Heroes of Three Kingdoms (HoTK) is Perfect Entertainment’s latest game in its stable of free to play MMOs. In a slight departure from the rest of its games, Heroes of Three Kingdoms is historically based on the Three Kingdoms era of China, starting in A.D. 169 with the uprising of the Yellow Turban Rebellion and ending with the reunification of the land in 280, the kingdoms being Wei, Shu and Wu. Subsequently, the main gameplay feature of HoTK is that you get to play as a hero in one of these three kingdoms, and replay some of the greatest battles and storyline quests of the period.
HoTK’s campaign system is a recreation of these battles. “Players who are aware of this period of China’s history would find things in our world familiar to them,” said AJ Potter, Product Manager of Heroes of Three Kingdoms, “That isn’t to say that new players will be lost though, as the storylines are revealed in quest texts.”
“Did you watch John Woo’s Red Cliff?” asked PR Manager Jason Varden, “That’s one of the most famous battles of the Three Kingdoms era, and will be one of the battles you can participate in.”
Beginnings and Development
You start off as a soldier without an allegiance in HoTK and instead of a class, select a weapon to use. There are 18 different weapons and these range from halberds and hatchets, to scepter and spear, to gauntlets and talons, to bows and fans. Now, before anyone says “Wait-a-minit, I thought you said it was historically based?” Remember that this is Chinese history and legend. A fan is a physical representation of Chi or spirit and the practitioner of this martial art uses a fan instead of bare fists. “Use the force, Luke” is older than you think. Weapons are “grounded in reality” but some contain a little more myth and whimsy than others.
There are currently 80 levels planned and Perfect World Entertainment expects that players will take the first quarter of the game to develop their character and become familiar with the game. At level 20, PvP and campaigns begin. Then at level 40, players select a secondary weapon, creating a hybrid class that can be as versatile and different as a Bow and Gauntlet – Ranged and Hand-to-Hand combat.
Character development is found both in leveling your character as well as improving your weapon proficiency. All xp earned goes into a common pool. From there, you spend points in weapon proficiency which unlocks weapon specialization skills, or level your character which gives you access to more powerful equipment and skills.
Then there are mounts. What’s a Perfect Entertainment game without mounts and lots of them? In HoTK, they’ve restrained themselves to animals that were found in ancient China, such as the horse, elephant, bear, fox and water buffalo, even if not all of them were ever used as mounts. They did add the mythological Qilin and Chinese Lion, but there will not be any flying mounts. Yes, indeed, there were Chinese elephants, a sub-species of the Asian elephant that existed before the 14th century. The mounts can be upgraded statistically and visually. The elephant for example, starts off as a young calf and through training and upgrades, grows into a war elephant, a true behemoth. Mounts are not just a speed boost but are also used strategically in combat. Mounted combat skills are dependent on your weapon specialization and each different mount can also provides a different set of mounted skills.
The campaigns are based on historic battles and are heavily PvE, but as players progress, they will also participate in the mixed PvP and PvE. It’s not all straight out combat either, as there may be any number of quests built into the campaigns, so your party may be running the gauntlet of player as well as NPC enemies while trying to escort civilians to safety.
Other historic battles that are part of the campaign system include the Battle of Baidi, a final confrontation between the Kingdoms of Wu and Shu, which sounds to me ripe for mixed PvP and PvE or even pure PvP; the Battle of Tong Pass where the armies of Cao Cao (Wei kingdom) prevailed against the forces of Guanxi, the Battle of Yingchuan where the Yellow Turban (or Scarf) Rebellion were subdued by the Han armies, other historic battles are the Battle of Ziwu Gorge, Xiliang and Qixing.
“Pull out any of the major battles from Romance of the Three Kingdoms and we probably have it in game,” said AJ, “We’ve currently got 75 of them.”
These campaigns will run on a schedule announced on the website. Future expansions will add a naval war fare element to the campaigns to further round up the historical campaigns.
HoTK is a free to play game and here’s the interesting part. I had expected the usual health and mana potions, but I was told firmly “Fashion items, not weapons or equipment. No health potions.” The items for sale do make your character stand out though, and most are fashioned after the traditional outfits of famous heroes and personages of the era. Here is a fashion set of the famous general, Lu Bu. Pretty nifty. Historically accurate? Well as much as can be determined from woodcut prints of the guy dating to the time!
I found myself referring to historical texts and digging out my hefty copy of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms (in English) trying to write sensibly of some of the battles that are in HoTK. Players could simply jump in and play the game, or if they are interested in the backstory (indeed the history), check out KongMing.net which is dedicated to the novel and the history of the period.