Game Review: Total War: Three Kingdoms

Three Kingdoms, like other Total War games, thrusts you into a position of leadership, letting you take control of a ruler to carve your name out in the the books of history

Shi Shaochen
January 21, 2020


Platforms: PC

Release Date: May 23, 2019

Developer: Creative Assembly

Visuals: 3/5; Perfect for a graphic novel, but really just OK

Controls: 4/5; Not necessarily the best, but enjoyable

Immersion: 5/5; One of the most immersive strategy games I’ve ever played

Overall: 4/5; A good game even if you don’t like watching 1000 people fight each other to the death.

“The Empire, long divided, must unite;
The Empire, long united, must divide.”

With the release of its newest piece of DLC, “Mandate of Heaven”, which depicts the scenario for the Yellow Turban Rebellion, Total War: Three Kingdoms has finally become a relatively complete strategy game.

The game provides two modes to choose from when playing the campaigns: the Romance mode, which is primarily based around the popular novel “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”, and the Records mode, based on “Records of the Three Kingdoms”, the 3rd century records contemporary to the game’s setting. However, both modes share the astounding accuracy of events and the description of various characters from the novel, while using the style of Chinese painting for its unique aesthetic.

The actual gameplay, in fact, is fairly easy. This would usually lead to the loss of fun and the sense of achievement; however, it is not the case for Total War: Three Kingdoms. Even though one could defeat the most powerful army commanded in the game using only some farmers with pitchforks, they would likely still enjoy the experience after several similar battles. The duel system, which allows two characters to fight in single combat, certainly plays a huge role in this, as the game has developed a distinguishable character system with around 30 unique warriors supported by high quality art.

Cao Cao as he appears in some official art for the game

Some of the things I found impressive about the game are the 2D visuals, the music, and the game’s trailers. The music is simply magnificent with the sounds of an epic orchestra mixed with those of traditional instruments, along with the symbolic repetitive lyrics adapted from ancient Chinese poems, including some that were written by the aforementioned Cao Cao, a famed Chinese poet and warlord who is playable in the game. The trailers, on the other hand, show the delicate use of cinematic and storytelling techniques that are beyond words. For example, in the trailer for Cao Cao, the ending of the game of Go chess between Yuan Shao and himself matches up the story between the two in The Romance of Three Kingdoms. Although there is a large inconsistency between the gorgeous 2D art for the characters and the 3D models that did not meet many expectations, it seems that Creative Assembly really put effort into immersion and details.

Total War: Three Kingdoms might not be the best Total War game out there, but it definitely is the best Three Kingdoms game that I’ve ever played.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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