Which side will you pick?
Type: Singleplayer, Multiplayer
Developer: CREATIVE ASSEMBLY
Release Date: 11 Mar, 2021
Total War: Three Kingdoms returns with another DLC. This time we see two big factions face off for the control of China: it’s the year 200 CE, a point where years of mounting tension explode, irremediably ruining the childhood bond between Cao Cao and Yuan Shao, that find themselves on opposing fronts. Cao Cao has managed to seize the emperor and relocate him, while also reuniting most of central China. On the north, Yuan Shao has seized control of most territories, either through direct control or vassals, and is preparing to march against its childhood friend.
200 CE is an interesting pick as starting year for the campaign which, unlike the others, allows players to immediately gain control of well-established regions of China. This makes for a campaign that starts immediately in the heart of the action, without the need for the game to guide players through the first steps of their reign. This also makes for a campaign that could result overwhelming for new players, that should instead be introduced to Three Kingdom’s mechanics before delving into Fates Divided.
The difficulty is not only depending on the campaign though, as choosing different factions leads to big changes, especially for the early game. Yuan Shao is a relatively safe pick, as it has control – direct or through vassals – over the whole northern region, effectively leaving only two war fronts on the south and the west. Cao Cao’s instead a harder time in the early game, with many territories to defend and more war fronts to take care of.
Also included as part of the free-lc, both Cao Cao and Yuan Shao have been revamped with new faction mechanics. Cao Cao has received a new scheme mechanic to highlight the diplomatic cunning of the character. Schemes allow Cao Cao to play around the rules of the game, exploiting their effects to get additional movements for its armies, instantly unlocking technologies or using subtle diplomatic actions against its enemies…
As opposed to Cao Cao, Yuan Shao focuses instead on a more militaristic gameplay style, using lineage to unlock tiers in the captain armoury. The latter allows him to spend lineage to empower his faction with powerful bonuses and get captain retinues: these are improvements to the lower-ranked officers that Yuan Shao can recruit in the place of heroic characters, making for a good power spike in the late part of the campaign. While I preferred Cao Cao’s new scheme mechanic, Yuan Shao’s can be exploited in the late game in order to make your opposition tremble in front of your military power.
Unlike other factions, the newly added Liu Zhang plays around cross-generation mechanics rather than empowering the faction leader. By starting in 200CE, Liu Yan has already died and passed the inheritance. Liu Zhang can gain aspiration by either conquering new lands or passively by strengthening its cities. Aspiration then allows your faction to gain new powerful inheritance bonuses that will make you stronger throughout the game.
Another really welcome change in the game’s mechanics is a revamp for the council, which in the past felt more like a side aspect of the game, with the main problem of being really passive with respect to other game mechanics. The council is now a more important aspect of the game, with new interactions between your characters, which also helps in making them more realistic and “alive”.
The Fates Divided DLC brings many new features to an already rich game. While you’ll get all the new mechanics for the game and the pre-existing faction as part of the free-lc, buying the actual DLC will bring you a new, shiny and fun campaign that mixes the card on the table and feels fresh in terms of initial setting, factions and gameplay. Additionally, the new faction and new units are a great addition for the low asking price of this whole chapter pack.