We’ve talked a lot about the higher-level strategy of Total War: Three Kingdoms, from its dynamic character relationships to the unique types of warlords you can play as. Yet when it comes down to it, Total War has always been a series centred around its dramatic, large-scale, real-time battles.
In this regard, Total War: Three Kingdoms is no different. What has changed, however, is the structure of battles, as our latest video delving into the world of Three Kingdoms explores. Three Kingdoms sees some major alterations to the types of units you can deploy, as well as how those units are fielded. It also brings back a classic and much-anticipated feature from earlier Total War games, updated specifically for Three Kingdoms.
For Three Kingdoms, Creative Assembly wanted to make recruiting and deploying your units easier and more flexible, and the game approaches this in a couple of ways. Firstly, as in Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia, army units are mustered directly into your general’s ranks at a fraction of their full power, gradually reaching maximum strength over time.
In addition, armies are now comprised of “retinues” a new feature designed specifically for Three Kingdoms. “An army can have three characters - three generals - and each one of these generals can carry up to six units,” says Dom Starr, senior game developer on Total War: Three Kingdoms. “When you retire a character, they take that retinue with them. It allows you to un-deploy and redeploy across the map in a relatively fast and effective manner.”
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In the early game, generals will be able to recruit any of the standard unit types. However, some more specialised units are only available to the right kind of general. On top of this are “Elite” units, which include the powerful Emperor Guards, and several types of “hybrid” unit new to the Total War series.
“They’re usually the highest unit a character can unlock,” says Leif Walter, senior Designer on Total War: Three Kingdoms. One example is a type of heavy cavalry that is a hybrid of shock troop and line infantry. “They’re still cavalry, but they are so resilient and heavily armoured that they can hold the line on their horses.”
Alongside these new features is a returning fan favourite – unit formations. As in earlier Total War games, Three Kingdoms enables your units to redeploy individual units in specific formations to gain a tactical advantage. What’s more, alongside classic formations are several new formations, such as a circular formation for fighting the enemy while surrounded, and an advanced testudo formation that provides that unit with a huge boost to defence.
Formations are not available to your units from the get-go, however. You’ll need the right kind of general to train your units in the art of tactical deployment. “They’re only available if you have a Strategist character,” Dom Starr explains. “They’re really into supporting the troop tactics and that level of combat. With that, you rank up your strategist characters and they’ll unlock a number of formations.”
Watch the video above for the full lowdown on how Three Kingdoms’ armies function.