Real-time strategy game concepts don't change much from title to title -- it's the nature of the genre. Worker units begin by collecting basic resources to build more advanced structures and eventually more advanced types of military units and then forces are gathered for the inevitable huge fight. It's a tested formula that's been used to great effect many times and often the success of a specific game hinges on how well the designers flesh out this skeleton. Fate of the Dragon is mostly successful because it takes the formula and individualizes the parts.
The most important element that makes this game fun is the level of control you have over the actions of your town -- it's detailed but easily mastered. It adds a few variables to the equation already used by games like WarCraft, resulting in a new layer of complexity and a bigger challenge. For example, the Farm only produces raw materials for food and not the food itself -- for that, you need a workshop. You have to staff the workshop (and many other buildings) with laborers before end products can be produced. Laborers are sent to the building and, in this case, assigned to make either food or wine.
Another example is production of military units. A laborer can be sent to any one of three barracks housing swordsmen, archers or pikemen and trained as a sergeant, at which point he is able to fight. Once trained, he can be mounted on horseback, which greatly increases his effectiveness. If, for any reason, he is needed as a laborer again, he can be turned back into one for as long as necessary and, in addition, his training as sergeant stays with him so he can quickly be drafted for combat again.
These two examples help illuminate the point that Fate of the Dragon is detailed enough to keep you thinking on several levels, without demanding an obsessive-compulsive disorder to enjoy the experience.
The main flaw of the game is the lack of noticeable diversity between the missions. There's always a rival city somewhere nearby of vital strategic importance that must be conquered as quickly as possible. Sometimes boats are necessary, at times there are two cities to conquer instead of one and so forth. Although the back-story to each one is unique, the way it plays out is basically the same every time. There just simply isn't much variation.
The sound and graphics do much to create an individual, engaging atmosphere. Units acknowledge your commands in Chinese, not in Chinese-accented English, a detail for which all should be grateful. And the buildings, units and landscapes all are well designed.
The level of detail and control offers many ways to complete a mission and the differences between them are subtle but significant. Unfortunately, this is counterbalanced by the lack of diversity in the missions. To a certain extent, when you've played one, you've played them all. Despite this notable shortcoming, strategy fans will have a lot of fun playing through this engrossing historical epic at least once. And, of course, there's always multiplayer after that.
Graphics: Nice building and terrain design.
Sound: Nothing revolutionary but good -- especially when the military units shout in Chinese.
Enjoyment: Individual missions are very enjoyable but too similar.
Replay Value: Lack of variety between missions makes enjoyable replay unlikely, although multiplayer is an option.
People who downloaded Three Kingdoms: Fate of the Dragon have also downloaded:
Dragon Throne: Battle of Red Cliffs, Romance of The Three Kingdoms 4: Walls of Fire, Theocracy, Romance of the three Kingdoms 3, Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos, Warcraft 2, Stronghold: Crusader, Tzar: The Burden of the Crown
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