More often than not, the Total War community waits each week for news about Warhammer. Still, there are moments when fans of the historical titles would get treated to upcoming content, especially those related to Total War: Three Kingdoms. You can only imagine the collective surprise when Creative Assembly announced that it will no longer release additional DLCs or patches for it since the studio is working on another game. That project also happens to be about China’s Three Kingdoms period.
The news came as a shock after Creative Assembly released a developer update video to talk about the future of Total War: Three Kingdoms. Statistics were shared, such as how many soldiers have been killed by Lu Bu and how many players decided to go on a journey with Lord Benevolence, Liu Bei. Things were looking up, and I do think it’s possible that fans expected new content to be announced. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.
Why the Total War: Three Kingdoms news is a shocker
Total War: Three Kingdoms is currently Creative Assembly’s flagship historical title (sorry, Rome Remastered and Troy). It’s relatively new (releasing in 2019 as opposed to Warhammer II which came out in 2017). Likewise, there was a planned Northern Expansion and people surmised that we’d see the Goguryeo Kingdom of Korea. For development to come to a halt is jarring indeed.
Moreover, we’ve yet to reach the actual Three Kingdoms period of China. The base game’s campaign has a 190 CE start date, a time when rival warlords clashed as the Han Empire slowly collapsed. DLCs then followed, such as Mandate of Heaven, which had an earlier start date since it’s about the Yellow Turban Rebellion, A World Betrayed, which saw Lu Bu and Sun Ce aggressively expanding, and Fates Divided, which focused on Cao Cao’s and Yuan Shao’s battle for hegemony. We even saw The Furious Wild, a look at the rise of Meng Huo and the Nanman, and Eight Princes, which fast-forwarded the timeline to a point when the Jin Dynasty already ruled.
Although players can see glimpses of certain events and characters (i.e., Liu Bei recruiting Zhuge Liang or rulers declaring themselves as emperors due to a “Realm Divide” mechanic), we’ve never played a setting where the Three Kingdoms of Wei, Wu, and Shu vied for supremacy.
Consider as well that the project is a standalone title that won’t be in the vein of Warhammer (i.e., previously purchased DLCs will not be carried over to the sequel). Similarly, completely abandoning a game with an active player base is downright alarming. As such, it’s understandable why many are upset. The game is currently being review-bombed on Steam, Total War‘s subreddit has criticisms for the studio, and the dev update video (seen below) has more dislikes than positive feedback. So, is there hope on the horizon?
What’s next in store?
As mentioned by Creative Assembly Game Director Jack Lusted and other developers, dropping support for Total War: Three Kingdoms will allow the studio to focus on a new historical title that happens to be based on the same setting and time period. Also, as clarified by Community Manager Grace Caroll, this new title will rely heavily on Romance of the Three Kingdoms, or San Guo Yan Yi, a novel written by Luo Guanzhong during the 14th century. The novel blended historical events with fantastical action, thrilling escapades, well-developed characters, cultural traditions, and fictional incidents. It’s considered one of the pillars of Chinese and East Asian literature.
To be fair, the concept is partially noticeable when you select Romance Mode, what with duels, skills, and unparalleled generals who can turn into one-man armies. But, it ends once the strategic sandbox takes over. Now, though, Creative Assembly touts that this upcoming title will emphasize characters and stories even more than before.
We can only surmise what the future entails, but I’m somewhat intrigued. Partly, it’s because of how the last two DLCs (Furious Wild and Fates Divided) didn’t really lead to groundbreaking changes. As mentioned in our Fates Divided review, I was already disappointed by the lack of events and dilemmas. Likewise, as someone who grew up reading and enjoying Romance of the Three Kingdoms and its adaptations in various forms of media, it seemed that Creative Assembly’s offering is treading dangerously close to following in the footsteps of Koei Tecmo’s long-running historical simulation franchise (also called Romance of the Three Kingdoms). In a way, we’ve seen the same campaign map, and additional DLCs mostly changed the start dates while adding playable leaders.
Personally, I’d like a change of pace, something that truly captures the imagination the way the base game did. Well, we’ve yet to experience Changban, Chibi/Red Cliff, the dash for Chengdu, Hanzhong, the fall of Jing Province, the Southern Expeditions, and the Northern Campaigns/Wuzhang Plains. Moreover, we’ve seen Napoleon follow Empire and Attila follow Rome. Knowing these, perhaps this upcoming character-focused and story-driven title would be Total War: Zhuge Liang. Would anyone be willing to bet their feather fans on that?