When you do set out to conquer the land, you'll get a break from the menus in the form of a turn-based strategy battle system. You can choose to let the computer fight the battle and just wait for the results, but you'd be missing out on the best part of the game. Once you assign a force to attack a city, you'll march to the city and a battle will commence. To win a battle you have to destroy the main gate of the city, destroy all of the enemy troops, or defeat the commanding officer. There is a 30-round limit to fulfill one of these conditions, which keeps the battles from becoming tiresome. The turn-based battle system is similar to that of any other turn-based strategy game in that you move on a grid and attack enemies with various types of units. There's a rock-paper-scissors dynamic to the battles--foot soldiers are strong against archers, archers are strong against mounted soldiers, and mounted soldiers are strongest against foot soldiers. This makes for fairly well-balanced battles because it means a small force still sometimes has a chance against a much larger force. Once you breach the city walls, the battle continues within the city, where you'll have to defeat any remaining enemies.
In addition to battles and administrative tasks, you can also participate in one-on-one duels and debates against other officers. These are simple minigames, and for the most part your participation is voluntary. By winning duels and debates you can capture enemies, force a new diplomatic policy on another officer, or just increase your fame. The duels and debates are simple and usually brief, but they offer a welcome departure from the rest of the game.
Whether you're in a duel, on the battlefield, in your castle, or just exploring the countryside, you won't see much in the way of impressive graphics. The character portraits and backgrounds have a colorful hand-painted look, but the rest of the graphics are strictly utilitarian. But that works just fine for a strategy game where most of your time is spent reading text and checking stats anyway. There's only so much that can be done to dress up a menu screen, so fancy visual effects take a backseat to the interface, which is perfectly acceptable for a game of this type.
The graphics aren't great, but they're functional for a strategy game.
The music and sound effects are also about standard for a Romance of the Three Kingdoms game. The soundtrack is appropriately dramatic, with heavy chanting and powerful war drums, but it's kept subtle enough that you won't realize it's there until you find yourself humming one of the tunes. The sound effects are few and far between, and most take place during battle. You'll hear the same few sounds over and over, but again they fit the need here, and they aren't repeated to the point of becoming annoying. There are no voice-overs in Romance of the Three Kingdoms X; the dialogue is text only.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms X may not be quite the grand, celebratory leap forward you might expect from such an anniversary, but in keeping the gameplay familiar Koei offers perhaps the best reward to the longtime fans who have kept the series alive for more than 15 years. This game probably won't convert you if you aren't already interested in the strategy or history of it, but if you can get past the bare-bones presentation, you'll easily get wrapped up in the deep strategy and intriguing storyline this game has to offer.