by Sean Martin
previewed on PC
These past few weeks we’ve seen more and more info about CA’s new Total War game, Three Kingdoms, but there’s still a lot left that we don’t know. So I was super excited when I got the chance to play some at Gamescom 2018 and interview two of the developers about the game. The battle I got to play, was the ambush of Sun Ren, a typical example of the new type of ambush battle. You command a small elite force, showcasing some of the new general types; Sun Ren (a warrior) and her brother (a strategist).
The warrior generals are capable combatants and in romance mode, are able to effectively duel other enemy generals. They also have powerful combat abilities such as Sun Ren’s ranged heart-seeker, an arrow shot capable of weakening or even killing enemy commanders. Whereas the strategist general is more about aura buffing the troops around him, granting bonuses, but should steer clear of combat, as will fall easily. The battle demonstrated a good deal of interplay between characters and general types. If Sun Ren or her brother should fall for example, the other would go mad with grief, rampaging out of control and attacking the nearest troops. This is a mechanic that effects all characters who are related, or who are sworn brothers.
Another example of Three Kingdoms’ intense focus on character was the ambush of Sun Ren’s two victory conditions. One was to brave the ambush and beat the enemy, the other was to escape, sacrificing some troops to ensure your character’s survival. Three Kingdoms is incredibly dynastic in the sense that your characters are your most valuable asset. But if their satisfaction falls too far, they can potentially betray you. This also brings me onto the fantastic new spy mechanic; spying is no longer instantaneous.
A spy can be embedded in an enemy faction, growing in influence and power, but also capable of sabotage and even military betrayal (unbeknownst to the faction leader/player). The sheer scope of this mechanic is incredible, especially when you consider the ramifications it could have for co-op campaigns. From what I gathered, spies can also be turned and made to re-spy for you instead as a form of counter intelligence. These court intrigue mechanics represent very effectively the sheer amount of betrayal and side switching that occurred during The Romance of Three Kingdoms.
ROMANCE VS. CLASSICAL
The actual battle itself played wonderfully; the visual style was gorgeous with fire arrows and flaming trees lighting up the night. There were also beautiful historical touches, such as the fire lanterns that were let loose right before the ambush. The character banter is also a wonderful touch; Sun Ren shouting as she puts an arrow through a fleeing enemy strategist, or taunting a warrior general as she smashes him into the dirt. The soundtrack is also wonderful, as we’ve witnessed previously in some of Three Kingdoms’ earlier trailers. It all made for a very fluid and invigorating battle experience.
The other new aspect is the two game modes; romance and classical. Romance makes some changes to the games visual experience and adds duelling and combat abilities. It also makes your generals far stronger and capable of taking on units by themselves, more akin to Total War: Warhammer so to speak. With the duelling mechanic, two generals can face off, but you can choose to decline a duel with no negative repercussions. If however, you interrupt a duel with your own troops, it is considered cowardly and dishonourable, so your army will take a morale drop. The result of a duel will proffer a morale boost to the victors side and a drop for the loser. Classical mode weakens your generals, making them effectively just another soldier on the battlefield, in need of careful protection. The duelling is a wonderful spectacle however, a cinematic experience as you watch two warriors duke it out amid clashing armies.
From the taste I got of Three Kingdoms, I am extremely excited. So far it is exactly what I hoped for, a combination of fantasy influence and historical. This interchange of influences has been occurring more and more recently, with Thrones of Britannia and Rise of the Republic’s faction specific mechanics. I am glad they are building upon what is good in both of those genres/even combining them into one, with both the romance and classical modes. Also the new spying mechanics have so much potential. Three Kingdoms is set to drop in Spring 2019. Keep your eyes peeled.