Diplomacy, intense large scale battles, and political territory management are some of the things you’ll find in this Total War Three Kingdoms review.
Let’s get one thing straight out of the way; Total War games are simply a blast to play. Each entry in this multi-award winning and long-running series primarily changes the setting, factions and usually adds minor changes. This time around, Three Kingdoms is set on ancient China, where the most epic and memorable battles are waiting to be fought. Keep reading this Total War: Three Kingdoms review to find out if this latest entry is worth a conquer.
The inevitable corruption
Corruption and greed for power may seem a trendy thing nowadays, but the truth is both have started some of the biggest conflicts in history, and not just recently.
Trying to explain the game’s plot and the historical context on which it is based is a bit of a difficult task, due to the complexity of the period and the number of people involved. In order to avoid spoilers and to summarize it, let’s just say that the conflict begins when Dong Zhuo kidnaps the underage emperor of the Han Dynasty, therefore controlling all power.
Previously, every Warlord -heads of the different regions of China- had received a greater power, precisely to fight the Yellow Turban Rebellion, born and fueled by the general unhappiness of the population towards the leaders. This is where the campaign begins, and there are two ways of playing it; Romance and Records.
‘Romance’ focuses on a more mythological and idealized vision of the past, present in the famous novels. To serve as an example, Guan Yu, the famous Chinese warrior is considered a Deity, the God Of War… Yeah, but not this one. This campaign mode features insane damage and skills for the different warlords, as well as the brand new duel mechanic and some tweaks that differ from the classic Total War games campaign.
‘Records’ is the more historically accurate approach, therefore relying less on fantasy in favor of proven facts. This campaign mode plays much more like the traditional Total War campaign everybody loves.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms
Creative Assembly must know already that they have a ‘magic formula’ on their Total War games. This could be pretty much the excuse to avoid the risk of adding new gameplay mechanics or drastic changes and yet, despite that, they did it. Yes, it’s way easier to play it safe and do fan service but evolution is required sometimes.
This evolution comes in the shape of substantial changes in the way you control the overall strategy map and minor changes on the battles themselves. This may seem a bad decision for some but, trust me, it works like charm.
Let’s start addressing these changes. Factions are the first and most immediately noticeable change. Instead of having different Factions to choose from, Three Kingdoms offers a huge number of playable Warlords, each with their own bonuses and skills among other variables.
The way armies are deployed on the map has been significantly reduced in size and number on the early stages of the campaign. Additional deployable armies are unlocked through the main character level progression, and each army can have up to 3 Warlords – aka Generals- commanding it.
Warlords play a huge role; each one has a class and different personality attributes that are used to measure the outcome of potential relationships between both allies and enemies, creating an additional layer of happiness and relationship management.
On the Romance campaign modes, Warlords are particularly important as they bring a unique feature to this campaign mode; duels. Duels are basically 1v1 fights with enemy Warlords, followed by a strict code of honor. This code of honor prevents the interfering of allies and enemy troops until there’s a winner and a fallen.
I can’t deny it took some time to get used to some of these changes I’ve mentioned, but luckily, it didn’t take me that long. As I played this last entry I came back and forth to other Total War games like Total War Shogun 2 and Total War Warhammer and I had no trouble switching my mind between the old and the new ‘controls’.
Visually, at first glance, there’s a big impact as most of the UI and menus have been completely changed, fitting and accommodating to the new thematic climax. Everything is more organized now, but, being used to the chaotic menus of the previous titles, it does take some time to find everything you need. Funny, isn’t it?
Graphics wise, the game looks stunning and runs spectacularly good. The size of the campaign map is huge -after all, it’s the map of China- and that means conquering will take a bit longer than expected but, on the other hand, the ‘slow paced’ military expansion will allow you to enjoy every second of it. The art style of Three Kingdoms is amazing; the campaign map feels like it was made using the oil on canvas technique, and it really suits the game.
In-game battle maps are varied on size and setting, and gorgeous to stare at. The attention to detail and the strategic possibilities on each one of these are the highlight here. In my opinion, Three Kingdoms features some of the best battle maps of the franchise and I’m sure most of the community would agree on this.
The sound of victory
The sound section of Three Kingdoms goes in line with the quality of this title. There are Chinese and English options for voice acting and the game features a majestic soundtrack. Sound effects here are top-notch and add to each battle a good realism level. Armies and their characteristic war shouts are perfectly recreated.
The task of successfully implementing two different campaign modes based on such a complex historical context and matter is enough reason for an award. Overall, Three Kingdoms ticks every box a Total War fan would expect, as well as adding quality improvements and brand new mechanics such as the duels. I would recommend this game to the casual player with some interest in the Three Kingdoms novel or strategy itself. Three Kingdoms is total war done well, with huge improvements on the diplomacy system and a drastically changed UI, it manages to raise the already working formula and bring it into a whole new league.