Total War: Three Kingdoms is an unusual game in terms of DLC: by choosing such a specific historical period in which to base a game, the options for expansion are immediately limited. Sure, you can try and re-skin an entire grand campaign and jump hundreds of years, but we’ve seen the middling results of that in the past and even early Three Kingdom’s DLC attempts were a bit lack-lustre.
The far better DLC model is keeping the campaign, but adding new characters, units and faction mechanics, which is what developer Creative Assembly has been doing quite successfully for Total War: Warhammer II.
So far Three Kingdoms hasn’t quite gone down the ‘Lords pack’ route, but it is experimenting with different timelines and as of Mandate of Heaven, its trying to offer the best of both worlds with difference scenarios and setups, combined with new and interesting characters and stories. Without further ado, let’s see just where we’re at in terms of available expansions. While you’re here, check out our guide to the best Total War: Three Kingdoms mods if you’re looking for other ways to spice up your game.
Total War: THREE KINGDOMs DLC
Here is a quick list of every piece of Total War: Three Kingdoms DLC and expansion released so far:
- 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
The expansions have definitely gotten better as time has gone on, with A World Betrayed being our favourite so far. Let’s take a look at each add-on in a bit more detail…
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.
We’ll keep this guide update as more DLC gets released.