You know you love the inevitable trainwreck that follows after putting a strategy game through the VIPS.
Story & World
Having the manual handy gives a much needed briefing of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms saga. Nothing in game particularly adds much to this, instead focusing on the strategic elements. Game elements were sensible such as harvests in the fall and flooding in the summer. Another annoyingly (but reasonable) element is that during the winter season, no goods may be sent and generals moving troops stand to lose some men to the chill. Just as it was in the past, those who were able to somewhat predict and plan for the future ended up the best off.
Diplomacy between empires is graded on a scale of 100
with 50 being neutral. Giving gifts and marrying off daughters secures a
friendly relationship with no real advantage other than they are less
likely to attack. There is an option to set up an alliance to attack a
certain ruler but I never observed this actually happening (despite
setting it up multiple times). None of the classic rivalries stated in
the manual came up during the game. Generals that normally betray Cao
Cao became just as loyal as anyone else after dumping three thousand
golds on dat ass. 6/20
The random variable to the starting stats is much lower here than it was in Nobunaga's Ambition. Here, the variance is about +/- 10 and makes the base stats much more important. Stats stay pretty much the same throughout the game and the master's stats become less important as other generals are gained and can be delegated to. The only exception to this is the recruiting of new generals which can only be done by the master (making Charisma a useful stat the entire game). 5/20
Combat & Monsters
Combat was great early on when forces were fairly evenly matched up and tactics made a big difference. The use of fire made for some great battle scenes in which the entire unit is surrounded by fire and can do nothing other than wait and hope an opening in the flaming wall will appear. Likewise, using a couple of generals to send a torrent of flamage into an enemy city and flushing out the leader always brought a smile to my face. However, the overuse of fire tactics by the other nations became quite tiresome in the end. Terrain played its usual defensive part but with all the fire taking up space, it was more a case of just grabbing any square adjacent to an enemy unit.
No unit variation here other than in arms level
and trained ability. There were horses available to try to recruit
generals with. Couldn't have used some of those horses to whip up a
cavalry unit, game? 4/20
Graphics & Sound
Graphics were pretty meh throughout. A lot of portraits looked very similar among the lesser known generals (my favs are the ones where it looks like he's sleeping while I'm ordering him around). The only outstanding graphic was the one for fire. I can remember exactly how cool it looked because I had to see it ALL THE FUCKING TIME... *deep breath* ... Serenity now. Sound effects and music are both forgettable. 5/20
Rice and golds are all a good economy needs and RotTK
has it in spades. Rice is used to gain loyalty from peasants and to
recruit new troops. Gold is used on generals to gain their trust and is
also used in getting troops, buying arms and developing land. There is
a merchant available to trade between rice and gold with the system
heavily favouring the gold (if the price is right, a few hundred gold
will fill the state granaries to the max). Sending goods to the front
line from more developed states is never a sure thing; bandits or
opposing nations could intercept shipments. By the time half the states
have been conquered, resources cease to be a problem.
The way in which the nations are interconnected ensured that most of the time a single state had multiple adjacent territories to worry about. Attacking with most of your forces from a state could leave it nearly defenseless from an attack by a different neighbour. Likewise, taking too much rice to feed the attacking armies could leave the defending units hungry. Good balance of things to manage but suffers a bit from micromanagement in the late game. Replaying is unlikely as all rulers are pretty much the same (base stats are usually high for rulers). The challenge was expectantly easy as the difficulty was set low (hey, I don't want to spend months playing this). 14/20
Final Ranking: 34/100