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Three Kingdoms Review by Arbiter

Having free time from seriously playing any one MMO has broadened my horizons to explore different game genres, systems and titles I would have otherwise never have played.

I’ve always been a fan of the Dynasty Warrior games developed/published by Omega Force and Koei, starting with the PS2 title, Dynasty Warriors 3. Soon after getting hooked, I found myself playing Kessen, Samurai Warriors, Dynasty Warriors: Empires, Xtreme Legends and several of the other spin offs and branches of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Feudal Japan legends.

With the knowledge of there being an MMO based on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, nevertheless a Martial Arts MMO, I was excited. I also took this knowledge with a grain of salt though, realizing that I wouldn’t see Zhao Yun demolishing an army of Wei soldiers or most likely many of my favorite characters, as I know them, because this project isn’t related to Koei’s depictions of them.

After a 1.2G download and over an hour of download failure building excitement, I installed the game, logged in and created my character.

That was the best part of the experience.

Game Overview

After logging in, you soon come to realize that the game functioned like any other MMORPG with the clichéd fantasy classes. There were Soldiers (warriors), Scouts (archers), Merchants (craftsmen) and Sages (mages). Anticipating the combat style, I chose a Scout. After choosing the character’s class, appearance and name, another menu prompts you to choose a kingdom.

This made me think the “big names” like Cao Cao, Liu Bei and Sun Quan would be giving commands from the main camps at the start of the game. I was also wrong about that.

Character Creation Screen, choosing a kingdom.

When you get in to the game, you are in the middle of a huge base camp. It’s not so much that the environment itself is large, but the camera is positioned far away from the player and the character model is unusually small for a 3D game.

Immediately noticeable, you will see that there was no opening FMV sequence or any explanation of what is going on for those who are not familiar with the story. You are an entry-level fighter who is told by the higher-ups to fight Yellow Turbans…at least this is what the quests say. The NPCs all seem extremely arrogant because the only useful information you can get out of them is about their own personal, and irrelevant, backgrounds.

The tutorial is almost nonexistent. Any player who chooses Three Kingdoms as their first MMO experience will be instantly confused and lost. There are a few hints as you get your first handful of levels, but they quickly disappear and the player is taught a swift and harsh lesson about self-responsibility.

Movement: For anyone who has played a fantasy MMO before, this game will function like that one…except worse. Characters can move around with either WASD key commands or by pointing and clicking the mouse cursor. The movement is haphazard at best, but each method serves its own purpose. Navigating around the environment can be irritating because most of what you’ll experience at low levels looks exactly the same.

Expect to see a lot of this.

Quests: Exploring the base camp didn’t give me a real feel for the game or the experience, because there were only two quests that I had unearthed and both of them weren’t necessary to the leveling process or game development. The quest division is also nothing special: hunting quests, delivery quests and gathering quests, although without those specific strata in-game. Red question marks indicate that a quest is available and blue exclamation points symbolize an NPC to talk to for quest advancement, completion or redemption.

Combat: As you will eventually stumble out in to the field to hunt the ambiguous Yellow Turbans, most will realize something else…it’s very hard to target them. It’s also very easy to kill them. Targeting requires clicking on the target to aim and again to attack them. This presents a problem because you can end up running towards the enemy if you mis-click. The TAB button is one of the useful features in this process because it opens up a list of the enemies in the area and by click on one of their names, they become highlighted and targeted. Since there are a lot of hunting quests at the start, this also allows a player to find enemies quicker because their names don’t appear over their heads unless changed in the option menu or targeted.

Combat is on an auto attack system without monster knockback. This resulted in most of my experience revolving around pointing, clicking and waiting. The players (and some mobs) have an EXTREMELY fast HP recovery rate too, which allowed me to sit still and tank Yellow Turbans as I pew-pew them to death.

Close quarters combat with an enemy.

