Martial Arts, Epic Horses And 5 Total War Three Kingdoms Features You’ll Love


Total War is heading to China, and making
some quite major tweaks to its approach along the way. This is a period full of larger-than-life
characters, bringing an epic sense of drama to Creative Assembly’s classic war simulator. Having seen the game at E3 and chatted to
some of the team we’re going to talk you through the features that have us excited,
from hand to hand duels to the epic horse looting. Also, apologies in advance if I mangle the
pronunciation of character names. I’ll try my very best not to. As the Three Kingdoms name suggests, our setting
is China in the second to third century – this is a period of great upheaval, charting the
crumbling of the Han dynasty and the big old rumble that follows as legendary Chinese generals
attempt to bring the country under one rule. What’s really interesting is that there
are two distinct takes on the period – the historical records of the time, that chart
the specific movements of those involved, and the fictionalised account written in the
14th century. This novel – Romance of The Three Kingdoms
– is a dramatic retelling of events, casting those involved as grand heroic figures. Almost like the Marvel superheroes of their
day but with much more impressive helmets. These are the versions you’ll be more familiar
with from games like Dynasty Warriors or films like Red Cliff. Creative Assembly are themselves tapping into
both versions of events: when you start a campaign you can choose to play in Romance
mode or Classic mode. Opt for Romance and you’ll see these almost
superpowered versions of the characters on the battlefield. Warriors like Lu Bu and Yue Jin, who can single
handedly charge through enemy ranks. One member of the team likens them to driving
a combine harvester through the front line of defences. I’m very much on board with that. Play in Classic mode – which we haven’t
seen in action yet – and the same characters behave more like traditional generals in previous
Total War games. They are embedded in a unit of their elite
bodyguards and will not be pole vaulting around on a magic spear. The differences also extend to events you’ll
encounter in the two versions of the campaign. Some characters are total embellishments in
the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and so won’t appear in classic mode. For example, in the novel, Diaochan, one of
the legendary Four Beauties of China, convinces Lu Bu to betray and kill his master. She isn’t thought to exist in reality, so
you can wave goodbye to her in the Classic campaign. But the legendary characters of the time aren’t
just special attacks – in the Romance mode, which was demoed at E3, they fundamentally
alter your approach in battle. While at the start of the campaign you still
pick a faction with a leader – we’re told there will be 11 to choose from at launch
– the makeup of your army on the battlefield is determined by the generals you bring to
the fight. You now have multiple generals in battle,
each leading a retinue of unit types specific to their expertise. A strategist like Cao Cao might contribute
trebuchets and archers for long distance destruction. While he won’t be charging into the fray
to do any pummelling himself – he’s about brains over brawn – his presence on the battlefield
can buff the units of his other generals. But as he peppers the city walls with projectiles
from afar, his fellow general, Yue Jin, who is a brawling Guardian-type hero, can march
his armoured spearmen into the heart of the battle. Of course, the downside to having generals
leading chunks of your army is what happens when those generals die in battle. It will negatively impact their retinue, lowering
morale and focus in the fight. Characters also have relationships with one
another – more on that in a second – so if a beloved general kicks the bucket, his friend
or family member could potentially go berserk in battle, and charge their retinue in a suicidal
bid for revenge. What with generals being the lynch pin of
your forces, you’ll also need to watch out for new one on one duels. These aren’t available between every named
character. A strategist like Cao Cao wouldn’t be able
to out think a spear to the face, so is best off lurking at a distance. But your champion-type heroes can wade in. Instigating a duel is done from an in-game
menu – you select the option and your hero will seek out the target for a fight. These are brilliantly animated scraps – much
closer to the elaborate choreography of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and other martial arts
films. You can even select specific moves and abilities
to influence the fight. Of course, it’s not just about winning or
losing. Heroes can die in duels, yes, but they can
run away too. In fact, you might choose to retreat to keep
your valuable general from death’s door – although a cowardly escape might disappoint
his troops and leave his retinue weaker in the future. Likewise, you can order your men to help swing
the duel in your favour, though this too could be perceived as a dishonourable move. On the flip side to this. pulling out of a duel that you’re winning
may make your rival grateful, which could have positive repercussions should you encounter
them under different circumstances in the future. I love the idea of generals having a reputation,
both with their men and other generals – a reputation forged through decisions on the
battlefield. But this network of relationships goes much
further than this too. An idea that Creative Assembly keep coming
back to in Total War Three Kingdoms is guanxi, which is the concept of interpersonal connections
that govern Chinese society. In less fancier terms, it’s the vast social
network that exists between all the characters in the game, whether they’re family, friends,
allies, rivals, servants or masters. These historical figures aren’t just skill
trees and battle abilities. They have relationships that manifest in smaller
moments, like banter between generals during the battle, but also in grander happenings
on the campaign level. For example, if you opt for an aggressive
approach, that might upset a more peace-loving general. That relationship can deteriorate to the point
that they leave your faction. But the general who leaves could himself have
a tight bond with other characters in the faction, who will leave with him out of solidarity. It’s an exercise in plate-spinning then,
not just keeping your favoured heroes happy, but watching out for mistakes that might poison
that relationship from a different angle. It works the other way, too – you might end
up hiring a general you don’t really want, just because they’re good chums with a more
valuable asset. The web gets even more tangled when you start
factoring in the aftershocks of individual battles – kill a cherished rival and his allies
will seek you out for revenge. Or your faction could gain a dishonorable
reputation and make enemies of otherwise neutral characters. Going back to that earlier example of a friend
dying in battle and triggering a beserker rage – beyond the battle, that loss could
lead to a period of mourning for years to come, having knock on effects for all involved. Of course, all this extra drama can be toned
down in classic mode, but I love the idea of a Total War with with spark of life. They’re not just playing pieces on the board,
but people with passions that can help or hinder. And besides, who would choose to play in Classic
mode when Romance has characters like Xiahou Dun taking an arrow to the eye, then plucking
out the arrow and eating his own eyeball. Yummy! The focus of the E3 demo is to demonstrate
the role of generals and more character-lead action. Creative Assembly are a little cagier on wider
changes to battles, though you can see some new ideas in play. Siege AI is much improved, for starters, with
enemy forces pulling back from the wall once our men breach it. They retreat to choke points deeper in the
city where previously they might have charged endlessly at the wall. There’s also a hint of new formations inspired
by the military tactics seen in Romance of the Three Kingdoms. In the demo we see spearmen in a tortoise
formation, boxing themselves in with shields to protect themselves from the city’s archers. If you’ve seen John Woo’s excellent film
Red Cliff – a major inspiration for the game – you’ll know that there are loads of colourful
tactics deployed in the period. I’ve love them to incorporate ships filled
with mannequins used to waste the enemy’s arrow supplies. The focus on generals also means you can loot
specific characters who your beat in battle, and then deck your own heroes out in their
outfits to boost stats or earn new abilities. In the case of this demo, you can claim Lu
Bu’s epic horse, called Red Hare. It’s the second fastest horse in china,
apparently, so I imagine Lu Bu will not be happy seeing you sit on it. I plan to feed it sugar cubes and fatten it
up as the ultimate diss. That’s a
quick overview of what Creative Assembly brought to E3 – it’s quite a departure from Total
Wars of old, though I like that there is an option for people who want to enjoy more traditional
play. Personally, the idea of a character-lead piece
is right up my street – it sounds likes Total War meets Fire Emblem, and the idea of maneuvering
a more delicate game of personal diplomacy at the campaign level should be a neat framework
for the individual battles. More on this when we have it, so please do
consider subscribing so you don’t miss our future Total War videos. Thanks for watching Rock Paper Shotgun. See you soon.

