Total War: Three Kingdoms - The Furious Wild Review01 Sep 2020 1
Total War: Three Kingdoms - The Furious Wild Review
Released 03 Sep 2020
The newest DLC to the latest historical Total War entry takes us to the south of the map, where China’s beautiful mountains and valleys are replaced by jungles (and more mountains). Here, inhabited by Nanman -- an indigenous people that settled mainly around the Yangtze River valley -- the story of the Three Kingdoms may take a very different turn indeed.
Unlike all the other factions added so far, the Nanman have an intrinsically different underlying mechanic: gone are the standard reforms and blanket way of expanding and negotiating, replaced by a fealty system that represents the interconnections of the 19 tribes that occupied these lands. These people -- called “barbarians” by some -- have cared for the region for generations and become one with nature, to the point they can willingly take tamed tigers and elephants into battle.
The first thing that strikes you when playing as the Nanman -- especially later on -- is just how deadly their units are. The axe and polearm infantry are not the most resilient around, but they do crazy amounts of damage. The actual tigers -- giant and beautiful Panthera tigris’ Bengal Tigers weighing excesses of 220kg BEFORE you add the armour -- are devastatingly powerful, charging into units quickly and sending troops flying through the air like Dragon Prince cavalry straight out of Warhammer.
Meanwhile, the elephants are a little bit less impressive. They are giant beasts, certainly, and their Stomp and Tear abilities and sheer mass are great at killing enemies by the dozens, but they suffer from Total War’s horrible issues of pathfinding that has unfortunately been a staple from Total War: Attila onwards. A single unit of elephants has 24 animals, but you will be very lucky if half of those actually engage in battle and extremely lucky if you manage to make them charge. More often than not, they slowly trot behind each other like a scene straight out of the jungle book, not joining the battle as they try to navigate away from the ass of their fellow pachyderm comrades.
The new characters thankfully don’t have these issues. Being singular units that can eventually unlock elephants as mounts way into the campaign, the four new Nanman rulers (three Kings, one Lady) are devastating both on the battlefield and off them.
Let’s start with Meng Huo, King of Kings and equal parts loyal and outrageous. With a stubborn and unmatched drive, King Meng seeks to unite the Nanman tribes while harboring a powerful attraction to the fellow warlord (warlady?), Lady Zhurong. A so-called “descendent of the God of Fire”, Zhurong has a reciprocal lady boner for Meng Huo only outmatched by her legendary fierceness and awesome tigers. Due to the way life works, that passion they share can either blossom into something beautiful or turn into something hateful, which is reflected in the campaign -- fight each other and both sides will suffer greatly (aka people die, a lot), but come to an understanding and fight together on the battlefield, and a powerful ‘Lovers’ bonus turns both characters into legendary fighters.
On the other side of the scale, we got King Shamoke, the ruler of the five valleys, who is surrounded by enemies both Nanman and Han. Shamoke is the most versatile of the factions, and his unique bit is adapting to playstyles -- subjugating or negotiating with other tribes generate equivalent rewards, basically rewarding you no matter how you choose to play the game.
King Mulu, however, is a different story. The beastmaster of this bunch, more versed in animals than people, Mulu is plagued by an enormous pride that manifests as a pooled faction resource gained by winning battles. This pride boosts the animal troops with lower recruitment costs and increased unit capacity, and periodically allows Mulu to perform 'rituals' that grant more general faction-wide bonuses.
One thing worthy of note in the Furious Wild is that it’s the first proper expansion to 3K’s map, bringing the aforementioned jungles of Southern China to the game. While there are no pandas around, the new maps do look quite pretty and feature an interesting mix of wooded and plain areas. Even better, they appear in all game modes, including the 900 and 904 starts available to the new Nanman tribes.
All in all, Total War: Three Kingdoms - The Furious Wild expansion was a better experiment than I expected it to be. I am never particularly excited about animal or nature-focused factions -- Air Force boy here -- but this DLC features such an interesting mix of units and mechanics that washed the bad taste of Troy away from my most recent TW palate. From angry kings with axes and fire-wielding melee units to giant elephants and devastating shock-heavy tiger units, The Furious Wild brings the full breadth of nature to bear on the Three Kingdoms period -- and China is better for it.