Now, for the record for this review – strategy games for a while to me seemed about as interesting as sticking your head in wallpaper paste. Where for most of my gaming life I much preferred to be in the action rather than be on the sidelines directing minions. So, for a long time I ignored strategy games, but after playing XCOM: Enemy Within it caused a bit of an epiphany with strategy games. After that, I felt the urge to become familiar to the XCOM series, and played both 1 and 2. And from time to time, it’s good to be pushed out of your comfort zone. So, Total War and its newest edition Three Kingdoms is today’s offering, so, let’s see what it’s all about.
Total War: Three Kingdoms is the 13th game in a long line of games from Creative Assembly (the team also behind Alien: Isolation) which covers wars from Ancient Rome to Feudal Japan, Medieval times right to the Napoleonic wars. Three Kingdoms takes place during the end of the Han Dynasty where China is pretty much a civil war where there were a lot of factions and warlords vying over the throne which as real history happened formulated as in the Three Kingdoms. In which later on in 280 AD was reunited under the Jin Dynasty. So, you can either follow in history’s footsteps or challenge yourself in rewriting history as you choose one of the 12 factions each with their own difficulties, and as I’m completely new to the entire series, naturally, I choose the easier difficulties.
Starting out as Cao Cao and after a brief intro into the world with China split amongst the other factions who are vying for control. As a complete novice to the game, the tutorial did explain well enough the main controls for the game and for the main battles itself. Which once getting your head around the controls, is quite enjoyable to say. From the start of the battles right to the amongst the fight itself, it’s very pleasing and surprisingly enjoyable to be an armchair general moving troops across the battlefield and seeing the fruits of your labour as the opposition is running away with tails between their legs or wiped off the face of the earth. There is a part of me that would have liked to have been in the thick of it myself but got equal pleasure out of it by directing the battle itself, although while I appreciate the UI giving me lots of options. I would have enjoyed it better if it was more streamlined and simplified because it did look daunting at first.
Now, the main objective is to take over all of China and deal with the other factions. Which is detailed and scaled down somewhat, but realistic enough as move your armies across it takes time. More so when you expand your territory, unlike the battles which happen in real time. The main game works on turn-based so after moving your troops about or breaking deals between factions, and seeing what your opposition is doing as well. While conquering land is great and all, keeping law and order on your turf is quite important as well because later on in my playthrough with a nice slice of China that I have made for myself through the populace wasn’t very happy and rebellions were springing up all over the place like a rebellious game of whack-a-mole.
While the sword is the simple option to take there is diplomacy as well which while not the more fun option, it is somewhat nice to have the option to be Machiavellian and take over through diplomatic means, or gain lucrative trade deals for cash to improve and finance your conquests. Or peace agreements, military access, marriages and more options which makes diplomacy a viable option. Upgrading your settlements and putting forward reforms (upgrades) can keep the populace in check. Further on in the game, you can choose who you have in your court and send them off on diplomatic missions, although keeping them all happy as they will not all get along together like a happy family. So, there is plenty of options and lots to manage.
There are two game modes for the campaign: Romance, while seems sexy, is based on the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Where the generals of your armies are given powers and buffs which will help on the battlefield. The other one Records is based on the Records of the Three Kingdoms which is much more authentic. Which does seem to cater to both sides
If I had an issue with the game it for me was the complexity of it. Coming in as a newbie to the series as a whole it while it does a good job of explaining things, but it just feels too much. If there was an option to scale the factors and the complexity so if you want the full experience then so be it, but if you want to effectively learn the basics before upping the complexity factors. I appreciate the difficulty greatly but would rather it be more gradually added on rather than dumped on all together like a pile of work being dumped on your desk by your line manager in an office.
Graphicly, the game looks rather nice as the graphics really compliment the main battles, and ran fairly smoothly on my PC which isn’t set up for gaming per se. And there were no real bugs and or glitches to report from my time with the game. Multiplayer is there as well but was more engaged with the main campaign, which was a blessing in disguise but a good thing as I probably would have been wiped out complexly by someone who thinks they are Napoleon. Still though, it’s good to see that there is more to the game than just the campaign.
I enjoyed my time with Total War: Three Kingdoms it was good fun foray into the series for the first time. it taught me the basics and just let me get on with it and now with a small empire created mainly on the bodies of people who opposed me, and watched the sun rise like a madman was rather satisfying, and with so many things to manage and deal with to conquer all of China for the budding armchair general enthusiast it seems like the game for you. As a newbie for the series, it explains itself well through its tutorials, but for me could have been simplified and be less imposing and daunting. I would keep playing the game like a long term project and maybe explore more strategy games like this.
Total War: Three Kingdoms
Total War: Three Kingdoms was a fun and insightful jump into the Total War series for the first time, and I came out of the experience wanting to play more. Battles are fun to watch and more fun to direct and move your troops about, and then watch it unfold as you give the enemy a royal seeing to. Personally, I feel it’s a little jarring for new starters, but they’ll have a great time none-the-less.
- Insightful tutorials for newbies
- Large scale battles are fun to watch and direct
- Plenty of game time
- Less imposing UI
- More management scale options needed
- Could use a graphic touch of paint