It has come to that time of year again where we get to wage large-scale wars on less fortunate persons. For this year’s installment, Creative Assembly have taken a break from the mythical Warhammer varieties and have gone back to history. The break from international conflicts continues but this time the player is in Ancient China in the long awaited Total War: Three Kingdoms.
The time period will be very familiar to those who have played any of the Dynasty Warrior games. Featuring the usual repertoire of heroes and villains, it is up to you to unite the land. You’ll also notice that those who allied in the other games/ books will also gravitate towards one another in game.
The Art of War
The main change to this iteration of Total War is the diplomacy. What was once a very irritatingly simple corner of the franchise has finally been mixed up. Gone are the days of offering a deal and being incessantly rejected. Now we will all know how much more to offer up to the AI gods. Gone are the days of never being able to turn allies against one another. And gone are the days of trading resources meaning sod all.
The diplomacy is by no means perfect. In the current build it can, and I assure you it will be, thoroughly abused. The bargaining power of food fused with the food specialist regions can make any player into an agricultural demi-god. If you are able to manipulate a faction which is starving then fortune favours you, friend. Simply cut off the food supplies, be the one and only supermarket for the faction then strong arm them into selling you regions for rice. It really is that simple.
As with all Total war games, each faction has unique advantages and disadvantages. This is certainly a great thing overall. It is, however, not a good thing when these unique abilities can turn the tide of any campaign in a matter of turns. Should they have an impact on the campaign? Yes. Should they be able to fracture the entire political climate with no repercussion? Maybe not.
The main assailant for this abuse is good old Cao Cao. His lovely ability is manipulation as an art form. His words will make people love him and his chums or simply turn your biggest ally against you. He can also instigate proxy wars which can be really fun when you’re surrounded by people whose attitude towards you is best described as a long sigh.
Throughout the campaign, especially during sieges you will notice, on occasion, some beautiful little anecdotes to aid or to hinder you on your conquest. These come in the form of a mini storyboard which describes a certain situation happening in a key location. These are varied and can be humorous. One such event which particularly stood out to me took place during a siege which went on longer than I’d like. The event gave me a choice of catapulting food which had rotted and was poisoning my troops over the walls to infect the enemy’s troops. I, being the pioneer of hope, decided I would accept this offer and bore witness to what can only be described as the quickest deterioration of a civilisation I’d seen in some time.
At this current time, I’m waiting for the announcement of new DLC and mods to come out. With the new diplomacy section and resource regions I imagine there’ll be quite a few dirty ideas being drafted up by modders. As far as the DLC, we already know the blood texture DLC came out, so we can be strung out for a couple of extra quid for no reason. But I do hope to hear plans of new DLC’s as the infamous Yellow Turban Rebellion is definitely only for the more masochistic of players.
Historical and Romance Campaign
After some clear influence from the Warhammer iterations, Three Kingdoms allows the player to partake in two different campaign styles. The first for those who are a bit more boring and don’t mind doing bugger all with their generals. Then there are those who prefer to suplex the entire enemy with OP leaders, aptly named the Romance Campaign. The latter certainly makes the tide of battles and duels a lot more interesting.
Similar to the Warhammer’s campaign, if a player chooses the Romance Campaign option their heroes are worth a thousand men. Obviously morale and being attacked in the flank play a major factor but generally speaking if a hero is taken head on then they’ll win. Again, this will make the mods a lot more interesting. It also allows for you to really get attached to your underlings as you send them into battle or to assassinate one another. You’ll feel their deaths, as you would a loyal dog.
Naturally, there are a lot of behind-the-scenes admin work to be done. You can’t just wage war every turn; after all, there are hearts and minds to be won in between all of your starvation tactics…somewhere.
As a player, you will be required to pay attention to loyalties, not only between factions but between your own generals and administrators. This lovely little addition adds a whole new level of intrigue to the game. Is the person you’re going to appoint to faction heir actually your friend, or is it a double agent…who knows?
Thankfully, Creative Assembly took inspiration for the loyalty system from the actual story of the Three Kingdoms. For those of you who either read the books or played Dynasty Warriors you’ll be on the lookout for those you can trust and those to be wary of. Obviously the majority of allegiances can be manipulated to create a unique story. Players should, however, always keep an eye out in case they’re a double agent.
Manipulate Your Way to the Top
One glorious way to influence the loyalty of heroes you meet in the court or on the battlefield is by deciding what to do with captured heroes after a battle. Some heroes will want nothing to do with you and would rather die than be your ally or to beg for their life. I usually comply with the latter as stubbornness to a foolish cause is not welcome amongst my ranks. The act of executing captors can from time to time have a negative effect. This will affect those in your court or your potential allies so it’s always worth thinking about first.
After a few playthroughs of Three Kingdoms and you’ll notice that certain heroes will gravitate towards certain factions. Predictability like this can help you exploit the political climate. If you’re aware of what actions will affect other people whether they’ve appeared in your court or capture list, or not, then you can slyly guide people towards or from the other pieces on the board.
Is China Number 1?
So would I recommend this game as of yet? Absolutely I would. In its current build, Total War: Three Kingdoms is the strongest iteration of the historically influenced series. Brushing aside the Warhammer versions it has been a number of years since a decent Total War was made.
The reworking of the diplomacy and triggering of events throughout the campaign is a much needed breath of fresh air. The current system does seem like a diet version of a Paradox game. The effort put into it is appreciated nonetheless. Due to this implementation it also means that the community are also able to use this new system. This, in turn enables the community to come up with their own weird and historically inaccurate themes to accompany it.
The decision to allow players to choose whether they want a normal campaign, in the way of other Total War games, or partake in the Romance campaign is a brilliant choice. The adoration for a few of the heroes, especially Lu Bu, has always been apparent and the ability to play as a pseudo-version of a Dynasty Warriors game, but on the scale of Total war is just titillating.