Total War: Three Kingdoms

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Total War: Three Kingdoms
Total War Three Kingdoms cover art.jpg
Developer(s)Creative Assembly
Director(s)Janos Gaspar
  • Alexandra Hill
  • Jonathan Diamond
Designer(s)Attila Mohacsi
Programmer(s)Chris Budd
  • Pawel Wojs
  • Mauro Bonelli
  • Pete Stewart
  • Dion Lay
  • Martin Montford
  • Chris Gambold
  • Erin Williams
Composer(s)Richard Beddow
SeriesTotal War
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux
ReleaseMay 23, 2019
Genre(s)Turn-based strategy, real-time tactics
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Total War: Three Kingdoms is a turn-based strategy real-time tactics video game developed by Creative Assembly and published by Sega. As the 12th mainline entry (the 13th entry) in the Total War series, the game was released for Microsoft Windows on May 23, 2019. Feral Interactive released a macOS and Linux version of the game on the same day.[1]


Like its predecessors, Total War: Three Kingdoms is a turn-based strategy real-time tactics game. Set in the Three Kingdoms period (220–280), players control one of the game's twelve factions, who must eliminate other factions, unify China and become its ultimate ruler.[2] These factions are led by warlords, such as Cao Cao, Liu Bei, and Sun Quan.[3] In siege battles, players command both infantry and cavalry units. All the units featured in the game are divided into different retinues, with each led by a powerful general. The player can deploy up to three generals into the battlefield at once along with three in reserve, and players will only have access to the units that said generals can recruit.[4]

The player wins a siege battle when all hostile generals are killed or the central point of the city is captured. These generals, which can be commanded separately from their troops, have possession of unique ancillaries, which can be looted once they are killed. For instance, Lü Bu's Red Hare can be captured and used by other generals. Generals can engage in a one-versus-one dueling, which ends when one of them dies or flees. Each general has different classes and specialties, granting their units with both active and passive buffs.[5] The team introduces the concept of "guanxi" to the game, in which each general will form social connections and relationships with other characters. Viewing concepts like "obligations, reciprocity, and trust" as important virtues, these generals have unique personalities and desires that players need to cater to. If their demands are not met, their happiness rating will drop and this may lead to various repercussions for players.[6] Unlike previous Total War games in which characters seldom interact with each other, the generals featured in the game are actively forming relationships with the characters they meet throughout the campaign. This adds a strategic layer to the game in which players need to understand these generals before making any decisions.[6]

The game features two game modes. The first mode, "Romance", is based on the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, in which generals are gifted with nearly superhuman strength. Another mode, "Records", based on Records of the Three Kingdoms, presents a more historically authentic version. In Records, the generals have their powers removed and they can no longer be commanded separately, in addition to changing certain equipment in-game to be more historically authentic.[7]


The game begins in 190 AD, in which the once glorious Han dynasty is on the verge of collapse. The new emperor, Emperor Xian, enthroned at the age of eight, was manipulated by the warlord Dong Zhuo, whose oppressive rule leads to chaos. New warlords rise and form alliances to start the campaign against Dong Zhuo. With each warlord having personal ambitions and allegiances constantly shifting, the champions that emerge from the ever lasting wars will shape the future of China.[8]

Development and release[edit]

The game was developed by Creative Assembly. Creative Assembly had refined many elements of the game, bringing changes to both the artificial intelligence and the user interface. The team introduced the system of "guanxi" in order to make the characters and generals more important in the game, as Records and Romances, two of the team's most prominent source materials, have a huge focus on characters. The sinologist Rafe de Crespigny, an expert on the period, acted as a consultant for the game.[9]

When the game was still in preproduction in November 2016, Creative Assembly announced that the next historical Total War title would explore a new era instead of being a sequel to any previous game.[10] Three Kingdoms was revealed by publisher Sega on January 11, 2018 with a cinematic trailer.[8] Originally set to be released in the second half of 2018, the game was delayed to early 2019 so that the team had additional development time to complete the game's production.[11] Later on, a new release date of March 7, 2019 was announced, which was then delayed to May 23, 2019.[12][13]

Downloadable content[edit]

Several pieces of downloadable content have been released, including the following:

