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Total War: Three Kingdoms - Mandate of Heaven

Game review by
David Chapman, Common Sense Media
Total War: Three Kingdoms - Mandate of Heaven Game Poster Image
Prequel expansion offers chances to change Chinese history.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

This expansion begins the war for control of China's destiny at an earlier point than the main game, adding more characters and warlords into the mix. Once again, the different factions are motivated by their own specific traits and beliefs, but ultimately all are seeking absolute power over the Chinese empire.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although some factions vying for control of China might be motivated by more honorable or positive factors than others, their goals all remain the same. They simply seek to defeat any groups that oppose their beliefs and goals, taking full control over the future of China and its people.

Ease of Play

Mandate of Heaven expands on Total War: Three Kingdoms' gameplay, adding addition factions, new campaign missions, etc. But the core gameplay remains a complex mix of micromanagement of armies, supplies, and diplomacy. The expansion's prequel setting gives more time for players' actions to unfold, making planning for the "long game" even more necessary.

Violence

Violence is a focal point of the game, especially with the various factions battling one another for controls of the nation. Although diplomacy can avoid some conflicts, large scale battles are inevitable. Players can bring the camera close to the action in these massive battles, often depicting scenes of injury and death, though there's not much in the way of blood shown onscreen.

Sex
Language
Consumerism

Mandate of Heaven is a paid downloadable expansion pack, requiring players to have the main Total War: Three Kingdoms game to play. It's also the latest chapter in the long running Total War franchise.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven is an expansion to the Total War: Three Kingdoms tactical strategy game and is available for purchase and download on Windows-based PCs. The story begins prior to the events of the original campaign, adding new factions, characters, units, and more to the base game. Although the expansion adds more gameplay mechanics, it's meant to seamlessly integrate into the plot of the original. This keeps the difficulty high, especially for those unfamiliar with the Total War franchise. While combat's constant in onscreen battles between massive armies, and players are able to zoom in tight on the action, there's very little in the way of blood or explicitly graphic violence.

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What's it about?

TOTAL WAR: THREE KINGDOMS – MANDATE OF HEAVEN introduces players to a time in Chinese history just before the events of the Three Kingdoms period. This is the time of the Yellow Turban Rebellion and the collapse of the Han Empire. It was during this era that Emperor Ling's reign began to collapse as his people began to question his right to rule. Three Taoist brothers rally the people to fight back against the Emperor and his warlords, taking up arms to tear down the existing authority and rebuild a new dynasty of peace and tranquility. Mandate of Heaven expands on the Total War: Three Kingdoms experience by introducing a new prequel campaign, with progress carrying over into the base story. It also introduces six new warlords, and more than forty new units to command on the battlefield. When the battlefield clears and the dust has fallen, will you be left standing to shape the China's destiny? Or will you fall as a mere footnote to the pages of history?

Is it any good?

With most games' expansion packs, the content builds off what's already established and carries a story further down its natural timeline. Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven avoids this more traditional formula in favor of giving players a new start to their story, and a host of new historic outcomes to play with. By setting the expansion and its content as a prequel while introducing new factions such as the Imperial Court and the Yellow Turbans, the game doesn't just lead up to the Three Kingdoms. It allows players the opportunity to wildly change how history unfolded by carrying over their progress from this intro into the events of the main game. It makes for some unique scenarios that offer up fresh "What If?" style takes on the otherwise familiar campaign. The result turns the base game into a wholly new experience for those that might have thought they've played through everything it had to offer.

Mandate of Heaven might mark the largest and most robust DLC (downloadable content) pack to come to Total War: Three Kingdoms, but it still suffers some of the same pitfalls of the base game. For starters, while the expansion does add a host of new factions and units, it also brings with it some tweaks to the gameplay beyond simply adding units. The game adds new resources, Zeal and Fervour, both tied to the people's support of rebellion against the Imperial forces. There are also new rules for recruitment and diplomacy. Adding these new layers of complexity to an already difficult game to learn can be a source of frustration for those that already spent a lot of patience getting the hang of the original. And much like the base game, the tutorials still leave a lot to be desired, often forcing players to learn as they go through trial and error, only to discover their best laid plans early on collapse without warning later in the campaign. But if you give yourself time to learn Mandate of Heaven's quirks, you'll find incredible strategic gameplay here.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the impact of the violence in Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven affected by the historical context of the gameplay? How has violence changed throughout history? What are some of the common threads that have led to violent confrontations in history? What are some of the ways that future violence could be avoided or minimized?

  • Can films, games, etc. based on historic events help to build interest in those events outside of entertainment? What are some risks involved when watching or playing fictional and romanticized versions of historic events?

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