The Three Kingdoms: Fate of the Dragon Review
publisher: Eidos Interactive
developer: Overmax Studios
P200, 32MB RAM, 320MB HDD, 8x CD-ROM
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Mar 14, 01 (released)
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Nikola "Bunny" Zakic
It would be a pity to think that all has been said in the gaming industry, and wait until hardware manufacturers decide to produce a new something that might revolutionize gaming, as we know it. I mean if the monkeys had waited for ladders to be invented, they'd never come down from trees, and we wound nowadays mostly spend time pealing bananas. Still, it is even worse if a good idea goes to waste because of technical flaws.
The former passage accurately describes the situation with Overmax Studios' The Three Kingdoms: Fate of the Dragon. The game is based on Luo Guanzhong's novel from the 14th century, and it was supposed to revitalize the good old RTS genre with some interesting novelties. Unfortunately, the final product only displays the potential to actually introduce anything new, while it still lacks any visible innovations.
I already wrote an optimistic preview for this game, which contains the story and all that has been promised by the authors, and you can read it here
This text will, on the other hand, deal with what had actually been achieved and how.
The game describes a turbulent period at the end of the second century in China. After emperor Ling died in 189 AD, China fell apart, and a lot of smaller kingdoms got formed on its former territory. Each of the rulers of these newly found kingdoms wanted to succeed the throne of the late emperor, and in the bloody civil war that followed, three of the largest kingdoms Wu, Shu and Wei fought for dominance. It will be up to you to assume the role of the king of one of these kingdoms and use arrow and sword to unite China and secure the throne. Each of the factions has thirteen scenarios that deal with significant historical events. Before each mission, you will be given an in-depth briefing, which will inform you about the current political and tactical situation. The mission goals are versatile and far from easy. You will have to defend your and allied cities, conquer enemy strongholds, secure convoys, perform assassinations, and look to it that your hero remains safe.
Most scenarios will require you to build recruitment centres first, then build up an army and then go and defeat the enemy. The big novelty in this game was supposed to be the extremely complex economic micro-management. This aspect should make this RTS somewhat closer to management sims like Civilization. The game features seven resources and agricultural structures with multiple functions, which allow you to produce different resources depending on what you assign your peasants to do. Work-force manipulation is crucial, but far from tedious and tiresome. The most important thing is to set everything properly from the very start and react wisely in case of any major crisis; the computer will do the rest. Peasants will intuitively decide their next move: in case they're idle and there's a building being constructed in their vicinity, they will automatically go to help their piers, if a nearby building is damaged, they will start repairing it without you even noticing it. If you don't like them to act too intuitively, their intelligence can be turned off.
The combat is also a bit more complex. The combat efficiency of your soldiers will depend on their food supplies. Hence, if you want a proficient army, you have to develop strong economy and supply lines first. Food supplies in supply camps are spent quickly, so you have to establish caravan routes that will keep bringing resources to military outposts. The generals, whose characteristics determine the efficiency of your army on the battlefield, further enhance the combat system. Each of the generals is a historical figure with a complete biography, and twelve upgradeable characteristics and special powers. The possibility to use those generals as advisors in a certain field is yet another treat. For instance, if you proclaim a very intelligent general to be your science advisor; you will be able to build technical contraptions, which would otherwise be unavailable. You can give your generals titles of Public Security Officer (important if you have a lot of people in your cities), Sacrifice Officer (in charge of religious matters) and Administrative Affairs Officer, which enables diplomatic options.
A mixture of RTS and management sims, interesting solution for movement on the map;
Poor combination of the genres, few units, the story can be interesting only to the Chinese.