MMO News, Reviews & Opinions
- Written by kefkah
It has been a while since I have sat down at my pc and actually played an MMO, mainly due to the lack of interest I had in any of the titles out there. So when I heard that someone finally got around to making a mmorpg out of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms story, I actually got excited and downloaded the client within minutes of reading about it. My excitement was compounded by what I read while I waited for the client to install itself – especially with the news of game revisions and updates.
Now before I go on, I guess I should briefly explain my history with RotTK. You see the whole setting and story is based off a Chinese book about the warring kingdoms within its borders during 206 B.C. through 220 A.D. Many famous and heroic personalities emerged and fought battles of epic proportions with all the twists on intrigue and subterfuge that one could expect during such warfare. I came to know this storyline through Koei’s initial NES game release which took its name from the book. You could relive these famous moments and meet these heroes and villains first hand in a mostly text based strategy game that demanded much and forgave little. In all, I have owned no less than 4 versions of the game and conquered Chinaseveral times on each one…with relish. Especially so when it happened to be Cao Cao whose head happened to be before my sword in order to rule all.
With that in mind, let me start on THIS telling of the story.
The Game Starts:
Three Kingdoms: Clash of the Feudal Lords puts you right in the middle of the saga where there were three solid powerhouses fighting each other. The kingdoms are Wei, Shu and Wu and you can choose to be a citizen of either of the three. I chose Wei as it is Cao Cao’s land and despite my long standing enjoyment of killing him – I respect this history behind it. Interestingly enough, on this game’s SOLE server, Wei is the least populated by players. This fact does come into play fairly soon into playing the game.
Three Kingdoms offers 4 base classes to start off with. Warrior, Sage, Archer and Craftsman. These classes upgrade at level 20 and then allow you to diverge into 2 more specialized areas at levels 40, 60 and 80. Interestingly enough, all are capable of pvp though craftsman is easily the deadliest of the lot. More on that later.
I played the warrior (tank) and the sage (caster) classes during my time with the Three Kingdoms. The warrior makes for a fine beginner character to get the hang of the game and its system of play. Once I learned what not to do, I found that the sage offered a style that was more fitting to my kind of game play. Both could solo for many of the quests and I had more success in PVP with the sage than I did with the warrior.
The game starts you out in your standard starter city which is fairly simple to navigate. The areas to it are wide open adjoining squares with the npcs seemingly lining along the walls. You have your trainers, merchants, officials and transportation vendors all within reach as the city is a really three large squares laid out (at least in Wei’s Ye) in a J pattern. Pretty soon, you notice the large question marks above various npcs’ heads and you click on then to pull up the interface that then allows you to hit the quest button on their menu and opt in on the one that they offer.
The quest interface is problematic as you really don’t have any details about it until you accept the quest. There are two text screens with various storyline filler but no details until you accept the quest. Then it tells you what you are to kill or what to do. So you really have no choice but to accept it. And even then, an important location or clue is usually in those two text screens and by the time you realize it, it’s too late. In order to get that detail, you have to drop the quest and repack it back up to get said info.
The quests themselves are even more troublesome. Many are simple – seek and destroy this many of this person. Those are actually simple; quick and to the point save for anything with the word ghosts in it or the label Heroic. Heroic is a category of quests that are the equivalent to WoW’s ELITE tags. The first one you run into is the s&d Deng Mao one. Find this bandit and kill him. You get it at level 9 and unless you have a great knowledge of the game and access to some handy resources, you honestly will not put a dent in this man until you are past your 20’s. This is not to mention the fact that he is surrounded by a swarm of npcs who spawn at high rates and cause trains like it was an art form. Beating him will yield a pony which is actually a pretty nice item in the game. Still, the mission needs to be tuned quite a bit for the casual player.
Another issue with the quests is when it comes to quest related drops. I played a solid 4 days, grinding like no one’s business and there were three low level quests that I never completed because the drops for said quests happen as if they were rare items. To give you an idea, coal and iron nuggets are needed in numbers of like 10 and 20 respectively for the quests. I have between my two characters a total of 7. And I am well past those quest level ranges now. To give you an idea of how rare those drops are – one of those nuggets cost 5k on the flea market in the game. This is as much as say a decent piece of armor or weapon. Clearly, Uforia needs to listen to the players and fix these drop rates because these are simple side quests that reward little but require obsessive effort.
