Earlier this year, I was invited by Creative Assembly and Sega to get a hands-on impression on the 12th main installment in the "Total War series," "Three Kingdoms." During the demo, I had the opportunity to play a couple of hours of the upcoming real-time strategy title to get a glimpse of what the "Three Kingdoms" will deliver for gamers.

Classic mode option 'Romance'

The build of "Total War: Three Kingdoms" I played was one of the title’s two modes – “Classic” mode, which is deemed the more historically accurate version of retelling the decline of the Han dynasty’s rule.

The mode I played was “Romance” mode, which is based on the historical novel "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" by Lou Guanzhong. One significant gameplay difference, which separates both modes is every general in Romance mode is bestowed with supernatural strength throughout the playthrough.

Circling back to my personal experience with Romance mode, the build only allowed me to play as warlord Liu Bei. Liu Bei starts off with nothing to his name; he was not given an entire empire because of his namesake. Nevertheless, his ambition is to strive to better the people, and his tenacity allowed him to climb up the ranks. But the most exciting mechanic is that Bei’s army does not require a lot of upkeeping or micromanaging to maintain the peace.

'Total War' means critical thinking

Now, that does not mean you can neglect your soldiers but maintaining a reasonable supply of food and resources will keep them fighting for your cause. What I found intriguing is that soldier-satisfaction provides a lot of critical thinking and strategy. So, if you are not building up your militia, then you need to ensure your influence and negotiation skills refined consistently; otherwise, your empire can, and will, collapse.

So, unlike its predecessors, "Three Kingdoms" romance mode is exceptionally distinct in so many aspects. What I mean by this is explicitly how the entire game design is rebranded. Instead of being provided with a map of your in-game setting, Creative Assembly instead provides you with snippets on where each of the leading generals is located.

It forces you to look at what’s in front of you, instead of the bigger picture. You’ll slowly see the progress and influence you are making as the map increases, which to me gave me a sense of pride knowing I was a making a difference.

Romance mode makes some positive steps for the series but also takes a few steps backward when it comes to leadership and management. Taking a second to address its flaws, albeit minor issues, is the amount of micromanagement Romance mode demands from you. That's aside from overseeing and keeping the peace for your warriors as you also need to ensure the villages and towns you control are satisfied with your leadership.

The amount of detail can be frustrating for some, but it’s something you will need to keep a close eye on if you want to unify China.

Nevertheless, it’s easy to overlook that component when you take into consideration how Creative Assembly has made it easier to make negotiations with other generals. In previous installments, the system had a level of complexity that it felt like built up tension would lead to bloodshed. So, for those looking to play it morally, they will have more ease, as they will not feel entirely obligated to commit violence.

Improved battle system for 'Three Kingdoms'

The battle system has also seen some improvements. The build provided me with your standard units of soldiers from a group of men equipped with bows, to those wielding swords and each had unique formations that made them stand out. More importantly, Romance mode permits players to conduct duels with the opposing generals.

There are pros and cons to this – on the one hand, you can win the battle a lot easier when you wipe out their leader, of course, if you are going in with a disadvantage or into a 50/50 outcome it is a lot to gamble on. It is quite amusing going into the duel head on, facing your enemy, and then zooming the camera to watch them duke it out. Of course, it was also mentioned that there would be interconnected relationships with generals, unfortunately, because I was playing a demo build, I was unable to see how much it impacted your influence.

"Total War: Three Kingdoms" was slated to launch on March 7, 2019, exclusively on PC. However, according to a report by Eurogamer, it may be delayed until May.