Technology | The Guardian

Total War: Three Kingdoms review – inside the soap opera of an empire

May 16, 2019 at 03:00PM

PC; Creative Assembly/Sega
The battles are as gripping as ever but it’s the melodrama and petty politics that enlivens this first-rate strategy game

This latest continent-sized strategy game from UK studio The Creative Assembly blends the hard graft of empire management with some pleasantly raucous personality politics. Taking its inspiration from Luo Guanzhong’s historical novel The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, it transforms statecraft into a soap opera – or rather, reveals statecraft for the soap opera it often is. The game is set in second-century China, a realm divided following the collapse of the Han dynasty. As one of 12 would-be emperors, you move armies across a lavish, cloud-wreathed map, seizing settlements, nurturing your economy and destroying or assimilating your rivals.

It’s game of two halves. On the one hand, there’s the relatively leisurely business of running your kingdom, where you take turns with opponents (AI or human) to move stacks of soldiers around, adjust tax rates with one eye on your population’s contentment levels, and build facilities such as schools and garrisons. On the other, there are the battles, where hundreds of individually animated warriors clash on delightfully miniaturised plains and hillsides.

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