Review

Written by John Gerritzen| Edited by Jade Swann

Another good, content-laden addition to Total War: Three Kingdoms.

A Tale of Two Sons

Total War: Three Kingdoms - A World Betrayed, developed by Creative Assembly and published by SEGA, is the latest DLC for the Total War series. The two main draws are the additions of two major factions: Lu Bu and Sun Ce. You will dive once more into the Three Kingdoms era of China to attempt to unify the nation under your own banner. While they play similarly, the two headlining factions have their own specific nuances that make them enjoyable to play in their own right.

The Warrior Worth One Thousand

When I first heard about A World Betrayed, I was excited to jump into the shoes of Lu Bu. Given my experience with the Three Kingdoms story was primarily through the Dynasty Warriors games, I had figured Lu Bu would be a pretty straightforward scenario to play through. I was very, very mistaken; he's actually reasonably balanced. Lu Bu has a momentum bar for his faction and a personal glory counter for himself. Much like the brothers Zhang from the previous DLC, the momentum bar increases as you gain victories and take territories. In turn, you earn bonuses to your generals' satisfaction, public order, upkeep costs, and a handful of other metrics. This is countered by Lu Bu's glory, which increases as he gains personal victories and achieves specific goals baked into the scenario. Apparently, being a mighty soldier also makes Lu Bu insufferable, as higher glory means lower satisfaction for your other leader units. It becomes a tightrope walk of balancing Lu Bu's personal ambitions with the need to keep your other generals pleased. You will almost always have to be at war, taking multiple battles a turn to keep everything in check.

War, thankfully, is in abundance. Following the story path, you will find yourself vassalized to Liu Bei for the early turns, getting marching orders from your superior and getting pulled into wars. It's a good thing, too, since you also start out on the run from Cao Cao burning down your former capital. This also works as an effective means of tutorialization for another one of Lu Bu's new mechanics: maintain momentum. At the cost of fatiguing your units, you can replenish them and reset your army's movement. This allows Lu Bu's armies to pinball around the map, taking consecutive fights while progressing towards a goal. This also works as a handy retreat, picking off one army before it can get reinforced and then skirting away to recoup. Even once you break free from Liu Bei later on in the campaign, Lu Bu still has some diplomatic clout to keep him from overextending. Occasionally, different factions will propose mercenary contracts, requesting you eliminate an army or two from their opposition. Lu Bu can also coerce rival factions into taking deals they otherwise wouldn't.

The Legacy of Wu

The other major faction added with this DLC is Sun Ce. Much like Lu Bu, he has another slowly-draining pooled resource: reckless luck. Unlike Lu Bu, reckless luck is gained by making risky decisions during storyline events and pursuing various objectives. Also, when Sun Ce's luck runs dry, he instantly dies. I found this spurred me to overextend much more than I usually would, burning through resources and soldiers as I panickedly pursued territory expansion to keep my luck alive a few turns longer. It also doesn't help that Sun Ce's scenario starts him as a vassal, too, this time under Yuan Shu. Yuan Shu proves himself to be a capricious master, effectively keeping you without territory for a few vital turns in the early game should you choose to remain under his thumb.

Overall...

Sun Ce's campaign is much harder than Lu Bu's. One of his abilities, shared experience, allows you to raise your generals in rank rather quickly, but is slow to accumulate in the early game. This leaves you hard-pressed to capitalize on his other feature, statistical bonuses for appointing generals to cabinet positions. Higher ranking generals provide better bonuses, but they don't start offering any bonuses until rank three. Sadly, this feature seems a little under-developed. Each cabinet position has a set list of bonuses, regardless of who is staffing the position. Essentially, all you need is warm bodies in the chair of a certain rank, no more, no less. I would have liked to see different classes provide different bonuses, leading to an interesting mix-and-match dynamic that you could use to tailor your playstyle with this faction. Alas, no such luck. 

7

The Verdict: Great

Despite throwing myself into a death spiral thirty turns in with Sun Ce’s campaign, I enjoyed my time with A World Betrayed. Lu Bu's new mechanics are fun to play around with, and Sun Ce can provide a challenge to veterans looking for one. All in all, it's worth the price tag.

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