Total War: Three Kingdoms came out this year, by the way. Heck, I played Three Kingdoms and I'd still forgotten that fact. Three Kingdoms even had me buying Romance of the Three Kingdoms, you know, the 14th-century historical novel? Yet I'd still forgotten to include Total War: Three Kingdoms in our upcoming Games of the Year feature (spoiler).
But here we are at the end of 2019, and Mandate of Heaven, a major "chapter pack" for Three Kingdoms, is being scheduled for January 16. I'd say January 16, 2020, but that'd make it sound further than one month away when it's not; it's one month away. Mandate of Heaven is a prequel to the base game's events.
Focusing on the tumultuous events prior to the base-game campaign where discontent surrounds Emperor Ling as he deals with an administrative power-struggle as well as the ravaging Yellow Turban tribes who threaten his dynasty.
There will be 11 playable new and existing factions, nine unique characters, and over 40 units (to include seige machinery and battlefield deployables). Also, it will be a Total War first as it lets you play this Mandate of Heaven prequel campaign—and then head directly into the base game setting. That means you can forge an empire across two periods within Chinese history.
This is one game that I respect a lot more than I love—sad to say. I mean, the game mechanics are there, the singular Total War combat is there, and the tactical topography is there. Politics play heavy, on and off the battlefield. The UI, simply in the way it operates, is a work of art in and of itself. These are all indisputably good things. It's just that East/West divide in my mind that, I'm going to keep it 100 with you, makes it hard for Three Kingdoms to really take root. There's absolutely no reason why Three Kingdoms isn't showing up on more end-of-the-year game lists (mine included), but I suspect the cultural divide makes it challenging for westerners like me to fully latch onto.
For example, if you give me a strategy game set in Western Europe, I'll intuitively understand what it means (for history) if you were to, say, have the Third Reich invade neutral Switzerland. I understand what it means, in Total War's alt-history takes, if you were to have Greece take over the entire world, or to have Egypt invade England. Those scenarios would be crazy, right? Well, in Three Kingdoms—in China—I don't have that inherent historical knowledge. I don't know if it's crazy that Lu Bu and Liu Bei team up to take down Kong Rong. I mean, would it be completely mind blowing if I had Ma Teng, the Protector of the West, shift roles and become Protector of the East? I don't know. I just don't know.
None of that is Three Kingdoms' fault. That's my western public education's fault. It wasn't until I graduated high school and started looking stuff up on my own. Until then, I couldn't tell you the first thing about China. I mean, I only just learned last year that all of China stretches across five time zones, but they only have one. See? School taught me nothing.
The first major chapter pack for Three Kingdoms was Eight Princes. Now let's watch this pretty, moody trailer for Mandate of Heaven.