Fatal news for Total War fans everywhere this February – Three Kingdoms, the next title prepped for release within the classic franchise, has been delayed until late May.
Creative Assembly’s Total War, a campaign strategy game series best known for its real time battles and generalship, had originally advertised Three Kingdoms to drop in the Autumn of 2018. Then, after much delay, the game was postponed to early March of 2019. Now fans are looking at a firm and final release date of the 23rd of May as of the Total War website, almost nine months later than originally anticipated.
Brakes on the Hype Train
This news comes after a recent barrage of media coverage for Total War: Three Kingdoms online. Content creators, streamers and YouTubers all got hands-on with the title in January to give their personal opinions in the run-up to launch, and Creative Assembly themselves have been releasing numerous videos and livestreams detailing Three Kingdoms new features and gadgets.
Set during the downfall of ancient Han China, Three Kingdoms seems to place incredible emphasis on character, diplomacy and personal relationships according to the footage we’ve seen so far; more so than ever before. Social networking systems, subterfuge, spying and betrayal are all set to make appearances. The campaign map alone looks to be more complex, more detailed and more enthralling than any other game in the series so far. A certain upgrade.
Perhaps these new systems and improvements are the cause of Total War: Three Kingdom’s two delays. According to a statement by the Creative Assembly dev team, ‘they set out to create a new level of complexity,’ with the game. ‘As such, [they] need a little more time to make sure these systems deliver.’
‘We Need More Time’ says Creative Assembly Studio Director
‘The extra time won’t hurt when it comes to bug fixes, localisation, and adding additional polish,’ said Rob Bartholomew, Studio Director for Creative Assembly. ‘We’re lucky to be in a position to do the right thing for our games, and in this case, it means taking the time to get everything ready. It’s more important to give you a game that you can enjoy to the fullest, rather than stick to a release date just because.’
While fans are within their rights to be disappointed by this sudden and unexpected release delay, it’s hard to be angry with CA given their above reasoning. The games development company has earned itself a reputation for notoriously buggy releases in the past (see the disaster that was Total War: Rome 2’s naval system), and as such, their dedication to ensuring a smooth and playable experience from day one for all future titles has to be admired.
To their credit, CA’s previous two releases Total War: Warhammer and Warhammer 2 were perfectly respectable when they themselves hit the open market, with Total War: Warhammer facing its own release day woes and delays for similar reasons as Three Kingdoms. According to one previous CA employee on social media site Reddit, the Three Kingdoms delay is in fact ‘Great news! Warhammer 1 was delayed about 5 weeks to polish it and I know from experience those 5 weeks were incredible for the games end result.’
Fan Concerns: Battle AI, Matched Animations, Unit Cards and Echo Sound
By now, several dozen hours of original Three Kingdoms footage is available and on the web in one form or another, and fans have certainly had their fair say in response, both positive and negative – many fingers are now crossed that an extra three months of development will allow Creative Assembly to improve on at least some fan concerns.
These are concerns like the live battle and siege AI, which has always been a sticking point for the Total War series, concerns over bland unit cards, concerns over matched animation wonkiness and echo sound. Here’s hoping, too, that more news will be released on Three Kingdom’s alternate mode of play, ‘Records Mode.’
Three Kingdoms Straddles Historical Record and Storied Romance
What exactly is Records Mode? When fans do eventually load up a game of Total War: Three Kingdoms come May 23rd, they will be faced with two alternate campaign types: Romance Mode and Records Mode. Romance Mode will be based in the traditional, bombastic story of the Three Kingdoms period, when the warlords of China cracked their skulls together in a desire for imperial power, when heroes supposedly slew dozens of men by themselves and lived to tell the glorious, grisly tale.
In Romance Mode however, certain features and battle mechanics will be toned down. There will be no active abilities for generals, for example, and rather than being lone figures, generals will form part of a more traditional bodyguard unit. Campaign dilemmas and relationships will be more ‘realistic’ and character death will be permanent – including via old age.
A Game of Personality
Your generals, faction leaders, spouses and friends will all be vital components to any Three Kingdoms campaign, no matter which of the twelve factions you choose. The satisfaction of any given personality in your faction can and will have drastic effects on the unfolding of your conquest, both on the battlefield and off.
There will be rebellions if you’re not careful. There will be power struggles, and unhappy nobles, and peasantry revolts – that is, there will be if Three Kingdoms doesn’t face further delays in its development cycle. The game is promising a lot relative to its processor titles. No wonder CA are taking their time when it comes to delivery. First impressions are everything.
Publisher SEGA certainly won’t be happy with their announcement, however. A company with fingers in many, many infinite pies, SEGA funds everything from game tables to football management simulators, to their very own Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s a competitive gaming market out there, and it’s only getting more competitive as time goes on. As you can see at websites like Oddschecker, which catalogue bets and bonuses across various and betting sites, there are numerous providers like bet365 and Betway in the market. They thrive off of the competition between games of the same genre. Three Kingdoms will live and die according to early reviews and online opinion. It’s no wonder delays are taking place if the devs aren’t happy, despite SEGA’s opinion.
Total War in a Billion Dollar World
According to one write up, the current gaming industry is worth a whopping $137 billion in net revenue as of 2018. PC gaming (very much including games like Total War: Three Kingdoms) makes up almost $33 billion of that figure. It’s a risky move for CA to delay their product by an entire financial quarter, no doubt increasing production costs massively and cutting into both their and SEGA’s profits.
As such, the devs must have faith that the time will be well spent, and that Total War: Three Kingdoms will be a global hit. China alone will account for more than one quarter of all global gaming revenues in 2019, standing firm as both number one in revenue and player population across all platforms. Given the setting and background of Three Kingdoms, it’s likely many in the country will be at least interested in the game.
More Footage in the Run-Up to May
In the past, Total War titles have been released to certain media outlets and content creators prior to launch along with an NDA, allowing them time to prepare opinions and footage. It’s likely that Total War: Three Kingdomswill follow suit. As such, fans can expect the hype train to resume in early May of 2019, if not a little earlier. CA continue to livestream the game on occasion, too, and there’s plenty of analysis to be done on everything we’ve seen so far.
Delays are always frustrating, but they happen for a reason. As one fan put it online, ‘I’d rather play an optimised, challenging game in May, than a broken one in March. Good decision.’