Total War: Three Kingdoms

You say that as if it’s a bad thing:

The best shakespeare ever put to screen, bar none.

I don’t.

I appreciated the non-deconstructionist and non-postmodern approach to interpreting literature as intended by its author. Refreshing in the contemporary western culture.

That’s right. I mean it seems obvious that this is the way material like this should be presented but I suppose some find it off putting but it doesn’t seem strange to me. It tries to understand people’s perspectives - and most important context. It seems on the nose because we’re supposed to be looking backward with foreknowledge. The one thing I do question - something that the 3K books don’t really touch on imo - is the nature of loyalty in a patriarchal, paternalistic society. It seems like every soldier is a fearless hero willing to die for their warlord without hesitation, and maybe there’s something a more modern approach could add. But the 3K story is fundamentally unconcerned with ordinary people other than that making the peasants “happy” means helping their population to grow and keeping them well fed and well ordered, and following the “Mandate of Heaven” is to some extent independent of the ruler’s own political ruthlessness.

That’s why I like the take that the 3K game has on the Yellow Turban rebellion and the way the Total War franchise makes these indirect commentaries on history. Good or bad, wicked or selfish, not one warlord doubted that a peasant uprising was a kind of unholy thing that needed to be swiftly eradicated like an unnatural plague. In TW:3K otoh, the game goes deeper into an interesting view of them, and projects a certain limited view of their “revolutionary” ideas - that is, even rebelling against the system their political ideologies are still constrained and limited by their time period and context.

I like facing off against Yuan Shao as an early challenge. Played as Cao Cao, used assignments to boost my food production right off the bat, then started building alliances. Capturing and executing Yuan Shu gave me a huge boost with Liu Baio that I cultivated into a friendship, and then into an coalition also including Liu Bei and Kong Rong.

It took three different wars to beat Yuan Shao, since I made sure to sign peace treaties whenever my allies bowed out. I focused my attacks on the Ye and Henei farmlands to cripple his food supply. Between the food trades and manipulation, I had no problem negotiating peace treaties.

By the time the third war rolled around, I had a spy commanding one of his armies, allowing me to sabotage his supplies when he invaded south of the river. He overreached and lost, and the coalition surged across the river and took most of his cities. I’m going to risk leaving him to Liu Bei to finish off while I prepare to liberate the emperor.

What’s struck me about this game is that I have to use every tool to play well. Keeping pace with Yuan Shao meant fine-tuning assignments, administrators, spies, and diplomacy. There were a couple of instances where the only reason I didn’t fail was because I already placed a spy or broke a treaty. I’m sure some of this will fall away as I get more efficient at the game, but right now there’s an enjoyable necessity to empire management.

Just finished my first campaign as Cao Cao, clocked in at 82 hours, manually fighting battles is amazingly time consuming, makes me feel my age too as I come out of them often times forgetting what I was working on at the strategic level.

I’d rate this as the single best Total War campaign I’ve ever played, I’m that impressed by it.

The shifting developments in the court, the assignments you make to run commanderies, the generals you select and groom, all make running your faction fun and the decisions feel like they mean something.

Couple this with diplomacy that makes the strategic layer much more dynamic and the campaign just comes to life. The twist and turns of alliances both for and against you are never ending.

It also feels like the different stages of the campaign work better, forcing you to bring different skills to bear at each phase.

I’m going to put this one down, read Three Kingdoms and then start a new one more knowledgeable about the personalities involved.

Impressive piece of work by CA, I must say I never saw this one coming.

Wow. Can you imagine this post? I feel guilty for even thinking “hey he might be right” for .05 secs.

Many people say that battles are too short. Maybe you’re playing in Records mode, the one where generals aren’t Marvel superheroes and people get tired after running a couple kilometers in armor.

You’d better not read Three Kingdoms itself but rather some derivative media. Like this TV show: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQgby8Rb0ImEP4108x04Feg2dBvuDADJG It’s in Chinese with English subtitles but it’s (mostly) available for free and production values are great. There’s also a close to text podcast explaining it all: http://www.3kingdomspodcast.com/

Reading Romance itself would be kinda like Chinese reading Illiad. Not impossible but hard to swallow due to language and unique context you might be missing.

