There may be no more Total War: Three Kingdoms DLC coming from the Imperial Palace at Creative Assembly, but that doesn’t mean what expansions have been released should be ignored. Unlike the Warhammer Total War games, the development team have tried a different approach with the expansions for this historical strategy game.
Derived from the iconic Romance of the Three Kingdoms books, Total War: Three Kingdoms is just as much about the characters during this famous period of Chinese history as it is about specific events or factions. As such, this Total War game offers a mixture between vanilla game map expansions, and new ‘start-dates’ that act almost like the scenario-based DLC from games past.
From the far future of Eight Princes, to the more modest timeline advances of Fates Divided (which starts about 50 turns into a vanilla game), Three Kingdoms offers differing sets of characters and starting scenarios to keep things fresh. It also explores earlier start dates from before the vanilla game’s 190 CE start as well. There’s a lot to consider, then, and we’re here with one of our handy DLC guides to help you decide what to buy.
Total War: THREE KINGDOMs DLC
Here is a quick list of every piece of Total War: Three Kingdoms DLC:
- Total War: Three Kingdoms – Yellow Turban Rebellion
- Total War: Three Kingdoms – Eight Princes
- Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven
- Total War: Three Kingdoms – A World Betrayed
- Total War: Three Kingdoms – The Furious Wild
- Total War: Three Kingdoms – Fates Divided
The expansions have definitely gotten better as time has gone on, with A World Betrayed being our favourite so far.
Total War: THREE KINGDOMS – Yellow Turban Rebellion
People are often quite hesitant about pre-order DLCs and quite rightly, but Yellow Turban Rebellion was a great addition to Three Kingdoms. The Yellow Turbans were a people’s uprising against the Han empire that was put down during the years just prior to the start of game’s main campaign. But being slightly flexible with the time period, CA brought a few dwindling Yellow Turban factions into the present campaign. With three unique characters, an entire roster of zealous peasants, as well as a special tech tree, new buildings and character types, there was a lot to like.
The Yellow Turbans offer a very different play experience — as a faction of rebels, their diplomacy and subterfuge are basically non-existent, and they have no family trees. This does detract a fair amount from what makes Three Kingdoms special in mechanical terms, but I personally feel it’s worth it to take on the role of such a kick-ass underdog faction. In a period where every selfish warlord and their grandma is focused on making personal gains, the Yellow Turbans represent the forgotten people, rising in fury and vengeance. Their cheap yet fanatical roster of peasants and heroes who hit like trucks, make them a real glass cannon faction, extremely fun to play.
- Angry peasant armies
- A more straight-forward playstyle if you’re not that much up for subterfuge or diplomacy
- Scholar duelists and healer heroes
- The Yellow Sky Rises!
IS IT WORTH IT?
Yeah, we’d say so although you get a more fleshed out experience with these factions in Mandate of Heaven, below.
Total War: THREE KINGDOMS – Eight Princes
Eight Princes was the second DLC for Three Kingdoms and in terms of my discussion at the beginning, represents the issue with standalone re-skinned campaigns. Eight Princes takes place during the War of the Eight Princes, where descendants of legendary strategist Sima Yi (there were eight of them) had a civil war over who should rule China. The eight princes themselves follow similar archetypes to the characters already introduced in Three Kingdoms, but the issue is enough wasn’t done to distinguish each faction, and there were only a few new units.
Eight Princes is a prime example as to why you can’t just re-skin a main game’s campaign and make it standalone for a DLC. It requires too much work, and why would you create a new grand campaign, when you can just add new stuff to the original, making an already great campaign, even greater? I’m hopeful that with Mandate of Heaven’s timeline we might see Eight Princes incorporated into the grand campaign, but considering the one hundred years between them, it might be awhile before we get enough DLC to fill the gap.
- A niche subject matter, which is actually nice to see.
- More of the same for those who want a more condensed 3K experience.
- 8 new characters.
IS IT WORTH IT?
It’s not essential, unless they somehow incorporated into the main campaign’s timeline like they’ve done with Mandate of Heaven below. Unlikely, since there is about a 100 year gap between the two periods. It’s good that Creative Assembly are exploring more niche events in China’s history, but this is still perhaps one to only get on the cheap.
Total War: THREE KINGDOMS – Mandate of Heaven
In comparison to Eight Princes, Mandate of Heaven shows how a new campaign can be incorporated into a main one successfully. The DLC takes place 8 years before Three Kingdoms starts — The Yellow Turban rebellion is in full swing and Liu Hong is trying to hold his empire together, while corrupt bureaucratic eunuchs have effectively brought governance to a standstill. Mandate features two very distinctive campaigns, which function as direct opposites in many ways.
