The long-running highly regarded Total War franchise has seen many iterations, taking place during various historical periods (Total War: Rome is still a personal favorite) and even venturing into the fictional world of Warhammer. With the previous two games in the series being Warhammer installments, Creative Assembly has turned its attention back to a more historical time with the announcement of Total War: Three Kingdoms. Based on Luo Guanzhong’s legendary epic “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”, written during the 14th Century, this Total War game promises a melding of literary romanticism with its genre-defining strategy. The Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history provides a rich cultural and social backdrop for the game. This fascinating time was one of war, strategy, alliances and unification. With “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” being such a prolific work in Chinese culture, Creative Assembly has devoted much time and attention to reflect the larger than life characters within the game. With much inspiration taken from Guanzhong’s work, in addition to consulting with the foremost experts on the Three Kingdoms period, Creative Assembly hopes to bring a richer Total War game to fans.
During Total War: Three Kingdom’s feature at E3 this year, we were able to take a detailed look at the painstaking world created for the game. Rolling landscapes and detailed architecture create beautiful scenery for unfolding battles. Much of the game itself has been created specifically around the mythical cast of warlords during this time. Romantic elements tell of warriors who slew 2000 men single-handedly in battle and Creative Assembly truly wanted to bring that to the game. Much attention has been given to this epic cast as each warlord and general has been given more freedom and autonomy than ever before.
In the demo for the game, Creative Assembly showed a glimpse of the historical Battle of Xiapi where the legendary warlord Cao Cao fought against Lü Bu, the most powerful warrior of this period. By this point in the campaign, Lü Bu was seen as a betrayer by all the other warlords and Cao Cao found it within his own interest to integrate Lü Bu’s territory into his own. The social bonds between characters are the most in-depth they’ve ever been as developers give more personality to characters. Each general has likes and dislikes. They have a list of friends and a list of enemies. Two characters can be the best of friends and dictate what each other will do based on the outcome of a battle. If one friend dies in combat, it may send the other into a berserk rage that will inhibit his ability to take orders. If players have conflicting ideologies with their generals, it may cause troops to turncoat and leave a faction they don’t like. Social connections are truly at the forefront of Three Kingdoms and play an important role in the way events play out.
Warlords will even have different class types that provide more options for troop layout. Looking at the unit cards traditionally displayed at the bottom of the HUD, players can see that armies have been built around the idea of retinues. Players will be able to control multiple generals on the battlefield, with each having their own character class and types of troops. Character classes provide options for how players want to engage in battle. There are Guardians, who serve as the tanky characters and control heavy troops. These are the warriors that can melee against a hundred units and create space for the rest of the army. While not much more information is known about the other classes, Creative Assembly has teased that there will also be Strategists, Vanguards and Champions to choose from.
Troops are also no longer just moving pieces, as they all have added detail to create a more life-like army. Soldiers may engage in friendly banter with one another before battle, or they may even engage in insults with the enemy. Zooming in on characters fighting gives players a look at one on one duels and the epic abilities of each warlord. With motion-captured Wu Shu martial arts, the game promises a realism in character design and historical accuracy. These duels are not only captivating to watch, but they also support character development as warriors will feel levels of satisfaction upon winning. There are also great chances to pick up rare loot upon the defeat of a warlord to show your victories. As characters grow, players will discover more about their personalities, which creates characters that are more than just a means to an end.
Total War: Three Kingdoms brings promises of a new kind of Total War experience. With a cast of characters built around Chinese core concept, Guanxi, interpersonal relationships and your place in the social network creates systems of reciprocity that will dictate political outcomes. This relationship engine brings a new layer to the Total War franchise that differs from more recent games like Warhammer. Creative Assembly hopes that these connections bring more investment to fans as they spend more time with their characters. Three Kingdoms provides a great jumping on point for people who are new to the franchise or have little understanding of Eastern history. While much of Total War’s showing explained the social structures of the game, Creative Assembly is leaving some details to the imagination as the campaign will have even more features, in addition to new character “stuff”. While it would have been good to see more details about how grand strategy plays out in battle (like seeing the relationship engine at work during a battle), the descriptions of new social features bring optimism to the game.
Total War: Three Kingdoms will release in spring 2019, with still no exact date as it’s been noted the game is still in development.