previews\ Jan 24, 2007 at 7:00 pm

Romance Of The Three Kingdoms XI - PS2 - Preview

War and strategy. The two go together not like peanut butter and jelly, but like peanut butter and the knife used to spread the creamy substance onto bread. In the first case war is the spread – the knife would be what you use to smear it all over your enemies. 

The 11th chapter in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series brings another nutritious helping to the table. Based on a novel about the near fall of China toward the end of the Han Dynasty, the game was made to add a little fact to the fiction. 

It’s more than what most console gamers are used to, and is in no way a pick-up-and-play type of strategy game. The learning curve is massive. Players are asked to examine and decipher several menus and countless lines of text before they enter their first battle. Units aren’t selected on-the-fly with a drag and click function – instead you’ll run through more menus and additional text. To say that the game is hard to get into would be an understatement. Once inside strategy enthusiasts – the kind of player that likes more than Disgaea and Final Fantasy Tactics – could find themselves in a position where they don’t want to do anything else.

Warriors. Dynasty Warriors. 

Similar to the way an automaker streamlines its interior among different vehicles, KOEI likes to keep their games in line with each other. If players were to glance only at a battle setup menu, they’d swear this was a game in the Dynasty Warriors series. Or vice versa. 

There are a lot of similarities between the two: the characters (some), story, music, and graphic style. It’s pretty cool when you think about it – having two series connected by something other than their gameplay. 

Though the graphic style of RTK XI is similar to Dynasty Warriors, enter the battlefield and you’ll quickly spot the differences between the two. Dynasty Warriors is a close, in-your-face hack-n-slash game where you control one primary character. RTK XI, however, puts you in control of an entire army. Not just one group of warriors, as you might see in another strategy game. One hundred units sounds like a nice number – it worked well for Pikmin. But this game uses several hundred units. 

You send them off in large clusters. Direct their every order, and keep and eye on things back on home turf. It’s a complex process that involves more than the pointing and clicking of a couple items. Several actions need to be performed just to make your units move. Many more are required to make them attack.  

Returning fans have several goodies to look forward to, while newcomers should be aware that there’s never been a better time to enter the series. Officer skills have reached the one hundred mark (see, I told you it was a good number), and you’ll have nearly 30 scenarios and/or challenges to look forward to conquering. Duels are more vivid than before, but the camera still hangs high above the action. You won’t get to witness every single detail, but it’s a step forward, and that’s better than what most game sequels offer. 

New to the series? RTK XI includes a tutorial that takes you through every important action. It’s unlikely that you’ll learn everything at once, and there’s no chance of mastering every task by the end of the explanation. But it’s just enough to show you exactly what the game is about. If you’re to become an addict, it’s going to happen now. (Better have a phone book handy – you could be ordering in tonight.) 

English and Chinese voice options are available, giving American players the once-in-a-lifetime chance to see if bad voice acting is strictly a domestic problem. It’s not easy to get something out of a language you don’t speak, but if the right messages and emotions are conveyed, they’ll be felt by the game’s end.

Battling into stores this February, Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI has the potential to be the series’ most prominent release. Will it be just as challenging as the others? Will the tutorial really help those who are clueless? Will the updated graphics for PS2 stand out now that the next generation has finally arrived? Stay with us as we bring you all the latest details on Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI leading up to its release.

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