By Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Anyone who has read my work might know by now that I love the Three Kingdoms Era of China. Ranging from roughly 187-250 or so AD, it was a time of turbulence and chaos, warlords vying to control the vast land of China. The characters depicted in both history and novel form have been portrayed in a variety of ways, most of them serious [we’ll ignore Kessen 2], but this is a much different telling. Kingdom Story tells the Three Kingdoms story in a light-hearted, comical way. The characters being adorable and small, befitting a mobile game, but in some ways true to their original depictions. My favorite example of this being Yuan Shu. Yuan Shu declared himself Emperor and was known to be shiesty, duplicitous, cowardly, but more importantly, a trickster. He deceived many, allies and enemies alike. So in this version of the story, he resembles a monkey, who is astride a horse, wearing the traditional [and I still say stupid looking] hat of the Han Emperor. It’s not a simple hack ‘n’ slash like Dynasty Warriors was, either.
Kingdom Story does use an automated combat system though, where groups of up to six characters do battle, utilize special moves and traits, and can create sickening combos and synergy, depending on what they can do/who they are historically. There are several modes to unlock as well, in addition to special events like Domination, where you conquer the Chinese cities and hold them for rewards. There are goals and targets to hit, and some cities will be too powerful for you to take in the early going. But it will be worth pursuing once you’ve had time to get into the game and level up your characters/Monarch. Yes, Monarch! You fight for one of the three factions, Shu, Wu, or Wei, and receive starting characters that befit that faction. You won’t likely start with Guan Yu if you follow Wu, et cetera. Everyone I can think of is represented, and even the crappiest one or two star character can become a force to be reckoned with. But if you want to collect certain characters [as I do] you’re going to want to put in a lot of time and effort.
So you picked a faction. Now what? You go through the story, of course! Starting with the Yellow Turban rebellion, each storyline has a map, and each map has levels that have 3 battles/stages to them. Characters fight, and you can easily turn on autobattle, which will utilize special abilities as soon as the meter fills up. It’s really standard fare for an action-RPG on mobile, but the synergy/combos are easy to figure out.
There’s a collections tab that shows a variety of groupings/pairings that have buffs/benefits to give if they are together, and in the pre-battle menu if there’s an exclamation point on it, you can press your finger there to see what abilities you have that will combo together for deadly results.
The stages are very standard fare: fight officers/soldiers, and the final stage will have a boss. You can get up to three stars on a stage, and three more for the Elite/Expert version. The normal and elite map both have rewards you can collect based on your star collection. The game will hold your hand a bit and suggest things for you to do to help you learn the game which is definitely helpful. But is there more to this game than simply fighting through stages? Of course there is! You have a main city to develop as well, which is the source of food for your army, skill books to upgrade/learn abilities, and so much more.
You start with a small walled area, made of wood and a few complexes. You can clear land, for a price, and tear down those walls and place new ones up to hide your farms, mines and more behind them. You can also upgrade the walls from that wood to stone, which appears to primarily be cosmetic at this point at least. You can upgrade structures, based on your Monarch level. You can upgrade your stronghold to level 2 at 20 Monarch, and then you can upgrade your structures a bit higher, which does take time, like any building game. You can speed it up with currency, or you can wait it out. Speaking of food, those farms are incredibly important. As time goes on, you can get gold from mines/food from the mines, and that’s how you go through stages.
Instead of an “Energy System” you have a Food System. Using the food gives a few stat bonuses and lets you get into the heat of battle. You can also battle stages repeatedly, whether it’s 3 or 50 times, however. . .it will NOT auto fight those battles. I started a 50 battle, and it slowly plods through them, one at a time, and that’s nightmarish. I was afraid that my phone might melt if I left it on for fifty battles. Please, consider auto doing those. Especially for how much they cost to do! But it does seem like the longer you last, the better the rewards are at the end. There are also PVP Modes, where players compete for prizes, and a Survival Mode where characters cannot be reused. Thankfully there is a huge roster of characters to unlock, upgrade and evolve so building a vast army never gets old.
If you have two copies of a character, you can upgrade them to a higher tier by combining them, you can sacrifice characters to gain exp, or use different characters of the same or even lesser rarities, to increase the character’s power. There are so many damn different ways to become powerful, but thankfully the game will explain these as they become possible. However, this is still a mobile game. Yes, there are microtransactions; free games need these to turn a profit. But there is the small matter of the game beating you over the head with them. Everytime you log in, they will hit you with like seven advertisements, but at least you can “turn them off for the rest of the day.” This is sort of annoying, but at least they let you opt out for a day.
There are plenty of scrolls out there to summon new heroes to your team, or you can spend currency, not to mention your free ones for the day. But special event summons will cost you a few in-game duckets. It’s not hard to get them via achievements and gameplay though, so take heart. It’s a small price to pay, and I don’t think it’s going to be pay to win at all. You can get tons of damn soldiers to sacrifice to your better characters, and put in match-winning officers. However, it IS pay to go faster, to unlock more characters and better items. Speaking of equipment, you get pieces of gear from matches, and you merge them to get cool new stuff for your characters. And Skill Books come from your city, and can level up officer skills. Some of them can only be unlocked with higher character rating [stars].
To Achieve Hegemony
I have to say, this is probably one of the most fun mobile games I’ve played in a while. It took an engaging story and made it funny, entertaining, and will certainly not alienate people who do not know the story. It’ll tell the Three Kingdoms era tale in a great way filled with clever jokes, historical bits, and simple, easy to get into combat. It’s not something that will take a lot of time to learn, but will require a lot of time to invest into it to be powerful. If you aren’t interested in doing PVP/online challenges, that’s not going to be an issue. But if you want to PVP, I have the feeling you’re going to have to be a whale, or to spend a lot of time in. Do bear that in mind!
+ Three Kingdoms Story done in a comical way.
+ Not required to PVP, can just play the game and love the story.
+ Lots of synergy, combos, and tons and tons of historical characters.
– It IS pay to go faster for Dominion/PVP.
– Ads are more than a little heavy-handed.
– Newcomers might not know the characters and feel confused on who they should get, star ratings aside.