Total War: Three Kingdoms - Mandate of Heaven (PC) Review

By Chris Leebody 07.02.2020

Review for Total War: Three Kingdoms - Mandate of Heaven on PC

Launching on PC in May of last year, strategy behemoth Total War: Three Kingdoms received rave reviews. Cubed3 praised the "scope and scale" of the experience, and it was fascinating to see how the base game would be built on with future DLC plans on the horizon. This is now the second downloadable content release for it after Eight Princes released in August of last year, which offered up a separate campaign focusing on the end of the Three Kingdoms era. Released today on Steam, Mandate of Heaven jumps back to the beginning of the conflict, charting the initial fall of the Han Empire. This is a time before the famous warlords Cao Cao, Liu Bei, and Sun Jian really left their mark.

Following the highly successful release of Total War: Three Kingdoms last year, developer Creative Assembly put forward a new vision of how DLC for the base game was going to be structured. It felt even more relevant given the rather muted critical response that the first major DLC release - Eight Princes - received. Taking stock, the British company decided to reimagine how DLC for the core title was going to operate going forward. Gone was to be the fractionalisation of 'mini-campaigns,' and in their place a far more dynamic and logical set-up. Seemingly taking inspiration from the nature of how other Three Kingdoms-era strategy game Romance of the Three Kingdoms worked, as new stories and events were to be told through the existing campaign map of the game.

Prequel DLC, Mandate of Heaven, is something of a first when it comes to the Total War series, adding an alternative and earlier start-date to its signature grand campaigns. Beginning in 182CE, the events centre on the formation of the Yellow Turban Rebellion against the crumbling Han monarchy.
It is a fascinating time period, and one that fans of this era of history have been demanding to see more of, due to just how much scope there is to tell the fascinating and varied tales of battle and adventure.
The 'Mandate of Heaven' war pits those loyal to the empire against this rising rebellion of fanaticism, with the game presenting the choice of which side to take. This existential struggle is charted by an ebbing and flowing bar, which presents an intriguing immediacy and sense of scale to the conflict.

Screenshot for Total War: Three Kingdoms - Mandate of Heaven on PC

Six new factions are introduced in Mandate of Heaven[/i, with the Han Empire themselves being one of them. That's right - for the first time ever, it is possible to rule as the Emperor of the kingdom from the off. Where [i]Mandate of Heaven succeeds right off the bat is in the sense of variety that is suddenly unlocked thanks to this DLC. Firstly, the new factions all come with over 40 new units. This is on top of a raft of additional bespoke generals and officers. Each of these have unique playstyles and attributes. For example, the three Yellow Turban factions operate on a resource known as 'zeal,' which is earned through fighting battles and rallying more people to the cause. The Yellow Turbans also offer up something of a mystery, with their officers being able to utilise strange religiously-inspired abilities.

Liu Hong's Han Empire faction starts with an abundance of resources, as well as the mighty imperial army. However, the kingdom is beginning to collapse into itself, and the court is riven with division. His faction requires careful internal politics management. As if this was not enough, the player can also choose to begin as one of the existing factions already available. However, the earlier time period completely alters the previously familiar. Picking Liu Bei for example, will navigate through his origin story, as he and his band of refugees and followers go from town to town without a home of their own. Itt also begins his relationship to the famous Zhang Fei and Guan Yu.

The best part is that, because the DLC is built into the existing campaign, there is no arbitrary stopping point. It is now possible to play directly from this earlier time period - right through to the Three Kingdoms era in one continuous journey. In terms of core gameplay additions in battle, there isn't much change on that front. However, the mechanics of siege gameplay has been improved with the introduction of siege towers, and other defensive fortifications such as oil spills and cavalry spikes.

Screenshot for Total War: Three Kingdoms - Mandate of Heaven on PC

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

For the price-point of this DLC, it is hard to fault the amount of content offered up. This is most definitely the template for The Creative Assembly to continue forward with when it comes to future DLC for Total War: Three Kingdoms. The overarching conflict is an intriguing one, and the presence of the mysterious Yellow Turban faction really freshen things up in the campaign side. On top of the six new factions, the DLC also renews the interest in some of the existing warlords, with the ability to experience them under completely different circumstances than previously. This isn't a DLC for gameplay additions, but the play style adjustments in the campaign to the core gameplay loop do enough to keep things interesting.

Developer

Creative Assembly

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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