Total War: Three Kingdoms tackles the turbulence of 3rd century China

totalwarthreekingdoms

Total War has been enjoying its time among the greenskins and the undead, but we’ve been waiting to see exactly which period it’d land in when it returns to its historical roots for its next major installment. Now the answer is here. Total War: Three Kingdoms.

The year is 190CE. China is in turmoil. The Han Dynasty crumbles before the child-emperor. He is but a figurehead; a mere puppet for the tyrant warlord Dong Zhuo. It is a brutal and oppressive regime, and as Dong Zhuo’s power grows, the empire slips further into the cauldron of anarchy… Only one thing is certain: the very future of China will be shaped by its champions. Total War: Three Kingdoms is the next major historical strategy game in the award-winning Total War series.

This is both unexpected and precisely the kind of setting I was hoping for. A mostly self-contained conflict with a clear end-goal and set of factions. The trailer follows.

Here’s the full announcement text:

The year is 190CE. China is in turmoil. The Han Dynasty crumbles before the child-emperor. He is but a figurehead; a mere puppet for the tyrant warlord Dong Zhuo. It is a brutal and oppressive regime, and as Dong Zhuo’s power grows, the empire slips further into the cauldron of anarchy. But hope yet blossoms.

Three heroes, sworn to brotherhood in the face of tyranny, rally support for the trials ahead. Scenting opportunity, warlords from China’s great families follow suit, forming a fragile coalition in a bid to challenge Dong Zhuo’s remorseless rule. Will they triumph against the tyrant, or will personal ambition shatter their already crumbling alliance and drive them to supremacy?

The crucible fizzes. Allegiances shift. The fires of conflict stoke opportunity. Only one thing is certain: the very future of China will be shaped by its champions. Total War: Three Kingdoms is the next major historical strategy game in the award-winning Total War series.

It’s due this year. In fact, the Steam page says September 6th now says it’ll be Fall.

73 Comments

  1. Solidstate89 says:

    Fuck it is about time. I’ve been wanting a Total War game set in China for well over a decade now.

  2. Rince says:

    Great. Now I’m hyped!
    Some people has been expecting this for a long time. Yes, me included!

  3. Behrditz says:

    Im going to guess that they are going to use the legendary lord system from Warhammer for all the known generals.

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    zigguratvertigo says:

    I do like Total War, but I’ve never been able to see the appeal of Warhammer. So yes, I’m looking forward to this.

  5. Jeremy says:

    Awesome, Romance of the 3 Kingdoms is probably my favorite historical fiction. Loved the games growing up, but haven’t been able to get into Dynasty Warriors style games. Hopefully they really lean into the mythology of that period.

    • robinwak says:

      Kessen II was and still is the best game surrounding this historical/ heavily fantasied period of chinese history. Used to have it on PS2 and spent dozens of hours on it.

  6. Zenicetus says:

    Great news! I’m yet another one who has been wanting this for a long time. TW is at its best when there are guys with pointy sticks jabbing other guys with pointy sticks, and arrows flying overhead.

    I’ve been playing Warhammer, and I realize how getting away from historical constraints has made it a better game than previous ones in many ways. Maybe CA has learned some things they can now apply to this next historical game.

    • acmartin3 says:

      To be fair though, they are also very good when they have guys with pointy sticks that shoot stuff and guys standing in lines and explosions overhead. I would love another Empire game

      • rodan32 says:

        I’m glad I’m not the only one with fond memories of Empire (or Napoleon).

        • TheAngriestHobo says:

          You’re definitely not alone! Empire was my favourite of the TW games as well. I’d love to see Creative Assembly return to the early-modern period.

          • GrinningD says:

            Whilst I have to agree that another Empire game is sorely needed my Favorite will always be Shogun 2. Best multiplayer conceit with the map unlocking units as you conquered it.

            Damn I was ranked 82nd in the world in that multiplayer once upon a time :(

      • Zenicetus says:

        The TW engine has never handled guys standing in regimental lines very well, because the line is composed of individual unit groups, each acting on its own initiative. There is no overall “General” AI that can force the line to hold. So it’s very easy for the player to tease apart the enemy line with feints, breaking it into individual units. Then each unit runs around like a chicken with its head cut off.

