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Rob Zacny

Episode 461: Three Kingdoms as a Setting

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Three Moves Ahead 461:

Three Moves Ahead 461


Three Kingdoms as a Setting
It's rare, but sometimes companies that aren't Koei make a game about the Three Kingdoms. During the runup to the new Total War game, we thought it would be fun to talk about the Three Kingdoms as a setting and the games from that past that have portrayed it well. Are you ready for a deep dive into Three Kingdoms history? No, like, a really deep dive? This week T.J., Rowan, Austin Walker, and guest Brian "Lu Bu" Smawley talk about their favorite factions, historical tidbits, and video game adaptations of this rich period of history.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Dynasty Warriors, Dynasty Tactics, Total War: Three Kingdoms, Kessen II, Strike Force

 

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I've been waiting for this episode ever since 3MA talked about Nobunaga's Ambition. I'm glad that you guys finally managed to put a panel together for this show :)

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I can only imagine how confusing this show must be for the listeners who never played a single Romance of the Three Kingdoms games or never payed much attention to this part of history. There are so many, many named characters to keep track of, many of which have pretty similar names and the names by itself are very much different than what we're used to listening in the West. I'd bet that this is the biggest challenge for someone trying to get into this part of Chinese History.

 

I have only played Dynasty Warriors 6 back on the PS2 and I vividly remember Lu Bu's campaign where he was just fighting with everyone in search for a Worthy Opponent but none could match his might and, in the last mission, the Three Kingdoms combined forces to try and stop his rampage. An Epic conclusion to the game.

Also, there's something to be said about the different evolutionary paths (for lack of a better word) that the Western strategy market and the Eastern market took. That can be seen in games like Nobunaga's Ambition (which the panel discussed some time ago), Dynasty Warriors Empire and the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series. 

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I know nothing about the subject and I thought the episode was a hoot, mostly because it was a great panel. Even if I don't get all of the references, I enjoy listening to people that are knowledgeable and passionate about their subject matter.

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Just watching the time lapse map on Wikipedia, I don't know how you could have a systemic 3 kingdoms game with a historical outcome.  There are so many factions at start, and so many also seem to flip from one colour to another at different points- presumably from re-organization or new leadership, which is not typical in most strategy games.  I guess you would just ignore the pre-220 kingdoms outright.  Maybe the later era of strife, the 16 kingdoms, would be an interesting setting for a game also. 

Topographical_3K_gif.gif

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1
8 hours ago, Khan Khomrad said:

I can only imagine how confusing this show must be for the listeners who never played a single Romance of the Three Kingdoms games or never payed much attention to this part of history. There are so many, many named characters to keep track of, many of which have pretty similar names and the names by itself are very much different than what we're used to listening in the West. I'd bet that this is the biggest challenge for someone trying to get into this part of Chinese History.

I knew who Cao Cao was but that was about it.

 

It certainly looked like the guys were... passionate about this.

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Thanks so much for this one!

Halfway through this episode I said to myself: "Gee, I wonder if that old PC game set in China that I played as a kid was a Three Kingdoms game." Sure enough...(after some research) it was Romance of the Three Kingdoms II. 99% of that game went over my head - but it somehow left an impression. Thanks for helping to reignite that mere spark.

Cheers to Brian Smawley's recommendation of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms Podcast. I've started listening to that.

 

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Very good episode!

 

One thing that maybe help the setting to feel so unique, is that very few strategy games (until now, even now that something quite rare) are so character/staff based, where each character (not all, but most of them) feel unique and not just random names you are assigning here or there. This character driven design often give to strategy game a sense of drama, which is rare.

 

Fun fact, there is a somewhat old pc game, which tries to borrow a bit from Dynasty Warriors and mix it with some Age of Empire/Empire Earth style of RTS: Rise and Fall - Civilizations at War, it was I think one of the last game form Stainless Studios, directed by Rick Goodman (Empire Earth), the game features a quite unusual set of Factions: Rome, Egypt, Macedonia/Greece and Assyria, and the design tried to make them kind like in a Koei game, with some focus on begin fantastic, however it still trying too much to be "historical",  this lead to faction design with very mixed result.

