Fascinating historical sim
Developers Koei are now widely known for their action titles like Dynasty Warriors and strategy games like Nobunaga's Ambition, which mix various genres with Eastern history, and Bandit Kings continues that theme. It is a strategy game that adds in role-playing elements, and is based on the classic novel Water Margin, being set in ancient China in extremely turbulent times. The player takes control of the titular bandits as they seek to bring down the evil Minister of War, with the objective of the game being to build up an army to defeat him before he can launch his own invasion. The game features the usual combination of strategy management, with things like taxes, weapon maintenance and civil unrest standing alongside hex-based, turn-based combat. A nice range of environments and troop types are available here, with ranged weapons, magic and duels all featuring heavily, while one of the more interesting elements is the option to choose how to deal with defeated enemies, with players able to recruit, imprison, exile or execute them depending on their mood and needs. The time limit imposed on the player also adds a nice challenge to the game, with only 30 years available for victory to be achieved. While the gameplay on display here might be a touch slow for some, for strategy and history buffs, this is highly rewarding game. There is a lot of depth both in the combat and the resource management, while the story is compelling, with a particularly noteworthy villain. The interface and presentation can be confusing at times, but if you persevere, then Bandit Kings is a thoroughly rewarding and enjoyable slice of historical fun. Check out the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series for more of Koei's brand of strategy.