Friday, August 1, 2014

Let's Play Romance of the Three Kingdoms X

Romance of the Three Kingdoms X is the foundation for the perfect game.  Not that it itself is perfect, by any means, but the fundamental structure of it--control any character you wish in the midst of a sprawling epic of war and betrayal over the course of nearly a century--is just begging for a setting like Westeros or Eberron to really bring it to life.

What is RotK10, you ask?  Well, as the name implies, it's the tenth in Koei's line of strategy (and occasionally strategy/RPG) games about the Three Kingdoms era of ancient China.  Like its more famous cousin, Dynasty Warriors, ROTK takes the characters and events from Luo Guanzhong's Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel and lets you experience/recreate history as them; unlike the Warriors games, though, this series aims for a more realistic take on the characters, pulling characters like Guan Yu and Cao Cao off the front lines and putting them in charge of armies, cities, and empires.

Most of the ROTK games are straightforward grand strategy games.  Pick (or create) a ruler and try to conquer/unite China.  However, a few games in the series offered a twist: rather than controlling Sun Quan, why not play as Taishi Ci?  Let the AI handle the deal-making and warmongering, while you train your martial skills, journey the land seeking adventure and glory, or just sit in town and teach the peasants how to work a field properly.  These games allowed players the freedom to tell their own, emergent stories, to tinker with the systems and figure out how to break them, and to immerse themselves into the game world--at least as far as the clunky, menu-driven UI would let them.  They were so beloved that they spawned sites like SimRTK, allowing players from around the world to engage in a forum-based MMO version of the games.

Sadly, the series seems to be defunct.  Koei's last pair of entries were both straightforward empire building titles, and sales of ROTK XI were so poor in the U.S. that XII will likely never be ported.  The chances of us getting another RPG hybrid in the series appear to be nil.

But at least we can still play our beloved old PS2 games on our modern systems, right?

... yeah moving on

This Let's Play is going to be based on screenshots rather than videos, because the entire damned thing is menus and maps and watching me talk over it would be like watching cheese congeal.  So, what's the plan?

Meet Lu Meng.  Lu Meng is one of the most interesting figures in the Three Kingdoms story.  He began his career as an officer under Sun Ce and Sun Quan, earning some distinction for his skill in battle but largely being dismissed as a "mere warrior" for not being all that bright.  However, upon meeting Meng personally, Sun Quan encouraged him to start developing his mind through the study of history.  Meng discovered a heretofore unknown love of learning, and quickly became one of Wu's most distinguished and capable generals.  His most famous act was his defeat of Guan Yu at Jing Province through a series of hijinks that would make an afterschool kids' show proud.  Unfortunately, Meng was in poor health and died a few months later.

We're going to play as Lu Meng, and we're going to do our best to follow in his footsteps--and maybe see about keeping him from kicking the bucket quite so soon.  Our ultimate goal (because the game won't end until this happens) will be to unify China under Wu, but I'll be honest: that's not likely to happen.  Instead, this will probably continue until Meng croaks, although I do have a plan for continuing past that.  We'll see.

Let's get to the game!

Once we're done basking in the glorious warbling of Chinese opera singers, we can get started.

Here's our main menu.  Most of it's pretty self-explanatory.  "New Officers" lets you create up to 110 fictional characters, which you can either play as or just drop into the setting to see how badly they mess everything up.  We won't be using any in this LP, even though it would make some things a lot easier.

Choosing "New Game" opens up a list of starting dates/situations.  The dates correspond to pivotal events in the ROTK novel (and some of 'em are even historically accurate, too).

We're going to begin in the third month of 194.  The game itself will give us a recap of what's going on, but here's the broad strokes: Dong Zhuo's dead, Cao Cao has elite spear dudes, Lu Bu is being a titanic dick, and Sun Ce is headed towards the east coast so he can start conquering things.


Here's Lu Meng's starting stats.  Leadership determines how effective the character is at leading troops; how much damage they deal and take with their attacks, basically.  War is their skill at personal combat, which typically only comes into play with duels.  Intelligence helps employ and resist tactics like Confuse and Blunder, and also seems to help a character know whether or not a non-battle action will succeed.  Politics doesn't have anything to do with combat, but it helps a lot with improving cities and conducting diplomacy.  Finally, Charisma is personal charm and magnetism, helping you make friends with NPCs and recruit soldiers.  It also helps with debates in some vague way.

With an 83 Leadership and 81 War, Meng is a competent if unimpressive general.  40 Intelligence and 38 Politics, however, mean that he's not going to be of much use for anything besides soldiery.  With 82 Charisma, he'll at least be able to make friends without too much trouble--which is good, because he's going to need them.

And here's the options we're starting with.  Yeah, "Beginner," I know, but all "Adanced" seems to do is make battles and campaigns harder, and having to cope with the idiotic AI is difficult enough as it is.

... complete power, and soon after replaced Emperor Shao with Emperor Xian.

Enraged by Dong Zhuo's audacity, feudal lords across the land banded together against the usurper, and, led by Yuan Shao, formed the "Anti-Dong Zhuo Coalition."

Some of them wanted to call it "The Coalition Against Dong Zhuo."  Wankers.

... declared the new capital.  At the same time, internal conflict flared up between coalition members.  The coalition dissolved, and the feudal lords returned to their territories to concentrate on expanding their own individual forces.

"Anti-Dong Zhuo Coalition!"

"Coalition Against Dong Zhuo!"

"Judean People's Front!"

In the Central Plains, Cao Cao -- who had subdued the Yellow Turbans in Qing -- took control of Yan and was preparing to attack his father's killer, Tao Qian of Xu.

In Jing, Sun Jian met his untimely end in a heated battle against Liu Biao.  His oldest sun, Sun Ce, quickly stepped up to continue his father's legacy.

... the girl to both men.  He then convinced Lu Bu to carry out Dong Zhuo's assassination.  Lu Bu was driven from the capital by loyalists of Dong Zhuo.  Along with Li Jue, he began searching for a base to call home.

Lu Bu could not be more swag if he tried.

Next time: we actually begin the game!

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