This doesn’t always apply though. In areas where enemies start to multi-aggro, the situation can turn dangerous and can almost immediately end in death. Like most games, the enemy difficulty is symbolized by a color system. Unlike most games, it is shown by an emblem next to their name and not the color of the text. This is explained in the help menu (which will be discussed later) but not by any form of tutorial, which makes adventuring murky. Without thought, a player can wander to the nearby, higher level area with reckless abandon and immediately be slaughtered. Mobs that attack in groups will also chase the player through the field until they reach a safe location and reminiscent of FMMOs, players can be hit by melee and ranged attacks while escaping. This is resolved by the fact that the game seems to have a glitch where scouts can shoot through walls while enemies have to run around them.


Leveling: Levels come easily at the start of the game because the large amount each kill gives and the +2% experience buff from logging in. Within 15 minutes of spacing out, drinking Arizona Green Tea and being physically uncomfortable with how disappointed this experience was making me, I was already level 7. Quests at low levels are negligible because of how quickly levels come from killing field mobs and how easy it is to find equipment, which sells for more than quest rewards.

Stat points are awarded from leveling and can be distributed in the character menu. The stat points are permanently assigned after hitting the + button and there is no confirmation if the player mis-clicks. Skills can be bought from NPCs in town but the skill descriptions are nonexistent. The entire skill interface is a mystery to players who don’t do their research.


Diablo 2 Anyone?

In a shocking resemblance to online-compatible RPGs of lore, Three Kingdoms’ interface is nothing to be confused by…or so it seems. The problem with it is that none of the icons except those in the middle bar are explained, even by hovering over them or clicking on them. Most of the learning experience in this game is trial and error. Click on something, see what it does (if anything) and then move to the next icon or button. Help tips scroll through the chat box, which tell you to click H for help, the game’s most useful tool. This help menu, although informative, doesn’t make up for the lack of a proper tutorial and doesn’t cover all of the game’s features.

What made the experience more frustrating than any other aspect is that it is extremely difficult to hotkey anything. When I tried to hotkey “Heavenly Peaches”, a low level curing item, I instantly got confused. It wasn’t just drag and drop. It wasn’t click the icon and then click the corresponding empty key to place. Every attempt I made ended up with me dropping my peaches on the ground. I actually still don’t know how and when I asked passerby players, they didn’t know either. Skills can’t be used from the skill menu, so I just stuck with normal attacks.

Good thing I couldn’t unlearn skills by dropping them on the ground or else I would have.

The graphics of Three Kingdoms are nothing to gawk at, but also not very disappointing. They are routine style of any martial arts MMO I’ve played, minus the extravagant environments. In combat, character, skill and enemy animations are choppy and running can appear to be like watching a 3D episode of South Park. The graphics do not compliment the choppiness of the combat system and help make navigating the world even more frustrating. The mini maps live up to their name. Being so small, they might as well be nonexistent while the world map is too large and cluttered.

The “Mini” Map

The player characters do look cool, even in starter gear. The problem is most of the game will be played super zoomed out away from them, so these features cannot be properly appreciated.

Me as a Level 1 Scout

The waiting screens are beautifully illustrated though.

There isn’t much to say about the sound in the game. There are gongs. There are eastern Asian instruments involved. Most of the sound effects are grunting, weapon sounds and nature sounds. The birds chirping and whatnot can be pleasant, but much of the background music and sound effects are too tame to even be noticed.

Final note
My review of Three Kingdoms honestly only covers the basics of the game and only the beginner’s content. From this alone though, I completely lost motivation to continue playing, as much as I like the lore behind its creation. The controls, graphics, sound and even feel of the game were all weak. There are more cons than pros when considering this as a game choice. If you can bear with all these quality flaws, then be my guest and try it for yourself. When you’re trying to optimize the graphics of the game, or other options in the option menu, just keep in mind that you have to restart your game for them to take effect. I have never been so off-put by a game before so I don’t know if I should give it a number score. Play Three Kingdoms at your own leisure and risk, but keep in mind these statements, which are based in fact.

Final score: “Eh.”

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