Since the release of the critically acclaimed "Total War: Shogun" on 13 June 2000, the Total War PC game series has gone from strength to strength, pioneering new developments in computer gaming and graphics from the get-go. Three years after their last historically based game "Total War: Attila," it was announced on the 10th of January this year that a new game will see the light in 2018; "Total War: Three Kingdoms."

For the past two years, developers Creative Assembly have been focussing their efforts on the realm of fantasy, releasing "Total War: Warhammer" and "Total War: Warhammer II" in 2016 and 2017 respectively. The reason for the high anticipation surrounding "Total War: Three Kingdoms" is that it sees the return to the kind of historically based setting that Total War was known for from its inception.

One aspect of Total War that sets it apart is that, with the exception of the two Warhammer installments, it is historically accurate in a way that is not often found in other PC games. This is achieved by employing specialists in the various applicable historical fields to contribute, while still allowing for modifications within the game to suit the player’s personal preferences. Another characteristic of the game that has time and time again ensured high ratings and an increase in its fanbase is the way in which gameplay is handled. Both the campaign and battle facets are well thought out and boast the perfect harmony between graphics quality, processing power, and artificial intelligence.

Expected to be masterfully designed with mesmerizing graphics and the astounding in-game action that has secured the Total War series as a forerunner in PC gaming industry, PC gamers the world over are looking forward to the future to return to the past.

A legacy of war

First coined in the World War I memoir “Der Totale Krieg” by the German general Erich Ludendorff, the term “total war” refers to the complete utilization of all resources of an entire state, be it food, machinery, or even civilians, for the sole purpose of warfare. Warfare by any means. It is with this political theory in mind that Creative Assembly launched a game series to emulate a scenario of total warfare and complete annihilation during various time periods throughout history while still focussing on other related aspects of waging war.

Conceptually, the entire series is based on the book The Art of War, written by Sun Tzu, the Chinese philosopher, general and military strategist of the fifth century BCE whose main work is still read by strategists, military personnel, philosophers and businessmen to this day. Known for his exquisitely detailed and eloquent philosophies on waging warfare in a fashion that guarantees victory, it is understandable that the Total War franchise has drawn much of his reasoning and doctrine into their gameplay, making the strategical planning and campaign features of the game highly realistic and mentally challenging.

As stated by The Art of War: “All warfare is based on deception.”

"Shogun" was set in Japan during the feudal era and "Shogun II" just after, in the 16th century. "Total War: Three Kingdoms" marks the thirteenth main game in the series, excluding spin-offs, and is set after the Han dynasty and before the Jin dynasty, specifically during the year 190 CE. Even the Total War logo shows the silhouette of a samurai on horseback. In a way, the Total War series is returning to its historical Asian roots with "Total War: Three Kingdoms."

Meet your maker

The masterminds behind the Total War franchise is Creative Assembly; a multiple award-winning game developer started in West Sussex in 1987. Working in close collaboration with Electronic Arts during their early years, the very first Total War was published by EA, unlike subsequent releases. The second installments, "Total War: Medieval" (2002) and "Total War: Rome" (2004) were published by Activision. After acquiring Creative Assembly as one of their eight subsidiaries, all further releases were to be published by Sega, including the up-and-coming "Total War: Three Kingdoms."

Sega is a name that needs little introduction. The world renown creator of Sonic the Hedgehog has become internationally recognized since its founding in 1982. From the release of "Medieval II," they have published eight Total Wars with "Total War: Three Kingdoms" being their ninth and with this latest addition, one must wonder if the game setting might also be related to Sega’s recent rise in popularity on the Chinese market.

For victory and glory

Each release of Total War has set the president for grand strategy gaming even though each release has the same basic principles as its predecessors. The game is divided into two main components, namely battle, and campaign. Unlike most of its contemporaries, the battles in Total War are real-time rather than being turn-based. This, along with the vast amount of 3D models that are on screen at the same time is what put Total War a cut above the rest when it was first released. Most battles last approximately 10 to 15 minutes so that the game progresses at a good, steady pace, and allows for enough campaigning in between.

A major aspect with regards to the way in which the game’s campaign functions is 4X; explore, expand, exploit, exterminate. This is very much in keeping with the concept of total war, and though it was by no means the first PC game to walk this path, 4X games such as "Total War," "Civilisation," and "Endless Legend" are known to contain more intrinsic, involving gameplay. Emphasis is not placed solely on warfare but also on economy, diplomacy, agents, and alliances.

Campaigns are turn-based, meaning there is a good application of both turn-based and real-time gaming. Looking at a campaign screen, you might be reminded of Risk or "Lords of the Realm," though, like the battle phase, the campaign is also 3D modeled, with superb graphics definition. The reason behind the stunning graphics for the last two games in the series is the Warscape graphics engine.

