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Total War: Three Kingdoms and the Revolutionary Power of Personality

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Total War: Three Kingdoms

With less than a month to go before the originally projected release, Total War: Three Kingdoms has suffered a setback. Eleven weeks have been added to the development schedule. Some fans will no doubt despair at this fact, while others will take solace in the prospect that the additional time will help Creative Assembly match the epic scope and revolutionary bent of the ancient novel by which the game is loosely inspired.

Heretofore, the Total War series has taken as its basis history unadulterated, but the upcoming entry changes that. Instead, Three Kingdoms mixes in the literary and mythical thanks to the debt it owes to Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

That text has been well served in video games by the Dynasty Warriors series, but its enormous, epic scale suggests a fittingness to the hectic grandeur inherent in real-time strategy and tactics games. Previous Total Wars—Rome, NapoleonAttila—have offered vast lands for the interplay of factional fighting, but the action is inevitably of a disembodied type. Players engage in the rise and fall of empires, but never see the human impact.

Total War: Three Kingdoms

The myth-history divulged in Romance of the Three Kingdoms has the potential to change that. The novel tells of the end of the Han Dynasty, and casts the feuding would-be emperors and their advisers as larger-than-life characters. Creative Assembly is tapping into that literary vein via the ‘Romance’ game mode, giving gamers who have previously been turned away by the dispassionate approach to narrative a reason to care.

In this new mode, users are able to assume direct control of generals (who have superior skills and special powers) while on the battlefield. This trait alone promises to personalise the experience, humanising the soldiers on the frontlines rather than featuring them as nothing more than numbers.

These powerful generals is just one of the areas in which Creative Assembly is introducing “some revolutionary features.” Another, convergent with and possibly also more game-changing, is the ‘guanxi’ mechanic.

Total War: Three Kingdoms

Each of the generals has a unique personality and expectations for the behaviour of their warlord, and the player’s failure to cater to them could lead to dire consequences. The novel features this kind of discontent as leading to defections and assassinations, and one hopes that Creative Assembly will not shy away from ending the player’s journey early if they do not take the appropriate actions.

Giving players people to root for—not just distant leaders but also those on the battlefield, the likes of Liu Bei, Guan Yu, Zhuge Liang, Cao Ren, or Sun Jian—the game rewrites a genre-defining script. By placing a greater premium on characterisation, this ‘Romance’ mode promises to reduce the narrative distance common to grand strategy games, making Total War: Three Kingdoms more appealing to gamers with a proclivity towards narrative-focused titles, at least in theory.

Grandeur is a given. Previous Total War games have established the series’s ability to portray conflicts like few others. Three Kingdoms promises the personal. Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a novel of sweeping scope, rousing at some points and devastating at others. If Creative Assembly can tap into and recreate that cadence, then it may open its games up to a previously untapped audience and simultaneously pave a new path for the future of the grand strategy genre. More time will only ensure the game achieves such a revolutionary ambition.

Damien Lawardorn is an aspiring novelist, journalist, and essayist. His goal in writing is to inspire readers to engage and think, rather than simply consume and enjoy. With broad interests ranging from literature and video games to fringe science and social movements, his work tends to touch on the unexpected. Damien is the former Editor-in-Chief of OnlySP. More of his work can be found at https://open.abc.net.au/people/21767

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E3 2019

The Winners of E3, According to OnlySP

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E3 2019

The OnlySP team has been rather negative about E3 2019 as a whole, sharing undisguised disappointment about Ninja Theory, Microsoft, and Ubisoft in particular. However, we are gamers first, and the show had plenty to excite, so we wanted to share at least a small ray of positivity by rounding up some of our winners from the past week.

Best AAA Trailer

Cyberpunk 2077

Two of the most anticipated games of 2020 topped the list, with Cyberpunk 2077 just pipping Final Fantasy VII Remake. The trailer was exactly what you want from a major production with the insane amount of hype that Cyberpunk 2077 is enjoying: mystery, emotional story moments, and heart-pounding action.

As if all that is not enough, one of the hottest stars of the moment, Keanu Reeves, was revealed as a cast member.

