Total War: Three Kingdoms Review


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Every so often, a game comes inlớn my life that makes me feel strange. I think this feeling might be ... love sầu. Total War: Three Kingdoms is one of those games. It manages khổng lồ make me feel like a new man, specifically, a powerful Chinese warlord circa 200 AD.

I’m not being flippant. Three Kingdoms succeeds in taking the basic formula of historical-empire simulation và transforming it into lớn something magical. This game feels less like a diverting intellectual challenge and more like a convincing role-playing fantasy. It has crossed a mystical border, from colorfully disguised statistical manipulations, into lớn a towering human drama.

It all comes down khổng lồ how the game presents a vast cast of characters, each of whom has their own agenda. Unlike many games of conquest & diplomacy, Three Kingdoms’ human-behavior AI has the measure of man.

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When I do business with my rivals, they behave convincingly; sometimes honorable, sometimes venal, sometimes dishonestly, but rarely nonsensically. I feel lượt thích I’m negotiating with them, rather than the usual puppetry & mummery of diplomatic systems. Likewise, when I manage my underlings — generals, administrators, spies, family members — I feel like I’m getting khổng lồ know real people in all their variety.

I’m about 60 hours in so far, và I’ve sầu yet to lớn see the facade crumble, yet to comprehover the whirring cogs behind those smiling faces. This is a clever piece of work.

Total War: Three Kingdoms Creative sầu Assembly/Sega

Calculating Numbers

Before it came out, I thought I might admire Three Kingdoms, but drooling adoration is not the reaction I had anticipated. This game is the latest in a long line of interesting, flawed, occasionally dull historical simulations of superpower administration và warfare. While other Total War games have focused on the Romans or the Shogunate or Napoleon, Three Kingdoms takes us to lớn Trung Quốc, at the kết thúc of the Han dynasty. An empire is fracturing. Its constituent parts are in a state of chaotic intra-fighting.

Like its predecessors, Three Kingdoms puts me in charge of a fiefdom, from which my grvà aspirations take shape. I plot expansion & march my armies inlớn neighboring domains. We engage in battle. If I win, my empire grows và my rival’s diminishes. I use my new possessions as taxation pools, which fund more armies. I take care lớn maintain a well-fed and well-behaved populace. I build buildings & I learn learnings, all of which yield me more money, more food, and better soldiers.

These are the basics of all Total War games. Their main attraction is an ever-improving và always impressive sầu war engine, in which I manage a battle in real time, pointing my squadrons of horse, range, artillery, and infantry in the right direction, while hoping that my tactics are better than the enemy’s.

There’s always been something thrilling about these engagements and Three Kingdoms is no exception. I like to zoom high above sầu the battlefield lớn take the broader view, & then zoom right inkhổng lồ some copse, where a few hundred soldiers are fighting hand-to-hvà at my direction. Battles are always mini-dramas in which I feel lượt thích I’m in control, even as the calculating numbers of hit points và buffs, crunch their way through flesh và bone.

Three Kingdom’s battle simulations are just fine. Their main diversion from previous games is that heroes & generals play a greater role in the combat. There are two modes of play (Romance & Records), one in which generals are godlượt thích in their abilities, & the other in which they are merely overpowered fighters. This division is for those who want to feel a Romance of the Three Kingdoms legendary vibe, & those who want a more accurate historical experience.

People Power

Diplomacy in Three Kingdoms Creative Assembly/Sega The real thrill, for me, is the game’s diplomacy section, in which I try to lớn outwit my rivals by bluffing, bullying, coercion, and flattery. Depending on the state of my relationship with a rival, I can make various kinds of offers và giao dịch to them. I can offer trade, marriages, & territory swaps. I can menace them for food và cash. Or I can charm or strong-arm them inlớn joining me as an ally, vassal, or subject.

As you might expect, these transactions add toward a simple statistical calculation of how they view me. But it’s much more nuanced than that. They have their own agendas, which are constantly shifting according lớn the fates of war. One turn, my neighbor scoffs at me when I offer him my protection in exchange for his loyalty. Then, as he faces an onslaught from a rival superpower, he’s virtually begging lớn be my friend. This is a world of shifting alliances & treachery.

In the middle và late game, I find myself spending as much time tinkering with my diplomatic options as I vì managing my armies. Part of the fun is that there are a ton of rivals khổng lồ deal with, & they are constantly changing their allegiances. They think they can play me và, occasionally, they succeed.

Leaders die & are replaced by their offspring or their partners. Just keeping traông chồng of it all is a puzzle in its own right. I lượt thích people & I lượt thích pitching myself against them, I like the way we behave with one another và against one another. This game makes me believe I’m doing it for real.

I know it’s a sleight of h&, but it’s a good one. And, in the absence of AI stupidity, I’m happy to lớn suspkết thúc my belief in the service of AI cleverness.

Managing my empire’s nobles is similarly invigorating, tasking me with taking care lớn keep my extended family in a state of reciprocal contentment. (It strikes me that this skill, rather than martial prowess, is the true mark of great leaders of the past.) Three Kingdoms makes people management feel like it’s a game in itself, rather than the clumsy chore it’s so often been in past games.

It’s worth noting that Three Kingdoms is a difficult, complicated, và often confusing game. There are far too many systems, options, và happenings going on for even the most sophisticated user interface. My first 10 hours were an exercise in bafflement. Even after my good, long playing session, there are still moments when I feel lost, when I am not at all sure what’s going on. But leaving the occasional UI flub aside, I find myself emerging inkhổng lồ a state of comprehension, eventually.

I love the idea of placing myself inlớn the distant past, of believing that I’m immersed in the problems và opportunities of ancient warlords. Three Kingdoms delivers, in the sense that it gives me the gift of a genuinely absorbing historical fantasy. It’s out now on Windows PC, Mac, and Linux.

Total War: Three Kingdoms was released May 23 on Windows PC, Mac and Linux. The game was reviewed using final “retail” PC tải về codes provided by Sega. You can find additional information about’s ethics policy here.

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