May 25, 2017 Last Updated 3:32 PM, May 24, 2017

RTK13 - Fame and Strategy Expansion Pack Review

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Some hardcore ish here.

I feel like a total noob.  Romance of the 3rd Kingdom XIII (RoTK XIII) expansion and strategy pack – where do I start? Perhaps in the history of this franchise? The expansive list of playable predecessors? The full, almost overwhelming, complexity of this title? The learning curve that is higher than any curve has the right to be? That sounds like a good place to pick up.

Some hardcore ish here. When the tutorial takes me more than six hours to fumble through, you know it’s an intense installment. I, embarrassingly, have given up on attempting to comprehend what I’m doing and find myself falling back on the good ol’ strategy on which I have relied for more than two decades: Mash. Buttons. Oddly, that seems to be working in a much more efficient manner than trying to understand what I’m doing. Regardless of my approach, though, I still had an incredible amount of fun.

Romance of the 3rd Kingdom XIII released just over a year ago, and the Fame and Strategy expansion pack is the first to arrive for this particular title. Let’s take a bit of a side trip: developed and published by Koei Tecmo, RoTK XIII is the 13th (go figure, right?) installment in the titular series. The series is based on the Hun Dynasty, and it is rich in historical gems. RoTK XIII is a strategy / historical simulation game, with RTS elements, offering, as per the official website, “Three Defining Themes”: drama, (spectacular) battles, and dynamism. Suffice it to say, RoTK XIII delivered on all three.

You will probably approach this game in one of three ways: a total noob to the world of Romance (and it’s rigorous learning curve); or, as having already purchased the original release and merely desirous to add on to the adventure; or, as a seasoned vet with skills honed through brain-melting release after release, with RoTK XIII as but one more notch in the belt. I fall into that first category; entirely new to this treasure trove of history, a strategy neophyte (by way of impatience).

A viable investment

RoTK XIII, when bundled with Fame and Strategy, is a relatively costly release. If you are going in brand-spanking new? I’d recommend going all-out and getting the whole beast. Honestly; the tutorial took me longer to muddle through than quite a few titles have taken me from start to finish, and there is plenty more to do. The content is here to make this a viable investment. I realistically could have spent an evening just reading the Hero’s Tactical Guide that accompanies the download.  And I probably should have; my experience might have been more enjoyable had I gone in slowly.  RoTK XIII is not for the casual gamer, and if you don’t want to commit, it’s probably not for you.

The value of this expansion to someone that already owns RoTK XIII is a bit more complicated. To keep it simple:  I feel the expansion pack was necessary.  Having never played this title without it, I can’t imagine the gaping holes that would be left were the pack not included. The expansion pack elements were some of the most enjoyable, and one could argue that the content should have existed here from the get-go.  If you already own the title, even considering the amount of cash you’ll need to reinvest to use the expansion pack, it’s well worth it.  I mean, we are talking hundreds of hours of game-play, so if you have already made the investment, may as well fully commit. I dare say it adds excitement to what might have felt tedious the first go-round.

Save China

When you begin this RoTK installment, you’re encouraged to use Hero Mode. Do it. Hero mode is, essentially, the tutorial. The very long, complicated tutorial. The controls are easy in theory, less so in practice. Some missions have a time requirement, and I have yet to figure out exactly how I was supposed to glean that information. An interesting part of Hero mode is that you’ll find yourself switching sides: now for this ‘team,’ then for that.  There were times I found myself rooting against myself, as the particular character I was portraying seemed to be a bit of a turd. Ah, the beauty of a historical title. And, as a total virgin in strategy game-play, this was an uncomfortable first time. When I hear “tutorial” I expect it to be… easy.  It isn’t. There is no “easy” way to do anything in RoTK XIII.

After you complete a handful of missions, you are free of the tutorial!  You can carry on in the somewhat directed Hero line, or you can move to the Main storyline.  Strangely enough, I felt the instructions were a bit easier to follow in the Main story mode. You are now free to save China. Just try not to die doing it. If there were badges to be earned for death and failing, I’d have quite a collection.

What’s so special about this Fame and Strategy expansion, anyhow?  A few things.  Firstly, there are, of course, new story lines. Roughly half a dozen new stories are in the Hero and Main modes. And, you are now able to edit. That’s right. You can create and edit officers, strategies, and unique abilities. Once these edits are saved, they can be shared with other players.

Another new feature? Prestige. Similar to a skill tree, with the expansion pack, your character can take on Prestige Titles.  These titles can be life-changing. Depending on the Prestige Title you choose, your list of commands will change. These titles are a testament to how your character will live his/her life. There's a total of six different paths from which to choose, each offering different actions and parameters.

Also included with the expansion are the Main Base and Tavern. Make babies, train your peeps, solicit requests for action; all this, and more, resides betwixt the two areas. Again, your choices will change to reflect the Prestige you have chosen. I would give you some fancy statistic here to tell you just how many options live in this expansion pack, but that would, unfortunately, involve math, which is not my forte.

New elements exist in preparation for battle, as well as another feature: The War Council. Sounds super-duper impressive, yeah? You are mainly just garnering advice from your Commanders.  Once you have completed a War Council, you will be able to commence using the tactics decided on during battle. Be aware that these are only as strong as your “Tactical Strength.”

A final major point in the expansion pack exists in the ability to Duel or Debate. I quite enjoyed dueling and may have lost China due to my intense desire to hole up in my city and commence Patrols. Lots of ’em. The mechanics behind the Duel are relatively straightforward to figure out; the Debate is more complicated, involving choices as to what to say was a bit confusing, and I lost many discussions that seemed simple.


The Verdict

RoTK XIII isn’t for everyone. But, I have never raced to the store (or the net, these days) to purchase the Next Big Strategy Title. Quite the opposite; I prefer superficial, easy, or sometimes nonsensical titles that require little-to-no concentration. To me, game time is time spent relaxing, forgetting about life. But, Romance of the Third Kingdom XIII has put an itch in my lazy brain: I want to play more, even if It is ridiculously hard at times. (One of the biggest struggles was the difficulty of reading the map and searching for particular cities.) My desire to conquer this damn thing (and China), however, overcame my laziness. In fact, my interest in the history of the Hun Dynasty has piqued, and I might even rent one of the multiple films that seeded this franchise. Maybe I’ll read the book, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, by Luo Guanzhong, or Records of the Three Kingdoms, by Chen Shou.

Engaging, although sometimes annoying and tedious. Expensive, but you get enough content to make it worthwhile. Occasionally, the difficulty dulls the desire to keep playing. Romance of the 3rd Kingdom XIII, Fame and Strategy leaves one happier having played it, and Koei Tecmo and Kou Shibusawa gracefully inspire interest in the history, culture, drama, and intrigue of the times of this title.

Carrie Luna

Having spent her formative years as the only child on a farm full of goats, geese and guinea hens, it should come as no surprise that Carrie Luna is a bit...different. Familiarizing herself with RPG's before she even knew that would ever be a "thing", Carrie spent 6 years of her life flipping between her alter-egos of Spiderman, and Ponch from CHiPS.  When not role-playing alone, Carrie studied physics, convinced she too, could turn into Wonder Woman if only she held her arms at the correct angle while spinning.  Once she made it off the farm and realized chasing geese was definitely NOT the social norm, Carrie immersed herself in fantasy novels and a love of all things Terry Brooks. That love led to the joy of writing, reading, and ultimately gaming.  Carrie now lives in Minneapolis, with her 8 year old daughter, her 12 year old Chihuahua, and her tattoo artist husband.  Rest assured, they are all as strange as her.  She may, on occasion, still chase geese.

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