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Total War: Three Kingdoms

Game review by
David Chapman, Common Sense Media
Total War: Three Kingdoms Game Poster Image
Fantasy meets history in complex strategy for older gamers.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

The game's loosely based on the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history, though player actions alter events radically and the fantasy elements of the romanticized retellings come heavily into play.

Positive Messages

Game is about war on grand scale for control of ancient China. There may be differing motivations, but ultimate goal is still gaining power, ruling over the land. There are mechanisms to use diplomacy and scheming as opposed to brute force, but it's still a massive power grab.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Various warlords have their own motivations for attempting to rule China, some more honorable than others. But all sides are capable of plotting against allies as well as enemies, making compromising deals, and using force to impose their will.

Ease of Play

Total War series has always had heavy focus on micromanagement of forces; Three Kingdoms takes this further, adding more options for diplomacy, spying, morale, etc. There's often very little immediate impact, and one wrong decision early on could cause catastrophic loss much later. Tutorials attempt to teach basics, but still leave much for the player to find out through trial and error.

Violence

Violence is persistent, with large armies facing off against each other on the battlefield. Players can zoom in on the action to get a close-up view of combat, watching soldiers fight with swords, spears, other period-accurate weapons. Despite the violence, surprisingly little blood or gore is shown on the screen.

Sex
Language
Consumerism

Latest installment in the Total War franchise, which has covered historical periods as well as fantasy settings.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Total War: Three Kingdoms is a downloadable tactical strategy game available for Windows-based PCs. The game is set in ancient China's Three Kingdoms period, with players taking control of one of the 12 warring factions in an attempt to unify the nation under their rule. The game has a steep difficulty curve, requiring a lot of micromanagement, reading, and statistical analysis. The in-game tutorials cover some of the basics but leave a lot for players to work out on their own. Violence is constant, with armies regularly fighting against one another, and players can zoom in for a closer look at the action. But there's not as much graphic violence and blood as there has been in many other games in the Total War series.

User Reviews

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Adult Written byShean May 25, 2019

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What's it about?

In TOTAL WAR: THREE KINGDOMS, the fate of ancient China lies in your hands. Set in the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history, the game tasks you with controlling the forces of one of 12 legendary warlords, using a combination of strategy, diplomacy, and brute force to overwhelm your enemies and unite the nation under your rule. Players can choose how they want to experience the Three Kingdoms saga. In Romance mode, you'll live the legend as warriors of mythic power, following the fantasy born from the tales of the battlefield. In Records mode, you'll step behind the curtain of myth, directing the course of history not through the lens of fanciful story, but through the clear focus of reality. Whichever path you choose, whatever stories your people tell, it's up to you to carve out your own dynasty and earn your legacy.

Is it any good?

The Total War franchise has never been one to shy away from exploring the art of war from all angles and any setting. With Total War: Three Kingdoms, though, the series blends history and fantasy together as an epic retelling of the most pivotal and bloody moments in ancient China. One of the game's more interesting options is to play the campaign in either Records or Romance mode, each based on stories of the era. Records mode is a more standard and realistic approach, with a more historically authentic representation. Here, generals are just men like any other, relying on little more than their skill and cunning to rule. Romance mode, on the other hand, takes its cue from the classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms story, in which the warlords were more superhuman figures of myth, possessing almost godlike powers and wielding sacred artifacts as they battled. By giving players both options, the game adds a unique level of perspective and understanding on how reality and perception can influence history and mythology.

The Total War series has never been known for easing newcomers into the experience, and Total War: Three Kingdoms is no exception. In fact, the game's probably the most complex entry in the franchise to date. There's a massive amount of micromanagement to keep up with at any given time as you also try to account for the actions and events that might be going on elsewhere between other factions. Three Kingdoms also expands on the "diplomacy" options, recruiting spies to sow the seeds of discord while still adhering to your chosen general's distinct beliefs and moral code. It's a constant balancing act that feels like it could (and often does) collapse at any moment. Unfortunately, the game's tutorials still feel like an afterthought, leaving most players to learn important tactics through trial and error. It's a steep learning curve to say the least, at times overwhelming and frustrating. But the game is also a rewarding experience that leaves you with a real sense of victory earned on the battlefield.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the impact of the violence in Total War: Three Kingdoms affected by the fact that little blood or gore is shown in combat? Is the impact lessened when fantasy elements are introduced in the game, which reduces its realism?

  • What are some of the ways that historic events can become the basis for myth? What are ways to discover the factual basis behind certain legends or myths?

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