their rear as they attempted to fall back. I think Sun Tzu would have approved!

Combat is easy to learn and plays out fast. The nice thing is the use of the turn progression button which allows you to pause and plan new strategies and tactics. You can then assign new missions to your commanders and then hit play at either normal or fast speed and watch your troops swing their swords, thrust their spears and shoot their arrows. Each army has a display which shows their health ratings in number of casualties taken. You can also assign special tactics to the troops which can impact the ongoing battle. During the battle colored lines show you the flow of troop movements and attacks which makes it very easy to track your army’s progress.

After the battle, prisoners are taken and honor is assigned. If you do well, the Emperor may even take notice! If you fail, you may just lose everything and the game ends.

As your battles add honor to your character, you can gain possession of other provinces and rule them for yourself or assign a vassal but watch out for treachery. At times you may want to throw a feast or award money or items to your followers to keep them loyal.

This game really has it all. This review has only scratched the surface of what can be done. There are just so many different options.

But, it is this very wide open nature of the actions in this game that also provide a detriment to the game play. There is just too much to do and neither the manual nor the “Hero Mode” help you to learn it all. At times, it feels like huge road blocks stand in your way as you try and find the right combination of buttons and options to allow you to do something. This really is a game you need to play for months or years just to appreciate its depth, scope and complexity.

In addition, the game crashed twice while I was playing forcing me to reload the last saved position. What did I learn from this? Save the game often especially after doing something monumental.

While I definitely enjoy Romance of the Three Kingdoms 13, I find that the more limited scope of Nobunaga’s Ambition make it more accessible for my casual mode of computer game play.

None-the-less, for a completely immersive game on ancient China, give Romance of the Three Kingdoms 13 a try. You’ll definitely get your money’s worth as you’ll probably be playing this one for years to come.

Armchair General Rating: 86 % (with a scale of 1 % to 100 %))

Solitaire Rating: 5 (with a scale from 1 for not solitaire suitable to 5 perfect for solo play)

About the Author
A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!