        That’s been true of every TW game I’ve played, including Empire. It just looks worse in Empire, because that’s the one most dependent on fixed battle line formation. The more free-form tactics of mixed units like Shogun and Warhammer are a better fit for the engine. This period of China should be similar.

        The big challenge will be making the units interesting and different enough (similar problem with Shogun). They’ll add Hero units for spice, but that may not be enough to interest a wider audience used to the incredible variety in TW Warhammer.

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      IronPirate says:

      Empire is my favourite TW game even though that’s about as close to objectively wrong as an opinion could ever be.

      • Koshelkin says:

        Nope. I’m with you. Keeping the colonies and Europe in balance made for the most engaging Total War so far. I don’t get why almost every other TW game gets more praise, because most are much more simplistic.

      • patrickpeppers says:

        The scale of Empire is amazing. I’m still hoping for an Empire 2 with more depth and modding support than the original that also includes a new theater in the South China Sea. The mechanics that they added in Napoleon are good, but the campaign makes you feel as though you are wearing a straightjacket when compared to the Empire campaign.

      • mariandavid says:

        Yes – between playing Warhammer I revel in the Darthmod version of Empire

      • Werthead says:

        I think it’s a function of how broken the game was at launch, but the problems were almost entirely technical. Once they were fixed, the game is excellent and works really well.

        Rome II took Empire’s crown as the most broken game on launch, but the problems with Rome II go far beyond technical issues and go into basic game design decisions and the far-too-big campaign map, which is not stuff they’ve changed. I do think that Rome II’s broken launch did cause a reappraisal of Empire and the realisation it was a much better game than it gets the rep for.

        • Zenicetus says:

          Aside from my other complaints about Empire (an engine not suited for regimental lines and gunpowder), I will never forgive Empire for dumbing down the mechanics of sail combat, for a game that covered the Golden Age of Sail. The ships drive like motorboats.

          One of the developers even admitted that they intentionally dumbed it down, because they thought players couldn’t handle dealing with the wind direction.

          • Werthead says:

            The fact they removed naval combat after Atilla is rather telling. Thrones of Britannia hasn’t gotten it back, as far as I can tell, and there’s no sign of it in this one either. Makes me wonder if it’s gone for good or they will try it again one day.

            The biggest weakness of Empire (beyond the naval combat) I think is really the AI, but the entire Total War series has had ropy battlefield AI since 2000 and dodgy strategic AI since 2004 (with an honourable exception for Shogun II). I think at this stage you go into playing a Total War game knowing the AI is going to be wildly inconsistent and if you want a challenge you have to ramp up the difficulty and basically give the AI tons more money and units to make up for its dumbness.

    • J.C. says:

      If they copy paste the lackluster siege battles from Warhammer into China Total War, I’m going to be highly disappointed.

  7. acmartin3 says:

    Finally! I was getting sick of Warhammer and the Attila mods.

  8. Someoldguy says:

    Excellent!

  9. Cambrius says:

    Bah. I was hoping for Total War: Brexit

    • thetruegentleman says:

      “The year is 2016CE. Britain is in turmoil. The European Union crumbles before the financial institutions. They are but a figurehead; a mere puppet for the tyrant investor George Soros. It is a brutal and oppressive system, and as George Soros’ power grows, Britain slips further into the cauldron of anarchy. But hope yet blossoms.

      Three heroes, sworn to brotherhood in the face of economic downturn, rally support for the trials ahead. Scenting opportunity, politicians working for Britain’s great investors follow suit, forming a fragile coalition in a bid to challenge George Soros’ remorseless rule. Will they triumph against the tyrant, or will personal ambition shatter their already crumbling alliance and drive them to supremacy?

      The crucible fizzes. Allegiances shift. The fires of conflict stoke opportunity. Only one thing is certain: the very future of Britain will be shaped by its champions. Total War: Brexit is the next major historical strategy game in the award-winning Total War series.

    • Werthead says:

      One faction would be mustering its lines for battle, but would then backstab one another, almost collapse, lose their majority in troops, cobble together a last-minute alliance with a redoubtable ally (with one of those handy cash bribes on the diplomacy panel), risk losing two provinces in the opening moves and then drag itself back together slowly before giving up and surrendering to the other side in totality.

