A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
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.
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
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 & Scariness
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.
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Products & Purchases
Latest installment in the Total War franchise, which has covered historical periods as well as fantasy settings.
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.
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.
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