It’s already been established that Total War: Three Kingdoms is going to offer fans that chance at a different kind of Total War experience. The game will still provide players with the strategic and tactical gameplay they’re used to, it’s just going to be offered through a more legendary lens this time. As its name implies, Total War: Three Kingdoms is based on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms historical novel. It’s a story that covers the fall of the Han Dynasty and the hundred or so years immediately following it. Its characters and events were real, but the versions depicted are closer to legends rather than the real men and women that lived during the period. It’s these larger-than-life heroes and their abilities that Creative Assembly is recreating in Total War: Three Kingdoms and it’s these characters that the game centers around. This is something that immediately became apparent in the latest demo, which gives players a chance to defend against an after-dark ambush.
Surprise attacks have been a part of Total War for a while now, but Creative Assembly has added a new wrinkle with Three Kingdoms. Where players could only stand and fight when ambushed in the past, they now have the option to retreat and save their forces from overwhelming odds. This isn’t a something accomplished in the menus, though. If one wants to preserve their army, they’re going to have to do their best to protect it. In the demo, saving the army meant making it all the way across the map while fending-off two enemy groups coming from opposite directions. It was doable and it was even possible to destroy the enemy armies, but doing either relied greatly on careful deployment of the two available generals.
Total War: Three Kingdoms allows players to have multiple generals on the field at once and each has their own units to command. The generals are the cores of these army groups and they have powerful abilities at their disposal to help bolster their forces. The demo put generals Sun Ren and Sun Quan under our command. Sun Ren is of the Vanguard class, a completely offensive type of general. She can charge into enemy formations and launch an AoE attack that damages the entire unit and leaves them disorganized and ready for a friendly unit to come mop up. She can also target an individual and severely damage them with a powerful arrow strike. Sun Quan on the other hand is of the Commander class. He’s best used to reinforce troop morale and increase their resistance to projectiles. Both characters are powerful, but their forces will almost route if they die. Leaving them undefended is never a good idea. They are, however, one’s best chance of repelling an enemy general.
When two opposing generals meet in battle, they can either engage normally or duel each other. When dueling, generals are not available to assist against other units and their success largely depends on how well their class matches up against their opponent’s. Players also need to keep a close eye on their general if they want to ensure their success. In the case of this surprise attack, Sun Ren proved to be the key to victory. She was well suited to combating the enemy generals and successfully eliminated them one by one. Sun Quan was best used in support during these engagements. His abilities kept allied morale high and enabled the friendly units to keep the enemy occupied while Sun Ren fought. This was just one of many possible strategies, though.
Even in this early demo, the enemy AI appeared to be more on the ball than in some recent entries of Total War. It attacked in force whenever it could; its generals were aggressive, and units that weren’t completely destroyed would often regroup and harass allied units rather than attempt to engage them outright. Every chance was also taken to surround and demoralize allied units. This probably won’t amount to much for accomplished Total War veteran, but it should provide a fair challenge to those newer to the series.
The battlefield itself is quite striking. The ambush took place at a river crossing featuring a wide road bordered by light woods. The whole of the map is surrounded by a light fog and bathed in pale moonlight. It’s plain to see that Creative Assemblies art team is adamant about creating a more lush and mystic-looking world than they have in any past Total War game.
These are only a few of several firsts Total War: Three Kingdoms is introducing to the series. The influence of these generals upon the game extends much further than their battlefield functions. Check out our interview with the Creative Assembly developers Al Bickman and Pawel Wojs to learn more.
Total War: Three Kingdoms is set to launch for PC in Spring 2019.