Doubters were all but silenced, and everyone else was gratified. Even better, we got a release date: April 16, 2020. Could anyone possibly lust for more?

Best Indie Trailer

Tie: Spiritfarer and Way to the Woods

As usual, Microsoft brought the ID@Xbox goods to its E3 stage, and we just could not pick between these two.

On the one hand, the team at Thunder Lotus Games finally unveiled its new project, Spiritfarer. The game brings back the glorious hand-drawn art style that had us falling in love with Jotun and Sundered, marrying to a unique take on the Charon myth. Furthermore, Spiritfarer’s low-key charm and gorgeous watercolour was a perfect counterpoint to Cyberpunk 2077, which preceded it.

On the other hand, Way to the Woods got a sparkling new trailer. The two deer are simply gorgeous, and the bright colours and mellifluous music make the game seems a journey befitting the glory days of thatgamecompany. Simple puzzles, a moving story, an entrancing atmosphere… We just want Way to the Woods on its way to our homes.

Favourite New Game Announcement

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Sequel

E3 2019 had no shortage of enticing new announcements, but nothing was quite so enticing as Nintendo’s “one more thing.” After Breath of the Wild set the world on fire in 2017, a sequel was basically a foregone conclusion. Even so, that brief tease set our hopes alight.

In truth, we know next to nothing about this new project—other than that it is set in the same version of Hyrule as its predecessor and Zelda is rocking a slick new hairstyle—but its mere existence is enough.

Biggest Surprise

Keanu Reeves is in Cyberpunk 2077

I may have already mentioned this, but Keanu Reeves is going to be in Cyberpunk 2077.

If we need to explain more, the world of gaming is familiar with seeing TV and film stars cross over—Kit Harington in Call of Duty, Emma Stone in Sleeping Dogs—but Reeves is a particularly hot property right now.

Moreover, the word is that this is more than just a brief cameo. Reeve’s character, Johnny Silverhand, has been a big part of Cyberpunk lore, and CD Projekt RED reportedly spent 15 days capturing his performance.

Even Watch Dogs: Legion looking as though it is finally going to deliver on the promises of the first game is not enough to beat Keanu.

Favourite Stage Personality

Ikumi Nakamura

Full disclosure: the team picked Keanu, but Keanu can’t win everything, damn it!

Therefore, this award goes to Ikumi Nakamura, protégé of Shinji Mikami, who took the stage during Bethesda’s press conference to reveal Ghostwire: Tokyo. Where most presenters—even developers—are reserved, sharing the soundbites that make the games sound appealing, Nakamura radiated enthusiasm for her project.

Put simply, Nakamura was a ray of sunshine to remind us all that game development is not always about cynicism and monetisation; sometimes, it is about genuine love and passion.

Biggest Winners

Nintendo

With “gamers” one of the options on the list, I thought this category would be a foregone conclusion. However, the outcome proved that adage about what happens when we assume things…

The team voted for Nintendo, and the why is easy enough to understand. A new Legend of Zelda game will always be an event. The addition of Banjo-Kazooie to Super Smash Bros. is a long-overdue coup. Luigi’s Mansion 3 looks better than it has any right to. Meanwhile, Daemon X Machina, Astral Chain, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order all got great new showings, and we officially learned of the arrival of The Witcher III: Wild Hunt and Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (among other, slightly less exciting titles) on the Switch.


These winners were all decided by those of us who stayed at home. However, you may have noticed that we had Mike Cripe and Dimitric Edwards on the show floor, so they went hands-on with a bunch of games the rest of us could only gawp at.

Over the coming days and weeks, Mike and Dimitric will be delivering previews of Final Fantasy VII Remake, Wolfenstein: Youngblood, and Biomutant, as well as a few interesting interviews, so we’ll have plenty of fresh details for you all to pore over.

First, though, coming tomorrow will be Mike’s hands-off preview of one of the show’s most contentious games: Marvel’s Avengers.

For all those previews and much more from the world of single-player gaming, be sure to bookmark OnlySP and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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