      The other faction would just stand there, looking at the other side in bemusement and occasionally asking, “You all right over there?”

  10. Kakrafoon says:

    Meh. I was hoping for Total War: Thirty Years’ War. With Pikes, Muskets, Landsknechts and, most importantly, a lot of great floppy and/or frilly hats.

    • Blastaz says:

      It’s a shame then that the engine has never really been able to handle either pike formations or primarily fire arms based troops properly.

      I thought this was most likely, and would have preferred Warring States without all the OP “generals” that this will no doubt have.

      I fear it will have all of the lack of troop variety of shogun without the simple a to b map that made the ai look competent. It will be interesting to see how this “civil war” scenario compares to Warhammer where every faction looks and plays so differently…

  11. Koshelkin says:

    Strike! I knew it.

    (I hope they improve the political game on the campaign map, though.)

    • DEspresso says:

      Well done, I expected it to be American Civil War for some reason.

      • Werthead says:

        I think they’ve probably looked at the Civil War several times but the conversation has gone something like this:

        “So one player can play the North and the other, the South?”
        “Yes.”
        “So, is our AI good enough to replicate the massively overwhelming industrial and manpower superiority of the North and ensure that the North wins every single time?”
        “No, our AI is barely good enough to stop the computer shooting its own men in the arse.”
        “So we could have games where the South wins and presumably gets to keep slavery as a thing?”
        “Yes.”
        “Hmm.”

        I think the other problem is also in there: two factions and that’s it, which is a bit limited even for A Total War Saga. It’d be amusing to allow Canada or Mexico to invade whilst the civil war is going on but that’d be massively unrealistic even for this series.

        Or alternatively have the Civil War end in a stalemate as supernatural forces of darkness rise across the land and plunge the continent into a battle against arcane forces of evil? Deadlands: Total War. I’d buy that in a heartbeat.

  12. Baines says:

    Years ago, I would have loved this. Unfortunately these days I’m a bit burnt out and underwhelmed by Total War.

    And while I know it was for marketing purposes (being a short action clip), it was kind of annoying that their CG didn’t even get the battle between Zhang Fei, Guan Yu, and Lu Bu right.

  13. Hyena Grin says:

    It’s weird that in all my imaginings of good Total War settings, I never considered the Three Kingdoms.

    It’s kinda perfect. Given the trailer’s focus on the heroic characters from Romance of the Three Kingdoms, I’m guessing this is going to be a telling through the eyes of Romance’s larger-than-life characters, as opposed to a strict historical setting.

    I’m in favor of that. It makes some sense after CA has developed so far down the line of heroic characters on the battlefields of TW:Warhammer. It seems like a natural fit. So I guess we can expect to see Lu Bu killing dozens of regular soldiers on the battlefield in spectacular fashion.

  14. pookie101 says:

    Nice to see the finally going somewhere a bit different. China and India have been two places that have been begging to be dealt with in a Total war game.

    • Werthead says:

      India was in Empire, although it was a mite overpowered. I remember the Maratha Confederacy conquering all of India, all of western Asia, curb-stomping the Ottomans, invading Russia and colonising the Caribbean in about fifty turns. Those guys were lunatics.

      • GrinningD says:

        Ah you clearly didn’t play Britain Historically and send a curb stomping force to India by turn 4.

        • Werthead says:

          I did. I made the mistake of allying with the Confederacy rather than the Empire (which apparently is a much better strategic idea) so I ended up with 3 provinces taken from the Empire, surrounded by the Confederacy packed with doomstacks. It was very interesting. I did manage to take Hindustan for the victory condition but that was one of the most precarious moments of any Total War game for me.

  15. TotallyUseless says:

    Shu and Liu Bei has always been the primary focus, favorites and good guys of the three kingdoms era, but I’m still Wei all the way.

    I hope Cao Cao is the faction leader for Wei.

  16. napoleonic says:

    I thought this seemed likely to be the new Era once they announced that the Saga would be Britannia. Won’t be getting this as I’m only really interested in Europe, but good that there are going to be more choices for people.

  17. fearandloathing says:

    Look son, a disappointment!

  18. SaintAn says:

    Makes me want to rewatch the 4h 45m run time version of Red Cliff. I’m very excited.

