Total War: Three Kingdoms DLC Guide

By Sean Martin 17 Mar 2020 0

Total War: Three Kingdoms is an unusual game in terms of DLC — by choosing such a specific historical period in which to base a game, the options for expansion are immediately limited. Sure, you can try and re-skin an entire grand campaign and jump hundreds of years, but we’ve seen the middling results of that in the past, with Imperator Augustus and Empire Divided for Total War: Rome II or with Age of Charlemagne for Total War: Attila. The far better DLC model is keeping the campaign, but adding new characters, units and faction mechanics, the same way as Total War: Warhammer II.

For the most part Three Kingdoms seems to be adopting this method, but with the timeline and separate period start positions added in Mandate of Heaven, we are seeing something far stranger. Without further ado, let's see just where we're at in terms of available expansions.

What is the Best Total War: THREE KINGDOM’s DLC?

  • A World Betrayed
  • Mandate of Heaven
  • Yellow Turban Rebellion
  • Eight Princes

While the above list represents our favourite expansions, below we'll be looking at each available expansion in the order in which they were released.

Total War: THREE KINGDOMS - Yellow Turban Rebellion

People are often quite hesitant about pre-order DLCs and quite rightly, but Yellow Turban Rebellion was a great addition to Three Kingdoms. The Yellow Turbans were a people’s uprising against the Han empire that was put down during the years just prior to the start of game's main campaign. But being slightly flexible with the time period, CA brought a few dwindling Yellow Turban factions into the present campaign. With three unique characters, an entire roster of zealous peasants, as well as a special tech tree, new buildings and character types, there was a lot to like.

total war three kingdoms Yellow Turban Rebellion DLC

The Yellow Turbans offer a very different play experience — as a faction of rebels, their diplomacy and subterfuge are basically non-existent, and they have no family trees. This does detract a fair amount from what makes Three Kingdoms special in mechanical terms, but I personally feel it’s worth it to take on the role of such a kick-ass underdog faction. In a period where every selfish warlord and their grandma is focused on making personal gains, the Yellow Turbans represent the forgotten people, rising in fury and vengeance. Their cheap yet fanatical roster of peasants and heroes who hit like trucks, make them a real glass cannon faction, extremely fun to play.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Angry peasant armies
  • A more straight-forward playstyle if you're not that much up for subterfuge or diplomacy
  • Scholar duelists and healer heroes
  • The Yellow Sky Rises!

IS IT WORTH IT?

Yeah, I’d say so.

Total War: THREE KINGDOMS - Eight Princes

Eight Princes was the second DLC for Three Kingdoms and in terms of my discussion at the beginning, represents the issue with standalone re-skinned campaigns. Eight Princes takes place during the War of the Eight Princes, where descendants of legendary strategist Sima Yi (there were eight of them) had a civil war over who should rule China. The eight princes themselves follow similar archetypes to the characters already introduced in Three Kingdoms, but the issue is enough wasn’t done to distinguish each faction/make them unique, and there were only a few new units.

Total War three kingdoms Eight Princes DLC

Eight Princes is a testament to why you can’t re-skin a main game’s campaign and make it standalone for a DLC. It requires too much work, and why would you create a new grand campaign, when you can just add new stuff to the original, making an already great campaign, even greater? I’m hopeful that with Mandate of Heaven’s timeline we might see Eight Princes incorporated into the grand campaign, but considering the one hundred years between them, it might be awhile before we get enough DLC to fill the gap.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • A niche subject matter, which is actually nice to see
  • More of the same for those who want a more condensed 3K experience
  • 8 new characters

IS IT WORTH IT?

It's not essential, unless they somehow incorporated into the main campaign like they've done with Mandate of Heaven... which is unlikely since there is about a 100 year gap between the two periods. Still, one to get on the cheap perhaps.

Total War: THREE KINGDOMS - Mandate of Heaven

In comparison to Eight Princes, Mandate of Heaven shows how a new campaign can be incorporated into a main one successfully. The DLC takes place 8 years before Three Kingdoms starts — The Yellow Turban rebellion is in full swing and Liu Hong is trying to hold his empire together, while corrupt bureaucratic eunuchs have effectively brought governance to a standstill. Mandate features two very distinctive campaigns, which function as direct opposites in many ways. The Zhang brothers of the Yellow Turban Rebellion share objectives and Zeal, the currency which causes uprisings, reflecting the values of co-operation that their movement is defined by. Whereas Liu Hong’s campaign is about consolidating individual power, balancing three disparate factions, Warlords, Eunuchs and Dynasts, all vying for supremacy in the Imperial court.

Total war three kingdoms Mandate of Heaven DLC

Both campaigns really let you play the role, building Zeal and Fervour and watching as Yellow Turban rebellions rise across the country, or trying to unravel the bureaucratic mess of the empire, wielding political power and getting the wheels turning again. Also due to the introduction of the timeline, you can roll this campaign into the main one, meaning you can recognize and even play as some famous faces before they got famous. This includes Cao Cao, Liu Bei, Sun Jian, a thinner Dong Zhou, and characters like Kong Rong and Yuan Shao can be spotted in the Imperial court. On top of this there are also other new characters, units, battlefield depoyables and new siege weapons/equipment.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Two opposing, but equally strong campaigns in the Yellow Turbans and Liu Hong.
  • The Imperial Army, the Emperor’s absurdly powerful elite force.
  • Introduction of the timeline, multiple start points for older characters.
  • Battlefield deployables that enemy AI actually know how to use.

IS IT WORTH IT?

Absolutely, but you don't have to take my word for it. Marcello handled our official Mandate of Heaven review, and he was also singing the expansion's praises. We can't BOTH be wrong.

Total War: Three Kingdoms - A World Betrayed

total war three kingdoms a world betrayed review

The expansions keep getting better and better as time goes on, and A World Betrayed is an excellent example of this. It adds a new start date once more, but instead of catapulting into the far future like Eight Princes, it instead goes just a little bit ahead to 194 CE, which is actually around turn 20 of a regular game. With this start date, you get some new central characters who are the focus, as well as new starting conditions for a range of existing characters as well. The new arrivals have some interesting mechanics that really make them worth while to play, and there's a bunch of new events, units and buildings to look at too.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Adds a new start date of 194 CE, which is about Turn 20 of a vanilla game.
  • Adds new central characters Sun Ce and Lu Bu, each with their own mechanics.
  • New starting conditions for existing favourites.
  • New units and buildings.

IS IT WORTH IT?

I think our A World Betrayed review makes it clear that it is. This is easily the best expansion so far, and a great demonstration of the development teams ability to adapt and create interesting new content within the existing time frame of Three Kingdoms. This is a great expansion if you want to skip the early game positioning and launch straight into a more aggressive/pro-active strategy. 

We'll keep this guide update as more DLC gets released - let us know your own thoughts in the comments!

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