Targeting and Combat System:
Tied, of course, to everything, including quests in Three Kingdoms is the targeting and combat system. The controls are in a WASD format with the standard numerical hotkeys and f1-10 additional slots. You cannot change these controls and so if you are not a fan of WASD – the game will instantly not be for you. Yes, you can target and move with the mouse but the areas separating characters and targets are hard to differentiate at best. Clicking for anything such as loot pickup, targeting or movement especially while in combat isn’t an option. It’s a quick way to achieve death.
And this brings up one of the biggest flaws in the game. You can tab to bring up the nearby npcs, objects or allies. But you then must click with your mouse on the name you want if you do not want the closest person or object. The game says that shift allows you to move up and down the list but I really had no luck with this. It was frustratingly mad to try and target a specific npc in a swarm in a reasonable amount of time – all the while your hp is ticking away. Were they to allow for tabbing through the nearby enemies or allies, the in battle targeting would be greatly improved. In PVP, this shows more than ever. You can literally be one-shotted and die in the time it takes to find the target you want. I went through about 5 contests like this before I actually got a hit off.
Figured now was a good time to bring this up. The game offers battleground pvp games of various sorts every hour (or more) that are divided up by levels. The system comes up and makes an announcement and gives you three minutes to decide whether or not to join that battleground contest. It is here you win honor and tickets for items as well as bragging rights. The games range from Elimination battles to Capture the Flag and are available for players starting around 10th level.
While this could be a great source of fun for the game, it turns out to be yet another of its frustrating flaws. Class imbalance pretty much make crafters (yes, I said crafters) kings of PVP. Seasoned warriors fell beneath their imbalanced might and four of them on one team took out nine of us. I wouldn’t have much of an issue with this if you didn’t get one-shotted a lot. I mean nearly ever single time. I believe pvp should allow for at least a small amount of time to witness your demise. Not so in Three Kingdoms. You not only do not see the damage, you don’t even know who killed you or where they were at.
Before I come off like some whiny care bear, I would like to clarify that I actively played on WoW on a PVP server. I was no elite but was well respected in PVP and especially the battlegrounds. I earned every win and every kill and knew how to play against other players. I also did some PVPing in SWG (as much as a ranger/rifleman could do at any rate) and so I say these things about Three Kingdoms knowing full well how to mix it up in pvp.
I had my butt handed to me too quickly as a warrior so I switched to a sage and the bumped up his hp to an insane rate via my warrior’s money. This way when I got into combat, I could not only hit very hard with my spells but also take more than one hit. This idea proved right as I now last about 2 hits and get off about 1 to 2 spells before dying. I could spam the potion button but remember that targeting system? I needed more sets of hands to be able to keep it all going ... well that or a cheat…
Of Cheating and Bots:
As with many newer mmos especially western ones, there will be certain amounts of cheating and botting. Three Kingdoms is no exception. You find a healthy number of bots slaughtering the incredibly jacked up spawns and for the most part, it does little harm as they cannot possibly keep up with the amount of npcs that pop up. Though that being said, Uforia has recognized its botting flaws and issued a "no bot" edict. http://forum.uforia.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=1691&SID=939a42cz8925b267dc935526d1c536cd
The real issue is with the cheats being used. Some players openly admit it while others show it through their reactions that are nigh on superhuman. I would be angrier at them for using the cheats but as the controls cannot be altered; there simply is little way to do what you need to in the time required. Though in the case of PVP and Battlegrounds, it is very much an annoyance and a turnoff. Hopefully, Uforia finds a way to stop this.
The Character System:
There are 6 stats that affect your character and how well they do in Three Kingdoms. Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Luck. Each class focuses on two being the primary and a third being a secondary stat that needs to be improved. Warriors, for example, need to focus on STR and Con with some love in the Dex cat for improved armor class. Every level you get two points to go into these stats – allotted as you see fit. Word of advice is to stick true to the primary and grab items, armor and weapons that improve them. I have never seen a game where one or two more points make such a difference. Pretty much your success in the game is dependent on the numbers found in them.