I too like campaign very much even if I’d want them to do something as great in a more interesting setting. Ancient China is unique and interesting in its own way, but I can’t help to wish them to do the same with Medieval Europe. Which will inevitably flop due to much bigger scope: at the very least you’ll need to do Catholic, Orthodox, Pagan and Muslim unique unit rosters with some factions mixing them, like early Russia being mix between Vikings and Byzantines or something. 3K success is partly explained that, like Shogun, it’s an almost single faction game. CA showed that each time they do something good in a smaller scope they flop trying to go big.

I am reading it now and I disagree strongly. It’s not worse than an average translation of the Iliad, or an Spanish Epic Poem (if anything, it feels like somebody trying to write in the style of medieval epics but bringing a more contemporary sense of theming and plotting. It’s weird, but not too bad).

The plot is actually much more interesting than in those previous examples. It’s a little dry, but much better than I was expecting.

Three Kingdoms really is a triumph and easily is contender for the title of best Total War of the entire series.

I am in the end game of my Cao Cao campaign and I haven’t had a bored moment yet. There was a time in the mid-game where I was Shu Han’s vassal and much of the region around me was at peace via vassalization or alliance. That almost could’ve been a dull period as my trustworthiness/reputation was low and I was further limited by the terms of my vassalage in how I could conduct aggressive actions. Instead I used the period of peace to build tall and work on my infrastructure and upgrade the retinues in my armies with heavier higher quality troops.

I love how building tall works really well in this game and how Commanderies can be so varied and distinct based on building selection and upgrade paths. I love that you can progress up the hierarchy just by installing particular buildings and upgrading the size of your cities. That is exactly what I did while I was biding my time as Shu Han’s vassal. I worked carefully on my infrastructure and was able to eventually declare myself King…my vassal master Shu Han to the North had already declared and Wu (descendant of Sun Jian) to the South making me the third and final King. Of course that ended my vassalage to Shu Han and automatically declared war, which is exactly what I wanted.

It was so awesome to have that moment of sweeping across the map with my five armies seizing much of my former vassal master’s territory that bordered my own, wreaking havoc, and executing generals after conflicts. My former vassal master is now begging me for peace.

It has been a careful balancing act though since Cao Cao’s Kingdom is sandwiched between the other two great powers with Wu (Sun Jian) controlling an awe-inducing number of Commanderies across the South and against my borders. He has started probing and attacking my southern cities.

The strategic layer is so good I am spending most of my time there. I auto-resolve most battles, but still play the occasional one that looks close or interesting and that has prevented the battle fatigue from creeping in.

Diplomacy is some of the best of this series. The interactions and diplomatic stances between all of the factions is so fluid and dynamic. A faction that is your mortal enemy right now and the focus of most of your attention may shift to become a needed ally and great friend 10-20 turns later. The map is constantly shifting, evolving, and transforming. I instigated a proxy war against the Duchy of Qi at one point to seize some critical pieces of territory and was hated by them then 15 turns later we are good friends as we carve up the territory of my former vassal master (a greater threat to both Cao Cao and Qi). The individuals and personalities add a further interesting layer to the diplomacy.

Oh, I also get really sad when Cao Cao or one of my great generals dies in this and usually take a screenshot to document the tragic loss. I become so attached to the characters and personalities.

This is so good.

Not really. Warhammer is massive in scope, and has more factions and unit diversity than you would ever need for a medieval game. I don’t think I need to mention how big of a success it was, and they still have another game to release in the series.

Additionally, larger scope now allows CA to put out a solid core of content and then add factions later as DLCs.

It’s massive in scope now but on release people complained about how small it was. Four playable factions (plus chaos as day 1 DLC) and much more barren world - there were no beastmen or elves, and other factions had fewer units. This game was smaller than Shogun 2 or Napoleon in some regards even if the factions differed much more than in previous games.

Your point about Warhammer being content sparse on release is correct , but my initial quote was about how CA flops trying to go big. That’s demonstrably incorrect. On release, Warhammer was critically well received and had great Steam user reviews. It also sold very well, and it’s only gotten better. 3K is in the same boat. They have a great skeleton to add more heroes and scenarios to in the future.

