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Total War: Three Kingdoms

Posted by GG Goblin On June - 5 - 2019

Taking Total War to Ancient China.

Creative Assembly are at the top of their game. Over the years they have perfected the real-time strategy genre and offered armchair generals control of thousands of historically accurate on the battlefield. It’s not just about the battlefield though, as the developers have also evolved the game outside of the warfare, with massive maps to conquer and cities to manage. For fans of historical strategy, there is no better. However, a few years ago Creative Assembly took a very exciting detour from history and released Total War: Warhammer, a fantasy version of their games based in the Games Workshop universe. With all of the colourful units, an emphasis on heroes, and a bit of magic, it really did take the Total War games to the next level, and was further bolstered by the release of a sequel which would work with the original game to make a massive fantasy strategy experience.

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The problem is, how do you go back to history after the sheer variety of fantasy? Creative Assembly think they have found the solution in Total War: Three Kingdoms by offering a bit of both.

Three Kingdoms takes the player to Ancient China, specifically to the period covered by the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. While the classic novel may not be required reading over here, many gamers will have already experienced this time period in various video games, including most famously the Dynasty Warriors games. The thing that makes this time period interesting is that, after the fall of the Han dynasty, the region was not only packed with all manner of warring factions, but also with a huge number of heroes that make for really good stories. In catering to both history and fantasy, Three Kingdoms offers two different modes for the player to spend their time in. While one mode will give the player the historical accuracy they may desire, the other mode takes a more fantastical approach and hands out larger than life heroes that can hold their own on the battlefield against most other things. Nicely done, Creative Assembly.

It is conceivable that there may be players out there who have never tried a Total War game, although unlikely. But if there is, a brief explanation may be in order. Total War games play on two different fronts. Firstly, the player will choose a faction and then will be able to parade around a usually large map, picking fights with other factions and trying to wipe them out or take control of their lands. There is also resource management as the player tries to improve their own lands and create more units to take into battle. This side of the game is turn-based and is not too dissimilar to Civilization. However, every time one of the players armies picks a fight with another army, the gameplay moves to real-time strategy, although the player can choose to auto-resolve battles if they wish. The real-time strategy is what Creative Assembly became known for, putting the player in control of thousands of units on a 3D battlefield, with the possibility of zooming in and seeing the action really close. At its most basic, the battles are a simple matter of selecting different regiments and telling them where to move and what to attack, but obviously things can get far more complicated as the player evolves their own strategies.

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This is the core of the game in Total War: Three Kingdoms, albeit with the Ancient China setting and factions. However, things have evolved in the post-Warhammer world and the developers have expanded the diplomacy side of the game, giving players more options for a non-violent solution to any differences. On top of this, spies are a substantial threat now, being able to infiltrate and cause a great deal of trouble for the player. Of course, this also means the player being able to wreak havoc on rivals with their own spies.

As already mentioned, Three Kingdoms has two different modes. The Record mode is the more realistic of the two, offering the sort of experience that Total War fans will be used to, with all of the improvements that have come as the games have evolved. Head into the Romance mode on the other hand, and players will be presented with a much fantastical experience that makes the most of all of those heroes. In Romance mode, the heroes stand alone as a force to be reckoned with, easily able to cut swathes through enemy unit formations. They are at their best though when dueling rival heroes, treating players to a wonderful too and from on the battlefield. This mode is much more about the overpowered heroes, and is a joy to play.

Visually, the Total War games have always been on the cutting edge of the strategy genre, and Three Kingdoms really pushes the boundaries with a beautiful art style that fits in with the setting. As always, it is incredibly detailed and there is nothing better than watching thousands of little troops moving around a battlefield, and then zooming in close to watch the actions of just one or two. It has to be said that the game doesn’t look quite as impressive as the previous Warhammer games, but a good dragon will make anything look better.

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It was always going to be tricky coming back to reality after the epic fantasy of Warhammer, but I really think Creative Assembly have hit the mark with Total War: Three Kingdoms. The game manages to cater well for the realistic armchair general as well as those more fantasy inclined. Whichever way you choose to play, Total War: Three Kingdoms is a beautifully polished strategy game that will entertain for hundreds of hours.




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