You will fail as a warrior if you don’t eat, sleep and breathe all that pertains to STR and CON. Your weapon and its damage matters little. Its about the stat. Jack your CON up with an item and you have a sage with more HP than a warrior twice his level. I focused my sage on INT and was hitting far harder than my warrior could that was about 10 levels higher than him. Oh, I am sure, there is a guru (I met quite a few) who can easily dispute that with their miracle way that allows them to beat Deng Mao at 12th (I beat him at 24th) but they are not the norm. Nor should the system in place that allows this simplistic game play be the norm as well. You can imagine what a well funded new character can do with the right items. I know I can as my sage started with 200k at his disposal.
Leveling is pretty easy in this game and not for the right reasons. While certain quests give you a ton of experience, grinding is king. But more to the point, grinding the right npcs is king. You see, even at higher level quests, you targets yield less than certain other mobs on the map. Some being just outside the city gate mere minutes away from the nearest trainer, while others in a corner of an island. These easy to kill creatures (some of which were one hit) gave me 4xs the amount of xp that the higher level quest targets did. And better still, they repopped nearly with each one I killed.
What this means is that at some point, you stop questing because you realize that it is ineffective to continue to do so. You simply sit back, tab and press 1 and repeat until you level. One area allowed you to level every 10 minutes and gave you 1000 gold per kill. So why on earth would you explore or quest? Therein lies the issue, you eventually and subconsciously become geared towards PVP because the PVE is pretty much grinding mindlessly with no plot to lure you in. The human opponent and their challenge is the only thing you have to look forward to. That is unless you are facing craftsmen.
This is a major positive. The people I encountered were some of the most helpful individuals I have ever met online. They especially liked completing your quests for you. Level 9 and need Deng Mao killed? Shout it out and suddenly a level 30+ would drop by, add you to the party, kill Mao by himself without you even being there and BAM you got your pony. Need 200k? Just give a shout. They have millions. Disagree with them in the Battleground? No issue because once you were out, you could ask them for cash or help and they would be there.
Don’t get me wrong, you had your element of snobs and uberelites. KSing was present and cross zone bickering was a constant. But still, I have to say the players I met were some of the friendliest and most helpful out there. Though my one complaint is that many who play are doing because they played Dynasty Warriors. Said game is a fighting series like that of Tekken with the history of RotTK. Few if any have played the strategy game and if they did, they hated it. The age difference shows in these discussions with the younger more geared towards the fast paced fighting game. Oddly, I liked every player who admitted to liking the original game.
This is easy. There isn’t any. I happened to be on when a GM actually showed up. Many of the long term players were amazed. They stated that it had been months since they had seen any staff online. The GM admitted that to being fact and said that he was recently hired as GM and was in training. Outside that one moment, I never saw a GM again. Even when the chatbox lights up with a botting accusations. One server and no GMs is not the kind of stat you wish to have.
I put this towards the end because I am a big believer that if the game play is good enough, graphics quality is optional. Three Kingdoms graphics can be compared to the game, Neverwinter Nights. They are not mind blowing and the shadowing is odd but they suffice and allow you to see the detail of your various armors and robes…if your screen angle is close up.
Perhaps this is one of the positives to the game as it can be played even on a low end Dell laptop and suffers no real lag or graphics issues. This fact is one of the things that I think helped WoW achieve its success. WoW before the overhaul could literally be played on almost any pc. I can imagine it is the same for this game.
I made it to 25thwith each character I played and quickly lost interest afterwards. The western mmo is for a certain segment of people and unfortunately, I am not one of them. Even more so, I believe an mmo should rid its initial levels of bugs before it expands its game. Clearly this is not the case here as class imbalances of game breaking proportions exist in the game and take away from the battleground pvp features. Quests are bugged with some not working and others a mess due to drop rates and difficulty. The premise and some of the other features such as the hireling system (sorry, I did not try it as I didn’t see a single player using it nor did it even seem relevant) are great in concept but fail because of the overall faults of this clearly rushed to the public game.
One thing I would also like to mention is that the game is Free To Play meaning the developers want to earn money using the RMT method. Oddly enough, I saw no reason to purchase anything for any reason. Cash was easily accessible so I could buy crafted items and I really did not see one thing that I really couldn’t live without. They might want to reevaluate this issue otherwise they are running a game at their expense.
MMO Grade: C (D if it had a monthly subscription)