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It was hard writing this review, as I really wanted to be fair to the game in the review, but had issues getting into the game itself, for the simple reason that it really didn't do anything for me. Even after going through the tutorial and starting the first scenario....I just found myself yawning at the screen. The game simply isn't aimed at me, which doesn't make it a bad game...just one aimed at a very small slice of the gaming populace, even smaller than strategy fans in general. The sheer level of micromanagement involved in this game is its biggest weakness, which is a shame.
In all honestly, this isn't a game for newcomers anyway. Despite surviving for more than 10 games, the barrier to entry for the series is far higher than perhaps anything else on the PlayStation 2. That doesn't negate any of the rewards for actually sticking it out and surviving the grueling process or building up armies and managing resources like a true armchair general, but to get that sense of accomplishment, you'll have to endure an almost relentless level of tedium. If you have that kind of patience, by all means give the game a shot, but only if you have that kind of patience.
If you have copious amounts of caffeine and a month or three to spare, you'll find Romance XI continues to give almost constantly. Just don't expect to finish it any time soon.
The strategy is complex and rewarding, but the menu shuffling and extremely slow pace won't earn the series any new fans.
All that, and comprehend several other columns of numbers. RTKXI has hours of mile-deep strategy, and will appeal to a certain person – someone with the patience of a saint and the ability to take on a great deal of information that doesn’t connect in any logical construct. And indeed, someone who can tolerate an over-complicated interface, a serious amount of number-crunching and aged graphics.
The Romance of the Three Kingdoms series needs an upgrade. Not so much in the basic play mechanics – they are and always have been solid. How else would this series have remained so popular for so long? But it needs a visual and interface overhaul. How much better would the game be if, say, you didn’t need a PHD to play it? Or if some of those massive battles you see your little stick-men fighting were done in glorious 3D? The mind wobbles.
The artwork in this game is gorgeous and impressive for the PS2. There are dozens of officers in this game, yet they all seem to have their own unique appearance. The background art is equally impressive, as are some of the transitions and cut scenes. Duels and debates also provide some of the more impressive looking moments in RTK. Unfortunately, where RTK is at its weakest is where you spend most of your time. The grid, geography, cities, structures, and units are pretty bland and uninspiring. Many times, it's difficult to tell what you're exactly looking at without pointing to it to get the pop-up window of information, especially with military units.