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Romance of the Three Kingdoms 14 Review: A Shallow Strategy

Romance of the Three Kingdoms 14 is accessible to casual players, but it sneakily removes the depth Rot3K veterans might expect.
This article is over 4 years old and may contain outdated information

Despite its moderate ups and very deep downs, Romance of the Three Kingdoms has been a must-buy series for me for nearly 20 years. Unifying ancient China under one banner has always been one of my favorite strategy gaming experiences.

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Like many fans, I’ve been clinging to the series since its PlayStation 2 days, hoping for something to reach the lofty heights of the games on that platform. Or heck, even before that on the PlayStation or Saturn.

Today, Romance of the Three Kingdoms 10 and Romance of the Three Kingdoms 11 on the PlayStation 2 stand as the two big comparison entries. The former being an individual character and RPG-style entry, with the latter being focused on leading a force.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms 12 never saw an English release and Romance of the Three Kingdoms 13 chugs so badly in battles on PlayStation 4 that it’s nearly unplayable on the platform. It renders the whole RPG-style gameplay hook useless since you play as anything but a leader.

The whole experience ultimately leads you into slow motion battles and an inevitably frustration-induced swap to another game.

So, here we are. Four years after the release of the 13th entry in this long-running series, and Romance of the Three Kingdoms 14 is out with its aim set on being another force-oriented title. In this, it succeeds, but it fails to meet the standard Romance of the Three Kingdoms 11 set almost 15 years ago.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms 14 Review: A Shallow Strategy

In 14, you choose to either lead an already-established force or start your own using custom or established character. You set out to unify China via the means available: conquer territories, outsmart other rulers, intimidate them into joining your forces by your sheer numbers  — typical strategy game methods for world domination.

Those new to the series and Rot3K veterans should do the tutorial to learn the game before starting a full campaign. It’s enough to get any player on their feet and ready to rule, whether you’re a first-time unifier of China or a long-time full-fledged Wei fan.

The brand-new territory expansion system requires a city or base be conquered before the surrounding hexes can be manually touched, or before a governor can be installed to slowly take it over hex by hex. And, in essence, it’s the biggest new piece of gameplay to this entry.

The hex-based map is similar to the one in Romance of the Three Kingdoms 11, as you can build strategic structures within your territories; however, it tosses many of the complexities of 11 to the wayside in favor of more approachable gameplay, bordering on mobile game-levels of simplicity.

No longer do your troops need goods to survive while marching, nor do you have any real control over how combat plays out. Officers will use their skills randomly or once certain conditions are met in-battle, leaving you with little freedom in that regard.

Duels are present in this entry, though they are also automatic and require no player input. The scholarly alternative, debates, are omitted completely in Romance of the Three Kingdoms 14. This essentially relegates your smarter officers to mere governors throughout the course of a campaign, with no outlet for them to truly shine.

Managing your kingdom in the Rot3K series has never been easier than it is in Rot3K 14, but that comes at a cost. Options for management have been severely cut down in favor of accessibility, and growth ends up relying too much on your governor’s whims.

You can tell them to focus on increasing commerce, agriculture, or troops — but they’re not going to do it unless they suggest it and you tell them to do it. The system completely negates the purpose of a governor as the series has always known them, making you wonder why you need them at all.

I struggle to say Romance of the Three Kingdoms 14 is an improvement over 13. While Romance of the Three Kingdoms 13 has some fundamental problems that do make it a struggle to play on the platform I have it on, I have to assume PC players don’t run into those same troubles and instead have to wrestle with how unwieldy it is. As most games in this series are.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms 14 Review — The Bottom Line

Pros
  • Easy to learn for most strategy game players
  • A reasonable entry point for newcomers to Rot3K
Cons
  • Complexities from previous ruler-focused entries all but removed
  • Pants-on-head AI
  • Completely unfitting localization

Romance of the Three Kingdoms 14 tries and fails to recapture the essence of Romance of the Three Kingdoms 11 on the PlayStation 2, and in some ways feels like a half-hobbled clone.

The new hex-based map does not make up for the lack of control and flexibility in other regards. While this may be the fastest game to play in the series yet, it’s certainly one of the least satisfying.

Rot3K 14 simply leaves me considering reconnecting my PS2 and playing 11, or hoping Koei Tecmo will release the English localization for 11 on Steam, even without the Power Up Kit.

[Note: A copy of Romancing the Three Kingdoms 14 was provided by Koei Tecmo for the purpose of this review.]

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Romance of the Three Kingdoms 14 Review: A Shallow Strategy
Romance of the Three Kingdoms 14 is accessible to casual players, but it sneakily removes the depth Rot3K veterans might expect.

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Ashley Shankle
Ashley's been with GameSkinny since the start, and is a certified loot goblin. Has a crippling Darktide problem, 500 hours on only Ogryn (hidden level over 300). Currently playing Darktide, GTFO, RoRR, Palworld, and Immortal Life.