Throughout, the AI is a dominant feature, but the percentage of AI, graphics and processing power is just the right balance to keep the game running smoothly and still deliver a masterfully designed AI system. Normally, AI – which adapts to what happens within the game to make it more dynamic – would slow down your processing speed, especially in a system that contains real-time combat (RTC), but this is not the case with Total War. In conjunction with 4X and RTC, the AI has always been intricately developed for peak performance.

Creative Assembly has progressed from the first Total War and its TW Engine 1 to the current 64-bit TW Engine 3. Can we expect a brand-new War engine for "Total War: Three Kingdoms"? We shall have to wait and see.

Steam is a staple for any dedicated gamer and with the release of "Total War: Three Kingdoms," the mod support system is once again expected to be amazing. This will allow you to tweak your game to suit your personal tastes. Whether its changing models, creating unique units and factions or altering balances, the world of Total War is your playground. You should even be able to write your own AIs. For "Three Kingdoms," as with the previous releases, these mods will be available from the release date.

Let the games begin

The world of Total War is massive. Together, the games have a combined total of 24 expansions, and each has a special edition, with the exception of "Total War: Warhammer II." The first two were only available for Microsoft Windows, but is now available on OS X and Linux as well, as will be the case with their future releases.

It wasn’t until the release of "Total War: Warhammer" in 2016 that the game series delved into the world of fantasy. All previous Total Wars had been set during crucial political time periods throughout history. Warhammer is something completely different and required that Creative Assembly set up a new, separate team of developers to spawn what will become the Warhammer trilogy, the third installment of which has not been announced yet but remains highly awaited. Based on the Warhammer Fantasy roleplaying games created by Games Workshop, this dark fantasy universe contains a multitude of different races from dwarfs, elves humans, orcs and the undead. And at the center of it all lies Chaos, seeking to corrupt and decimate the world and shape its own domain.

A faux pas was made with the first "Total War: Warhammer" which aggravated critics and gamers alike. In the game video, Chaos makes a prominent appearance, but even though it was included in the game, it could not be played as a faction. Others felt that of a large amount of downloadable content (DLC) for the game, some should have been part of the original package. Taking this critique into account, Creative Assembly and Sega compensated by bringing out seven remarkable expansions and "Total War: Warhammer" still received 8.6 out of 10 from IGN.

In addition to the twelve existing main games, there is "Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia."

It is due for release in 2018 as well and though it plays off in 878 CE on the British Isles after the Viking invasions, which was the setting for "Medieval" and its expansion "Viking Invasion", the Sagas will all be self-contained standalone, with more detail and population density for a smaller, more focused area.

History in the making

China was divided into a tripartite after Cao Pi forced Emperor Xiang, his father, to relinquish his crown to him. This was the last stroke that effectively ended the Han dynasty. Mao Zonggang, in a comment on Luo Guanzhong’s novel "Romance of the Three Kingdoms," stated: “The three kingdoms formed when the Han royal house declined. The Han royal house declined when the eunuchs abused the sovereign and officials subverted the government.”

Culture and society were at its zenith, and court intrigue and backstabbing were as much part of daily life as pottery and rice paddies, and a coup could occur at any moment.

Each of the three ruling emperors claimed succession to the throne and ruled over a part of divided China; Cao Wei to the north, ruled by the usurper Emperor Wei Wendi (formerly known as Cao Pi), Dong Wu or Eastern Wu, founded by its ruler Sun Quan, and Shu Han in the west, under the rule of Liu Bei.

Prior to the officialization of the split between the three states and the rule of this trifecta of disparate, petty emperors, from 184 to 220 CE the country was in utter turmoil. Every warlord thought himself to be entitled to the land and its resources and fought brutal crusades against his competition. The country was drenched in blood. A census shows that between 184 CE and 280 CE, over 40 million people lost their lives. "Three Kingdoms" is set during this era of violence and disillusionment, and you will have to command your armies, forge and break alliances, bargain with and ultimately defeat your enemies to conquer this shattered land and write their own history.

The Three Kingdoms

Great things are expected for "Total War: Three Kingdoms," and given their shining record, Creative Assembly is certain to deliver a superb game. Through their ingenious blending of different facets of gaming development and astonishingly good graphics, the combinations they produce hit all the right buttons.

Coming full circle to return to their origins with this their thirteenth main game, anyone who has been rooting for Creative Assembly and the Total War series since the outset, as well as those playing the game for the first time and anyone in between is guaranteed to have their minds blown (again, for some) and will certainly withdraw themselves from society and reality until they have seen the war through.

Though the exact date for the release has not been made public knowledge, it is expected in autumn. As stated so astutely by Creative Assembly: “Forge your legacy. Rewrite history. Shape the future of China.”