 

Anyway, the gameplay was most an RTS with the typical Empire Earth zoom and heroes, however, you could for a short time take control of one hero and play it in very zoom in even further and play it an very limited imitation of a DW game,  unlike a true "musou" game (the term often used to describe a DW style of game) heroes felt very underwhelming, it lacked the flavor and style, and while you are fighting several unit at once you attack felt weak, most time felt that you are just bashing enemies shields and seeing the HP goes down. Still, walk around an RTS map like in third person game, climbing stairs (in sieges), boarding action (on ships, but I never see it by myself, only on screenshots) or just exploring a bit those building you or your enemy laid around, was cool.

 

The problem was, like I said, the faction and hero design was inconsistent, units still designed (most of them) like in an average RTS (or in other words, more historical), while heroes themselves shift in extremes, Assyria had the most fantastic designs, with if memories didn´t fail me, their hero holding a huge anime scythe, however you had the Romans which look very "default Romans" with Julius Caesar look very normal, but still hilarious seeing him mow down people with a bow or by ordering literal air strikes (I think that was his special power) and Germanicus, however looked very "germanic" with even a huge anime hammer. Macedonia/Greece had a very normal Alexander and Achilles as heroes, which, again if memory didn´t fail me, was a very normal design. Cleopatra goes around with two tiny daggers and a bow, Ramses was there too, but I have no recollection how he did look in the game.

 

 

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On 17/02/2019 at 2:05 PM, Valorian Endymion said:

Very good episode!

 

One thing that maybe help the setting to feel so unique, is that very few strategy games (until now, even now that something quite rare) are so character/staff based, where each character (not all, but most of them) feel unique and not just random names you are assigning here or there. This character driven design often give to strategy game a sense of drama, which is rare.

 

Fun fact, there is a somewhat old pc game, which tries to borrow a bit from Dynasty Warriors and mix it with some Age of Empire/Empire Earth style of RTS: Rise and Fall - Civilizations at War, it was I think one of the last game form Stainless Studios, directed by Rick Goodman (Empire Earth), the game features a quite unusual set of Factions: Rome, Egypt, Macedonia/Greece and Assyria, and the design tried to make them kind like in a Koei game, with some focus on begin fantastic, however it still trying too much to be "historical",  this lead to faction design with very mixed result.

 

Anyway, the gameplay was most an RTS with the typical Empire Earth zoom and heroes, however, you could for a short time take control of one hero and play it in very zoom in even further and play it an very limited imitation of a DW game,  unlike a true "musou" game (the term often used to describe a DW style of game) heroes felt very underwhelming, it lacked the flavor and style, and while you are fighting several unit at once you attack felt weak, most time felt that you are just bashing enemies shields and seeing the HP goes down. Still, walk around an RTS map like in third person game, climbing stairs (in sieges), boarding action (on ships, but I never see it by myself, only on screenshots) or just exploring a bit those building you or your enemy laid around, was cool.

 

The problem was, like I said, the faction and hero design was inconsistent, units still designed (most of them) like in an average RTS (or in other words, more historical), while heroes themselves shift in extremes, Assyria had the most fantastic designs, with if memories didn´t fail me, their hero holding a huge anime scythe, however you had the Romans which look very "default Romans" with Julius Caesar look very normal, but still hilarious seeing him mow down people with a bow or by ordering literal air strikes (I think that was his special power) and Germanicus, however looked very "germanic" with even a huge anime hammer. Macedonia/Greece had a very normal Alexander and Achilles as heroes, which, again if memory didn´t fail me, was a very normal design. Cleopatra goes around with two tiny daggers and a bow, Ramses was there too, but I have no recollection how he did look in the game.

 

 

 

I remember dabbling on Rise and Fall: Civilizations at war. It was such a weird, weird game. In general, the campaign missions felt big and sprawling but the game always felt small and unfinished. The unit roster for each faction consisted of only a few units which only have your vanilla + stats upgrade. Boats were buggy (as you'd expect from naval combat :p) and the heroes were pretty much the same. The biggest difference between them was the melee weapon as I believe all of them had a bow for ranged attacks and, if memory serves me right, each had 2 abilities + a passive. 

 

This game and Seven Kingdoms are two "weird" RTS's that I still hold hope to see covered in this show someday.  

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"Which one of these guys is Cyclops?"  Xiahou Dun, of course.  "Essence of my father, blood of my mother, I cannot throw this away!"

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