16 thoughts on “Martial Arts, Epic Horses And 5 Total War Three Kingdoms Features You’ll Love

  1. John Woo's movie Red Cliff is absolute rubbish in terms of historical accuracy – the formations/tactics are garbage and the weapons and armor are pretty inaccurate as well. Almost all of the formations you see in Red Cliff are totally fictional or exaggerated/badly misrepresented (eg. spinning turtle of death, thin infantry squares, overly elaborate circles, etc). It's unfortunate that Zhao Yun's ridiculously anachronistic Middle Eastern plated mail armor from the 14th century in the Red Cliff movie served as inspiration for Lu Bu's armor in 3K.

  2. I'm pretty sure it was stated that Cao Cao is of the leader class, not the strategist class. He didn't bring the artillery in that battle. He's the leftmost unit card with archers, axes, and cav. However, it's possible he still may not be able to engage in duels – I haven't heard any news about that yet.

  3. The game Is gonna suck, the trailer will probably be the only best thing about the game based on the play they showed its practically a reskin of Rome total war, hype

  4. I wonder what the playable factions will be. We know that Liu Bei, Cao Cao, and Sun Jian will be playable.
    I'm guessing that Yuan Shao and Dong Zhuo(who might later be replaced as faction leader by Lü Bu) will also be playable. Other potentials could be Gongsun Zan, Liu Biao, and Yuan Shu(Yuan Shao's half-brother, and a powerful and devious warlord in his own right).
    I don't know if the Yellow Turbans/Scarves will be playable, since it looks like the game will be starting off with the war between the Coalition and Dong Zhuo(after the Yellow Turban/Scarves rebellion). Also, while the Yellow Turbans/Scarves did do a lot of damage and included as many as 2.000.000 rebels, they were mainly made up of poorly trained and equipped peasant recruits who for the most part were little more than bandits given an excuse to loot. A danger to unarmed peasants, yes(which is why the war was as bloody as it was, since unarmed peasants were their main targets), but not much of a threat against actual soldiers. If the Yellow Turban/Scarves rebellion is featured I'm guessing it'll be in the game's tutorial.
    If anyone else has playable faction guesses I'd like to hear them.

  5. err…thought liu bei's earlobes were supposed to be extra long that they'd touch his shoulders; his arms so lengthy that they'd reach over his knees while standing. at least that's how he was described in the novel. guy who played him in this game has tiny ears and mini arms -_-

  6. lu bu was supposed to be a tall man, like over 7 feet. he seems tiny in the game. red hare was supposed to be xxx large, but it looks like a donkey here. at least they got dong zhuo right, fatty big and old. heh.

  7. man.. i was hoping for a 3 kingdoms total war game ever since i saw rome total war. Its even better than i thought cause they decided to add all kinds of new game mechanics to make it fit with the theme. They didn't just get lazy and re-skin a previous game.. I wonder if there will be gates in this game that you can defend, and im curious if there will be some naval battles too

  8. I love that they give me an opinion to play original mode. If it was not in it I would not buy. With both being in I am very interested in this game even with a bunch of other games coming out this fall.

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