    Supposedly they had a 24 hour countdown started, and 1 hour into it some German site leaked the trailer forcing CA to announce it early.

    Here’s a discussion on Reddit:

    SomeRedditUser: “How are you folks handling all of this? There is so much TW in the works at the moment, I’m having trouble keeping up with the news, can only imagine what’s going on at CA.”

    Grace CA PR person on Reddit: “it was fine until the germans surprised me”

    Then it goes about how you’d expect with jokes about WW2.

    link to reddit.com

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    Mikemcn says:

    Was all about it until i saw the Dynasty Warriors Spear twirl and stylish charge, please get that nonsense out of this historical game… i’m sure it’s just for marketing purposes but comeon.

    • DarkFenix says:

      It will just be for marketing. All it signifies is that in spite of this being a historic title, there’ll be hero units in it too. Maybe those will have fancy pants animations, but let’s face it we’ll be too far zoomed out to notice.

  20. mariandavid says:

    That really is rather clever planning and use of resources: The word on the Warhammer sites is that the eventual Warhammer III game will be covering the ‘Eastern Empires’ which to my untutored reading (never played the miniature game) suggests that it contained nations modelled by Games Workshop of Japan and of course China.

    • DarkFenix says:

      Um, word I’d heard on TWW3 is that it’s quite specifically not going to cover the Far East, which basically contains nothing but factions that have never had an army list on tabletop, and would bloat the combined campaign map to absurdity. Word is that it’s going to cover the north and northeast, which is the Chaos factions, Chaos Dwarfs, and Ogre Kingdoms. Also gives them opportunity to implement the much-awaited Kislev.

    • Silent_Thunder says:

      The eastern nations in a warhammer context refers to the region known as the “Darklands” as well as the Eastern Steppes, home to the Chaos Dwarves, Ogres, and other chaos aligned nasties like hunnic style steppe nomads. The Far East, like Cathay and Nippon, would be completely outside the scope both in terms of content for CA to adapt, and geographical location.

    • SaintAn says:

      Very unlikely they would make the next game’s map that far out to cover Cathay (China) and Nippon (Japan), even though it would be awesome to use units from Shogun 2 and this new game. While we have Araby, Kislev, and Albion’s location, we don’t even have their special troops, and they cut off Ind (India) in both maps of Warhammer 2.

  21. Werthead says:

    As much as I love some Total War, I do wonder if this current level of output might lead to some overload of content. We only just got Warhammer II and a Rome II expansion, Thrones of Britannia is due in the Spring and I imagine this will be an autumn release, and then next year we’ll likely get Warhammer III (if not until mid-year).

    It’s great that we’re getting this level of output and not going 5 or 6 years between games in the series like pretty much every other franchise out there, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also bonkers.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Yeah, I do worry about what this means for Thrones of Britannia, which I’m interested in. Is there a large enough audience out there to support all this content?

      On the other hand, CA does have a lock on strategy map + tactical field battles in AAA quality for the battles. Maybe they’re just milking this genre before anyone else steps in.

    • dsch says:

      Historical series is apparently a different team from the WH team.

    • SaintAn says:

      Don’t forget the DLC and expansions for each game! Personally I am very excited for for all these games they have on the horizon. I just hope Three Kingdoms is a full sized game and not a mini one like Brettonia.

  22. FordTruck says:

    please mix the best features of KOEI romance of the three kingdoms and infused it with a total war game, k thx!

  23. Maxheadroom says:

    While these CA (thankfully) dont churn these out every year like CoD, after 18 years i cant help but start to feel a little bit of franchise fatigue setting in. Looking at the rest of the comments though im definitely in the minority so maybe im just an uncultured luddite

    • Werthead says:

      Well, assuming this launches in September, we’ll have gotten 3 full-sized games (Warhammer II, Thrones of Britannia and Three Kingdoms) and multiple expansions for older games (Empire Divided, Mortal Empires, Norsca, Rise of the Tomb Kings) in less than one year. 2014 was actually the last year with no major-game Total War release and before that it was 2008. And we already know that Warhammer III will likely hit in 2019 as well.

      It’s great if you’re a massive fan of this style of game, but for more casual fans who play a few tens of hours of it per year and then loads of other games, it’s just building up a bit of a backlog.

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