The Zhang brothers of the Yellow Turban Rebellion share objectives and Zeal, the currency which causes uprisings, reflecting the values of co-operation that their movement is defined by. Whereas Liu Hong’s campaign is about consolidating individual power, balancing three disparate factions, Warlords, Eunuchs and Dynasts, all vying for supremacy in the Imperial court.
- Two opposing, but equally strong campaigns in the Yellow Turbans and Liu Hong.
- The Imperial Army, the Emperor’s absurdly powerful elite force.
- Introduction of the timeline, multiple start points for older characters.
- Battlefield deployables that enemy AI actually know how to use.
IS IT WORTH IT?
Absolutely, but you don’t have to take my word for it… except you do because I also wrote our official Mandate of Heaven review. Other people have said nice things about this expansion too though, honest.
Total War: THREE KINGDOMS – A World Betrayed
The expansions keep getting better and better as time goes on, and A World Betrayed is an excellent example of this. It adds a new start date once more, but instead of catapulting into the far future like Eight Princes, it instead goes just a little bit ahead to 194 CE, which is actually around turn 20 of a regular game. With this start date, you get some new central characters who are the focus, as well as new starting conditions for a range of existing characters as well.
The new arrivals have some interesting mechanics that really make them worth while to play, and there’s a bunch of new events, units and buildings to look at too.
- Adds a new start date of 194 CE, which is about Turn 20 of a vanilla game.
- Adds new central characters Sun Ce and Lu Bu, each with their own mechanics.
- New starting conditions for existing favourites.
- New units and buildings.
IS IT WORTH IT?
I think our A World Betrayed review makes it clear that it is. This is easily the best expansion so far, and a great demonstration of the development teams ability to adapt and create interesting new content within the existing time frame of Three Kingdoms. This is a great one if you want to skip the early game positioning and launch straight into a more aggressive/pro-active strategy.
Total War: THREE KINGDOMS – The Furious Wild
This add-on represents Three Kingdom’s first true ‘expansion’ in the sense that it provide content that’s mainly targeting the vanilla game, and not providing a new start-date or scenario to play-around in. The Furious Wild introduces the Nanman and the mountainous jungle regions of southern China. With a brand new culture type, four new principle characters and their factions, along with their own victory style, if offers a fresh new perspective on the era and really brings southern China to life.
- Introduces four new playable factions, unique mechanics and plenty of NPC fodder.
- The principle characters of the new factions are pretty bad-ass.
- Battle Tigers.
- The new Nanman culture, with their own tech tree, progression and unique end-game goal.
- Expands the southern half of the map with new regions and terrain.
- Nanman/Southern China content for the 190 and 194 start dates, assuming you own the relevant expansion.
- BATTLE. TIGERS.
IS IT WORTH IT?
Most definitely. It’s not the best of the bunch, but it also can’t be understated how inventive and fun this expansion is. The new Nanmen culture have been masterfully integrated into the vanilla game, and it’s good that the development team are taking some cues from Total War: Warhammer 2 in the sense that they’re giving the new culture their own style and victory conditions.
The only reason it doesn’t beat out Mandate of Heaven or A World Betrayed is that it largely ignores what makes Three Kingdoms so much fun to begin with, making this experience somewhat separate to the politicking in central and northern China. Variety is the spice of life, though, and we hope to see more like this in the future.
TOTAL WAR: THREE KINGDOMS – Fates Divided
The final expansion for Total War: Three Kingdoms, this add-on introduces a new start date – 200 CE – with a new roster of characters and new challenges to face. Where-as the Furious Wild introduced new vibrant (and incredibly warlike) factions in the Nanmen, Fates Divided offers a more subtle route. It’s even possible to play Three Kingdoms without fighting, with many of the free features introduced alongside the expansion, which complements the new start date very well.
- A new 200 CE start date, with a new cast of characters
- New units, including ‘elite’ northern army units
- New cross-generational mechanics for Liu Yan
IS IT WORTH IT?
The new start date does make good use of the new mechanics and is a more advanced scenario for those who have experienced repeated playthroughs of the vanilla campaign, but the most interesting stuff is actually free. Cao Cao and Yuan Shao’s reworks, the new tools that their campaigns use, and the Faction Council and Imperial Intrigue mechanics don’t actually require the expansion.
Still, as Sean Martin says in our Fates Divided review, “content is content”. The new start date is really good for getting you into the action quickly, with re-worked setups for favourite characters, and larger domains so that you can work towards the endgame ‘Three Kingdoms’ event more quickly. It doesn’t give us the Northern rework we were hoping for, but it’s still pretty good. Is it a good send-off for the game given there’s no more DLC coming? We’re not sure about that just yet, but it’s a decent pack.