It’s sometimes said of Lü Bu, the enforcer of the tyrant Dong Zhou, that his prowess in battle is worth 1,000 men. We decided to test that theory in Total War: Three Kingdoms and found that, in the latest digital interpretation of one of China’s most influential national stories, he’s actually worth… rather more than that.
We spoke with Creative Assembly’s designers about their interpretation of one of the Three Kingdoms’ most iconic warriors (check out the full interview below), and asked if he is literally worth 1,000 men in their game. Naturally the answer depends on the quality of the troops he’s fighting and on his own level, but senior designer Simon Mann says against “an army of peasants, I reckon he could easily get to a thousand.”
I went away and tried just that. Armies in Total War: Three Kingdoms are split into characters and their retinues, so – in Romance mode, obviously – I pitted a max-level Lü Bu against two strategists, and filled their retinues with weak sabre militia. At 120 men per unit, six units per retinue, and counting the two enemy characters, that totals 1,442 men.
I was worried I’d asked too much of him, but Lü Bu won – easily. I added a third strategist and retinue for a total of 2,163 enemies, and though he took a few more knocks, Lü Bu still survived the battle with just under half of his hit points remaining.
You might think this is ridiculous, but both battles were closer than the results suggest. In both cases Lü Bu struggled at the start, when mobbed by enemies whose morale was at their strongest. But he is designed to mow down weak troops – he has a passive ability that makes him stronger when facing more opposition, and an active one (Dragon’s Gaze) that immobilises all enemies within a pretty large area.
His final ability, Rage of Lü Bu, is a smaller area slam attack that erased as much as a third of each unit of lowly sabre militia with a solid hit. He is also mounted by default, a fact which I freely abused with relentless cycle-charging. After a while, the militia spent most of each battle on the run.
Any good? Here’s our Total War: Three Kingdoms review
This ought not to happen, ever, during a regular playthrough of Three Kingdoms. You’ll be able to chase Lü Bu down with cavalry of your own to deter cycle-charging and keep him from picking his engagements, or pepper him with arrows to punish him for leaving combat. You’ll also be able to duel him with your own characters – use champion types, who specialise in dueling, and ideally Guan Yu. And obviously, don’t feed him peasant troops.
Still, though – soloing over 2,000 troops is quite something. Clearly Lü Bu’s epithet needs an update. Three Kingdoms is out tomorrow, but if you fancy reading more in the meantime, here’s what CA have planned for DLC, and here’s a look at its elite units, including Jade, Azure, Pearl, Yellow, and Onyx ‘dragons’.