Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV is the newest entry in the long running Romance of the Three Kingdoms or Sangokushi franchise from Koei Tecmo games based on the historic novel of the same name. The series has had an interesting history outside Japan on consoles and PC. I got into the series through Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII on PS4 and was very interested in the changes made for the 35th anniversary game.
If you’ve never played a game in this series before, your aim is to conquer China across multiple historic and fictional campaigns and scenarios available. These include the famous Yellow Turban Rebellion from February 184 AD, its aftermath in the form of the Anti Dong Zhuo Coalition from January 190 AD, and my current favourite of the lot, Warlords. Players who are used to skirmish modes will come away disappointed here because you only get access to the scenarios and campaigns available here. The bright side is there is a near infinite set of ways you can change things up with custom officers to playing as different forces across the same campaigns drastically changing how you play.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV feels more like a grand strategy game than Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII and feels a lot better to play. A lot of the gameplay here is automated letting you focus on planning and decision making for the officers you control with a real-time with pause system. The whole land of China is a huge single map here separated by dozens of cities and hundreds of regions. The hexagonal structure is definitely a welcome change.
Games like this usually play best on keyboard and mouse but the series has always had a console release with support for controllers. On PS4, the tutorials are a must play to get used to the controls here. There are multiple tutorial missions that get you used to the changes (for veteran players) and mechanics of the game. I like how the tutorials aren’t just throwaway missions where you are told the controls but missions with a nice narrative focus that eases you into this massive game.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV can look gorgeous. I love the look of the interface and the hexagonal grid system implemented here. As usual, character portraits are exceptional and you have a plethora of portrait options when creating your custom officer. I ran into no performance issues on PS4 Pro barring saving taking a bit too long after turns are executed. The draw distance seemed a bit lacking at some camera angles and there is some shadow flickering that is distracting.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV has an excellent soundtrack composed by Masako Otsuka (Dead or Alive 5, Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII) and Hideki Sakamoto (Yakuza 3, Toukiden). The soundtrack includes a decent selection of relaxing music and intense tunes. On the audio side of things, Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV only has Japanese voice acting in its current state. An update is scheduled for later this month that will add Chinese voice acting. It is a bit surprising that this wasn’t included at launch given the Three Kingdoms setting and that Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII had it on PS4.
My problems with Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV aren’t really gameplay-related but more to do with the lack of interface scaling and some technical issues. If you play this on a TV and not a monitor connected to your PS4, the text will often be too small. Many PC-centric games like Divinity: Original Sin 2 have adapted well to consoles when it comes to interface options but Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV’s interface has issues if you play on TV. Most of my time spent playing the game was on a monitor on my desk on which the game and interface are fine. It is disappointing that there is no interface scaling option though.
Overall, Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV is a very good and accessible entry in the franchise. While some veteran players will not like some of the changes, there’s enough here for newcomers to finally sample one of Koei Tecmo’s most prestigious franchises. Hopefully the UI and visual issues can be addressed because this game has the potential to be amazing with more brought into the game through DLC and updates. It is going to be interesting to see how Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV evolves over time because for once, Koei Tecmo has some competition in this space with Total War: Three Kingdoms from Sega and Creative Assembly.