If they do Medieval 3, they can take a similar path and start small (Christianity and Islam, perhaps), and add more factions, religions, and even maps later. They’ve proven they can do justice to the sprawling WFB universe. They were even given GW’s blessing to make new factions! They did it exactly by starting small and safe and expanding from there.

Are you extrapolating CA’s ability to execute large scale games based on Empire and Napoleon? Those were almost 10 years ago. Rome II’s release was rocky, but they’ve improved immensely since then.

What are the chances of CA (or a mod) addressing some of the vassal insanity? This is the first of their games that I’ve really gotten into, although I played the first Warhammer a little bit.

By vassal insanity, I mean how your allies or factions you’ve just signed peace with will target your vassal. It’s then YOU that takes the reputation hit for defending your vassal, since the game treats YOU as the person breaking your treaty by “attacking” the aggressor. Your only other option is to refuse to defend your vassal, which not only loses you the vassal but ALSO comes with it’s own reputation hit for not upholding your overlord obligations. It’s… stupid.

Is this the kind of thing that they address or something that a mod can fix, or will it likely languish like this? Right now, it’s my only real gripe with the game.

Ah, I see what you mean.

I doubt they can limit the initial scope in a game like medieval. Maybe if they conciously do something like Warhammer trilogy. Like the first release is just Britain, France and Iberia. Otherwise Medieval Europe has too many iconic factions, much more than antiquity. They can miss a couple of factions of the extensive list (England, Scotland, France, Castille, Venice, Byzantines, Rus, Poland, Vikings, Armenia, Egypt, Arabia, and they’ll certainly have to make someone in Germany and Italy and Balkans playable) but they’ll still have to make them recognizable and distinct, much more like Warhammer than Three Kingdoms.

I think they’ll go Rome 2 way. Use the goodwill. There’ll be a lot of hate for the game but it will still sell like crazy. You’ll have most of the factions I’ve listed available with a promise they’ll be made distinct later.

I’m not sure they’ll even acknowledge this as a problem. This sounds exactly like tragic dilemmas they want in the game, chose between two types of dishonour.

I don’t get how it’s dishonorable to defend those you’ve publicly sworn to protect. The dishonor would be on the side of the aggressor for attacking the faction they have treaties with. To me it feels like a bug where since the way the game works you declare war when you answer the prompt, so therefore you’re the treaty-breaker.

It also feels like an oversight that your alliance members don’t understand that the people they attack are your vassals.

Maybe vassal is too strong of the word here as we associate it with Feudal system. Maybe they’re more of a tributary, or minor ally or something. Your ally thinks he has a strong honourable reason to attack your vassal. He doesn’t see it as automatically attacking you. Like Austria attacking Serbia in 1914 probably understands that Russia can’t refuse call to arms without losing face but still wants Russia to stay out of it.

Everything about Vassalization is weird in this game. You can also hit the magical “Yuan Shao” moment yourself really easily, because the AI takes vassal power into account as your power during negotiations, which means once you have 3-4 vassals, your military might looks unbeatable and most of the AI will become your vassals with nothing more than a “guarantee autonomy” thrown in.

They still won’t generally be of any use to you in wars (for whatever reason most of the AI will just sit at your capital even if you tell them to go to war and they are loyal and like you. I’ve had a few random AI vassal armies like Gongsun and Liu Bei actually do stuff, but it seems like the non-expanding AI’s are content to just camp out at my palace. But even if they are worthless outside of the 20% of their income you get, you still win the game without having to capture their little handful of territories.

Oh, and there are certain AI’s that will just rebel against being a vassal every time as far as I can tell, Cao Cao and Yuan Shu most infamously. They do generally wait until your armies are further than one move away from their capital before doing so, but it’s still a hopeless venture.

tl;dr - Despite a great many diplomacy improvements, the vassal system in general just needs some sweet lovin from the devs.

What’s also annoying about vassal swarm wars is that its asymmetrical. You can try declaring war on a vassal to pull the master in. But for some reason the order of operations seems to be the master declaring war on your vassals first (before you), forcing you to once again be the one declaring war individually on their other vassals.

So you can’t even pull the same trick back!

There are other weird shit with vassals and coalitions and wars as well. For example, if you declare a coalition/alliance war against a vassal…then the master doesn’t get pulled in for ??? reasons. Well, not immediately, the vassal can then ask for it later.