Paid DLC
Name Release Date Description
Yellow Turban Rebellion May 2019 Adds three playable factions associated with the Yellow Turban Rebellion into the main campaign.
Reign of Blood June 2019 Adds blood and gore effects.
Eight Princes August 2019 Adds a new campaign based on the War of the Eight Princes during the Jin dynasty, set 100 years after the start of the original campaign.[14]
Mandate of Heaven January 2020 Adds a prequel campaign starting in 182 that can continue into the base campaign, depicting the Yellow Turban Rebellion.[15]
A World Betrayed March 2020 Adds a new campaign starting in 194 after the main campaign of the original game.[16]
The Furious Wild September 2020 Expands the campaign map in the southwest and adds Nanman factions.[17]
Fates Divided March 2021 Adds a new campaign starting in 200 that focuses on the Battle of Guandu.[18]
Free DLC
Name Release Date Description
Tao Qian January 2020 Adds the leader Tao Qian and a new faction mechanic Displaced Population
White Tiger Yan March 2020 Adds the leader Yan Baihu with the unique faction mechanics Shanyue Camps and White Tiger Confederation
Shi Xie September 2020 Adds the leader Shi Xie with the unique faction mechanic Splendor


Critical reception[edit]

Total War: Three Kingdoms received positive reviews from critics, with many specifically praising the character-driven gameplay mechanics and storytelling elements. Chris Wray of wccftech describes the game is "as close to flawless, with a fantastic balance of 4X strategy and character-focused development and emergent storytelling."[29] IGN's TJ Hafer stated that Three Kingdoms should serve as the example for all games of its genre going forward.[23] Edwin Evans-Thirlwell of The Guardian stated the game " a wonderfully torrid period epic that understands the greatest stories are written about people, not empires."[26] Jody Macgregor of PC Gamer praised the campaign elements, but found the game still couldn't break off from longstanding problems the series has always faced, claiming Three Kingdoms "is not the best Total War game but not the worst by a long shot."[24]

The Romance mode has also been praised as bringing fascinating additions to the game, with many reviewers comparing it to Total War: Warhammer. Preston Dozsa of CGMagazine stated the game "represents the best of both the historical and fantasy sides of the franchise."[30] Sean Martin from Hooked Gamers stated the game "is the most divergent Total War I’ve seen since Total War: Warhammer... taking what is good in fantasy and using it to complement the historical components of the game."[31] Denis Ryan of Rock, Paper, Shotgun stated the game draws inspiration from many games that Creative Assembly created in the past, and "despite the resemblance there really is no game which has quite the same combination of elements, nor is there any strategy game that looks this good."[27]

Chris Tapsell of Eurogamer also stated the game is "ambitious and sometimes overwhelming."[20] PCGamesN's Phil Iwaniuk states the game brings issues along with innovations, noted that despite the game offers a memorable campaign, the real-time battles portion lacks depth compare to rest of the series.[25]


According to the developer Creative Assembly, Total War: Three Kingdoms was the most pre-ordered Total War game until its release date.[32] The game also set the record of concurrent players for Total War series, with over 160,000 people playing simultaneously on the day of release and reaching 192,000 by the first weekend, making it the biggest concurrent played strategy game on Steam.[33][34][35] The game became the fastest-selling game in the history of the franchise, selling one million copies in a week since its initial release.[36]


Year Award Category Result Ref
2018 Game Critics Awards Best Strategy Game Won [37]
Gamescom Won [38]
2019 2019 Golden Joystick Awards PC Game of the Year Nominated [39]
The Game Awards 2019 Best Strategy Game Nominated [40]
2020 23rd Annual D.I.C.E. Awards Strategy/Simulation Game of the Year Nominated [41]
NAVGTR Awards Art Direction, Period Influence Nominated [42]
Engineering Nominated
Game, Strategy Nominated
Original Dramatic Score, Franchise Nominated
MCV/Develop Awards Audio Innovation of the Year Won [43]
16th British Academy Games Awards British Game Nominated [44]


  1. ^ Interactive, Feral (May 23, 2019). "A new era of conquest — Total War: THREE KINGDOMS out now for macOS and Linux". Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  2. ^ Hafer, T.J. (January 17, 2018). "What to expect from Total War: Three Kingdoms". PC Gamer. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  3. ^ Scott-Jones, Richard (June 13, 2018). "There will be 11 playable factions in Total War: Three Kingdoms". PCGamesN. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  4. ^ Scott-Jones, Richard (June 13, 2018). "In Total War: Three Kingdoms, Heroes unlock new units to recruit". PCGamesN. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
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  9. ^ Gordon, Jonathan (2019-05-20). "History Made Playable – The Accuracy In Total War: Three Kingdoms". All About History. Retrieved 2020-12-18.
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Official website[edit]