This seventy dollar bundle is a nightmare for a simpleton gamer like myself to comprehend, but more than likely a blessing for those of you who are into, and fully understand historical strategy simulators. Supposing you are the latter type of gamer you'll be pleasantly surprised to find that Koei Tecmo's team spared absolutely no expense in regards to the presentation that coincides with the periodic happenings of the continued, 'Romancing of the Three Kingdoms" saga, and that with the accompanying DLC expansion the features are even more bountiful than they were initially. There's plenty of CG cutscenes to enjoy, modes of play to play through, and a new Fame system to benefit your favorite officers. Officers like the infamous Lu Bu who are included in all their glory and grandeur via their Dynasty Warriors, and Samurai Warriors likeness. Not only do you get all of that, but you can also create detailed events which you can then upload, and share with others across the globe. Events which can be as creative, and fan fictiony as you wish. As far as the core game goes your engagements will take you from the 'Yellow Turban Rebellion" forward through a hundred plus year span of political, and diplomatic turmoil in which you'll ultimately be tasked with micro-managing your given resources, your officer underlings, and the civilian populous under your guard.
When you first reach the main menu of RTK13, past the stunning cinematic intro, you'll gain immediate access to all in-game content supposing the game is fully downloaded on your console. That, and the DLC expansion content included in said offering. While you can choose any mode, or any menu you wish from the start it is best that you take a refresher's course regarding the given gameplay, especially if you haven't played an RTK game in a while. This can be done in the tutorial that is the "Hero Story/Side Story". The game actually urges beginners to play through the 'Hero Story' first to gain an understanding of the mechanics used within the main campaign, and that gamers who have played through the original game already play through the "Side Story" to understand the new features. In the "Hero Story" you'll follow a series of themed events that take in account specific time periods, specific officers, and specific conflicts. It is through these officers, and conflicts/situations that you must complete the given tasks at hand in order to move onto the next period event in the branching mode diagram. These short lived episodic chapters will clue you into the diplomatic, military, commercial, and political features which are each in themselves feature heavy. Things like meetings, deployment, patrol, duels, debates through select word choices (Think Danganronpa or Ace Attorney), and officer assignment will be explained away via textual dialogue, and onscreen character interaction. The latter of which mixes things up with CG cutscenes, panel art, and accompanying sound effects.
Paying close attention to everything in the way of instructional screens, to informational textual dialogue is necessary in order to properly complete each mission objective at hand. You'll definitely need to know the target officers, and objective locations given in each tutorial phase. Not only that, but you'll also need to understand the rather complex menu system that takes in account every statistic, and function imaginable. For the most part you'll be operating from your main city's hub while appointing officers, and military units to specified duties which will help to maintain peace, start wars, or even resolve conflicts. Things like population management, marriage, heritage, and commerce also come into play as you establish your officer's place within the Three Kingdom (Wei, Wu, Shu) realm. Priorities will usually include forming lasting and beneficial bonds (rapport), earning prestige, and boosting stats via deeds and given commands.
Beyond the "Hero Story" you can also take on the "Side Story" tutorial option to get acquainted to the new features regarding officer prestige. This includes the new "Fame System" which will have you earning rewards through battlefield, and non-battlefield achievements. Completing said achievements which range from keeping the peace to winning wars will basically level up your commanding officer, and gift them extra options in tending to their duties. Along with the "Fame System" comes the new "War Council" which will have you joining officers together to take on battlefield tasks. The battles in this game range from unit based skirmishes where troop type plays a role in effectiveness as well as naval battles, and full on warfare. The units in the core game can be trained by a commanding officer, and the officers under them to establish a troop type (Horse, Spear, Archer), and increase their effectiveness, or morale in battle.
Along with the core gameplay, and extended DLC options comes a full fledged event editor mode in which you create the triggers (Occur), individual events, and outcomes (Victory) for the main event at hand. You'll not only be able to edit the events themselves (Backgrounds, CG, soundtrack, sound effects, characters ...), but will also be able to edit officers down to the finest detail creating your own fan fiction within the second century China era. Things like duels, and bond meetings can be set into place, uploaded, and shared online via a network option. This feature alone extends the replay value tremendously. I actually had fun tinkering around with it creating a duel for marriage. I had a civilian woman named Juliet seeking her Lu Bu (Lol!). Of course the sky is the limit with what you can create here.
Aside from the given content Koei Tecmo was very generous in also gifting buyers several free pieces of additional DLC outside of the bundle which includes new officers, new CG scenes, and even soundtrack add-ons. Overall the bundle plus the extras is a very rewarding package deal for those who have the time to invest in long term character, and plot development through applied strategy. Dare I say it, RTK is a franchise that requires some serious dedication, and attention to detail. It trumps the content given in both Dynasty Warriors, and Samurai Warriors by a longshot. The detail is so complex that even after spending several hours of time playing through it I was still overwhelmed by the amount of information included in every aspect of the game. It is that big of an experience.
The Presentation ...
Contrary to what most gamers will likely believe RTK13 is not a dull game burdened purely by micro-management. It's a beautiful strategic campaign livened up by CG cutscenes, character inclusive panel art sequences, and a complimentary soundtrack that stays true to the historical theme. Between the animated duels, the equally animated debates between officers, and the various map interactions things are kept very interesting. Even the menu layout compliments the action onscreen. Added bonuses like officer portraits earned through gameplay add a unique touch to the experience at hand.
The Verdict ...
Though I doubt very highly I'll continue playing RTK13 beyond this review I will say on behalf of those of you who are diehard fans of the RTK franchise, and historical strategy simulators in general that this bundle will no doubt be a worthy addition to your collection. It is extremely content, and feature heavy. So much so that every little thing you do in-game will be met with extensions of said gameplay. It's like each mechanic has it's own set of features and functions within the Three Kingdom realm. Features within features, and all that jazz. There's plenty of eye candy for fans as well, and the event editor will no doubt fulfill your wildest fan fiction fantasies. Let me also not forget the new 'Fame System' which makes all of your officer efforts more worthwhile as well. I'll close in saying I was as impressed as I was baffled with this game. It's something that doesn't usually happen to me. The struggle to comprehend was real. For the reasons given though this game gets my approval, but only from the perspective of a reviewer who sees the potential for diehard fans to enjoy it. Only that.