This title is exclusive to PC and was reviewed as such.
Strategy and management games are always 50/50 for me as I am not very good at them. Most them I just pass by, but Total War is different. The combination of city management with the strategy of massive battles just hooks me in. I have played long hours of Total War games with some to success and some others… not. There are also some that just didn’t feel right (maybe rushed development or mechanics that didn’t work). But Total War: Three Kingdoms is one that does it right. I’m addicted to it: Getting to choose your character and playthrough an entire campaign with them and their dynasty is amazing.
The games take’s place during 190CE where you will be facing the task of managing relationships with 12 Legendary warlords to unite China under your rule. Will you conquer them all, or forge alliances? Choose which Warlord you wish to play as, and then get to planning!
Before getting into the nuts and bolts of Total War: Three Kingdoms you will have to pick the general in which you want to play as. You have multiple generals to choose from in each kingdom. Each General has a different difficulty based from where they start. Once you have chosen your desired commander you will then get to choose between either playing in Romance or Records mode. Records mode is a more traditional style of gameplay where your commander has some body guards during battle and your soldiers will suffer from fatigue a lot faster. Romance mode is a whole lot different to Records mode, as your commander will be a single powerful unit that is capable of slaughtering many men just by themselves. During a battle where the enemy army had spearman covering the front and a ton of archers in the back, I sent my commander Cao Cao to take on the spear men solo while my cavalry took out the archers from behind. Once the archers were rallied I sent the rest of the force to support Cao Cao, who was doing a damn good job by himself.
The over map is pretty much the same as the previous games but with updated graphics and a UI that matches the era of the game. You will constantly receive missions to guide your playthrough, such as taking out a certain army through to having a certain number of troops in your retinue and raising your general to a certain rank. Your army will have supplies that they consume to keep their moral up, and when you are out of your territory you will consume these supplies faster. If you run out it’s not very pretty and can result in your soldiers or commanders deserting the army.
Diplomacy is very important in Total War: Three Kingdoms with some characters even favouring in diplomacy. Sometimes it is best not to try and destroy everybody in your way but maybe join a coalition to destroy a much larger foe such as the Yellow Turban Rebellion. It can also be a good idea to make friends with those around you before they all join forces to take you down, as declining offers can lead to bad feelings. In the reform menu (which I will talk about later) there is even a branch that goes down the diplomacy route if that is the way you wish to go.
The other side of gameplay is the massive battles you can have, and this is where a lot of the differences occur if you have chosen the romance mode of the campaign. You can have multiple Commanders in your army, with some of these people being known as legendary warriors in history such as Xiahou Dun or Lu Bu. In additions each come with their own units you can pair them with (the game will let you know which units’ pair best with which commander). Each Commander also has their own unique ability which you can activate at anytime provided that the prerequisites are met, such as some that require you to be in a duel before being used. The most satisfying thing about battles now is the Duel system; either you or your opponent can challenge your Leader or your Generals to a duel. The two characters will start fighting on the battlefield until one is defeated and if you decide to help your general in the battle with other forces it is considered disgraceful and there will be penalties. The same goes for telling your General to flee if they are on the losing side. But of course, do you really want to lose a general because of pride?
Another feature of Total War: Three Kingdoms is the reforms systems. These are pretty much bonuses for your campaign. They’re displayed in the form of a tree and have five major branches to choose from – government, philosophy and trade, infrastructure and economic, military doctrines, and agricultural. The government reforms help with the civil management of land and people by increasing public order and taxation. The military doctrines improve conscription and army organisation to make your army more powerful and improve redeployment capabilities. The infrastructure and economic reforms improve the local economy of commanderies. Philosophy and trade reforms improve trade reforms and gives you stronger characters. Agricultural reforms increase farming efficiency and population growth.
The graphics in Total War: Three Kingdoms are amazing. The campaign map has a vibrate range of colours. Every single season has a different aesthetic look with each being just as breath taking. The maps that the battles take place in look slightly less great, as well as the soldier models get quite blurry when you are going in for a closer look. But this is understandable for performance reasons and even then, when your forces collide with the enemy it still has that satisfying animation like in the previous titles.
Total War: Three Kingdoms is the best in the series they have brought out in the past few years and my personal favourite to date. All mechanics have been improved and make for a great gaming experience. This also feels to be the least buggiest of the recent games as I personally have not experienced a single bug, so the polishing is massive bonus points! The setting of the Three Kingdoms works so well with the Total War formula and it’s great that they included the power that these warriors were said to have had by having take down many foes at once. I would recommend this game to fans of the Total War series, and anyone who is interested in the history.