Total War: Three Kingdoms bends history more than most of the series, letting you hurl legendary warlords into battles where they can single-handedly wipe out entire units. It bridges the gap between Warhammer and the historical Total Wars, but if you prefer your heroes more human and frail, there's also the more traditional Records mode. To see how the battles compare, check out the primer above.
Records mode gives you more familiar Total War brawls, where leaders ride into battle with bodyguards and largely function like a regular, albeit tough, unit. No duels, no special abilities, no charging into hundreds of swordsmen and killing them without breaking a sweat. Normal units are affected, too, suffering more from fatigue from all the running around and almost getting stabbed. This prolongs the battles as tired warriors do less damage.
I fought a total of one Records mode battle before confirming it absolutely wasn't for me. I've already fought plenty of them in other Total War games, and removing all the changes—improvements, really—leaves the game feeling flatter and more predictable.
The appeal, however, is still understandable. As much as I'm obviously happy with the changes, it does move the focus away from commanding units to commanding heroes. Sure, you've still got to give all of your troops their orders, getting them in position and sending them in to tackle the right enemy at the right time, but really they're just distractions, locking down enemy warriors so they don't notice the spear-twirling maniac rushing up behind them. Records mode, then, is a bit more considered, as you're not packing a human-shaped WMD, and requires a lot more unit management.
You can see what we made of the rest of the game in Jody's Total War: Three Kingdoms review and my celebration of Total War finally getting diplomacy right.