Deckbuilder roguelikes have become all the rage, and that’s after the universal acclaim of a game like Slay the Spire. But what happens when you take the appealing gameplay of Slay the Spire and mix it with a historical motif? That’s what Three Kingdoms the Journey sets out to do. With taking the deck-builder roguelike elements of Slay the Spire; all set to the background of the ever-famous Yellow Turban Rebellion of the Three Kingdoms era. However, the question at hand is does that make it good? That’s where my Three Kingdoms the Journey Review comes in to help.
I want to take a second to thank the team for providing a key for the game, for our review.
Spoiler Warning: Now while it is hard to spoil history, we will go over how it plays out in this game, if ever so minuscule. So here is your warning.
The story of Three Kingdoms is kinda hard to retell as it’s based on historical events. Of course, that’s where dramatization comes into play and adds to the legend of it. The era known as the Yellow turban rebellion and the Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a very popular era of Chinese history. So much so it has actually become a pop culture feature in many games and movies. Such as the iconic and long-running Dynasty Warriors series.
However, the story here takes that still dramatization; but still stays relatively true to the tale as we know from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms tale. It allows you to choose from three factions. One consisting of Liu Bei and his brothers Guan Yu and Zhang Fei as well as others. You can play as Cao Cao and his advisors Zhao Hou Dun, Zhao Hou Yuan, and others. And lastly Sun Jian the first Emperor of Eastern Wu and his children Sun Ce and Sun Quan.
As you progress through the areas you fight each of the legendary generals of the Yellow Turban army Zhang Jiao, the General of Heaven, Zhang Bao, the General of the People, and Zhang Liang, the General of Earth. All culminating with the impression and defeat of the Yellow Turbans.
It’s a story that is well known and the story here doesn’t change or do anything vastly different. While that’s not a bad thing, it isn’t necessarily good either. It is a standard affair that plays out like we know and doesn’t experiment with the story so it doesn’t offer anything new.
This safe approach doesn’t hurt the story but it certainly doesn’t help it either. Overall if you are a fan of the Three Kingdoms Era and know the history it is generally gonna be what you know.
Three Kingdoms the Journey has a rather unique stylized art style. For the game’s visuals, it uses what can be closely compared to a calligraphic water paint style. From the heavy outlines to the small details of the Generals, everything looks like a painting.
It makes the world feel vibrant, while also creating a wonderful background. With the characters and enemies to contrast against everything pops out. It’s almost comparable to what you would see in many animated films within the style, such as Kung Fu Panda or Mulan. This helps to make the game feel more like a living painting and story being retold.
The way this art persists, not just in the characters themselves but in the art of the cards as well. Each utilizes that same calligraphic art style. This persisting art makes everything stand out. And makes the visual appeal of this game worthwhile.
Sound design is something that can help to enhance one experience and enjoyment of a game. In Three Kingdoms it uses a lot of music, inspired by traditional Chinese performers. It is used a lot in the overworld to help create a sense of wonder about the atmosphere.
The only thing is that there isn’t a lot of music throughout the game in general. It is a very muted game in general. It has what seems to be only one song for combat with small variations. The voice lines are also very few and are spoken in a Chinese dialect. And since most of the game is read through the text, these lines are only in combat and simply repeat every so often.
Now the sounds within the game itself are rather bland. The game does add some effects when activating cards for defense, or playing damage. However, it takes again a very tame approach. It almost takes the same minimalistic stance that Slay the Spire does. Which can work when done right. However, at times in Three Kingdoms the Journey, it doesn’t feel that way and while it doesn’t hurt the game, it doesn’t stand out either.
The gameplay loop takes a very similar approach to what can be expected of these Deck Builders. You start by choosing a faction and the general from that faction who acts as your “class” with each faction and offers different skills from the generals. Adding special buffs and unique cards to use, however on a cooldown afterward.
Each faction has different approaches to combat, and Cao Cao and his focus is on drawing and building strength through this. Sun Jian focuses on Discarding cards to power up generals or allow direct damage and empowering his cards. Lastly, Liu Bei focuses on simple strengthening, powering up, and more command points than others.
Each has its advantages and disadvantages depending on how you build your deck. From here players will battle through three separate kingdoms to take down each of the generals of the yellow turban army. Choosing between different locations that offer different upgrades and cards.
This is all mixed in with random events you can choose that can lead to unknown bonuses, such as cards, resources, or new generals. The game is very much what you’d expect from a game in this genre. thanks to it following something so well known it feels very familiar to anyone who has played a game like this.
While adding in just enough differences from its time period to make it feel different. While at times I wish they would’ve tried more and added more. For what was used it is enjoyable.
My Three Kingdoms The Journey review was a pleasant time. As someone who absolutely loves deck builders and roguelikes. This game will absolutely stick out to you all. Taking that very similar gameplay and using it in a context that people know.
Putting it in a very popular era piece such as the three kingdoms, with the dramatized history many know. It makes for a very fun play, however, if you don’t care much for the history or set pieces; this game may not offer anything new or unique enough for some.
I want to thank the team for providing us with a key for this Three Kingdoms The Journey Review. If you wish to play the game yourself you can find it on Steam. As well if you want more check out our other recent reviews.
Hey everyone hope you enjoyed my thoughts and breakdowns in the article above. You can keep up with my thoughts & shenanigans by following me on all my social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Twitch, & Youtube.