We've been following the next Total War game for some time now. During previous interviews we've had with Creative Assembly, we've learned a lot about the emphasis on characters in the campaign of Total War: Three Kingdoms, and there's a lot of potential in a game that's taking the Chinese epic 'Romance of the Three Kingdoms' as its starting point. That's why we were really excited to visit Creative Assembly in Horsham to see whether the game will offer all of the personal drama, intrigue, and barbarity that features in the original story.
First off, we wanted to know more about the campaign and the larger-than-life characters in the game. There's going to be around 100 historical characters roaming the campaign map that all have their own personal traits, and part of these traits will be influenced by their character class. The classes are loosely based on the personality of people described in the epic, such as the cunning Cao Cao or honourable Liu Bei, and the five classes impact your army in different ways. Having a strategist in your army allows for more complex unit formations in battle, for example, while Champions, on the other hand, are best at dueling and taking out other heroes. We feel CA is doing a great job so far at making the characters look like real and recognisable individuals.
However, we learned it's not just the characters that you control directly who will play a large role during the campaign, as you can send characters away as spies to infiltrate another faction too, although you can't really control what role they will take. Project Art Director Pawel Wojs told us: "You can't say, my spy should become a governor. All you can say is, you infiltrate Cao Cao and hope that he picks up on these roles. That's why it can be beneficial to send very strong characters away, but then you can't use them to work for your own faction. The risk is of course, he can be executed, or released, or released to you as a spy. And you won't know." A character spending too much time among enemies might decide to work for your enemy instead, after all.
"Every spy has an amount of cover that he builds up over time," Wojs added. "When you infiltrate another faction, he starts building connections with other people. If you undertake actions against this faction, your spy's cover will go down and they become suspicious of you. If this cover breaks down, then your spy will be captured. [...] The longer your cover builds up, the stronger the actions you will be able to perform. For example, if your spy is a governor, then eventually he'll be able to turn over that province to you, or if he's a general, the army."
"You can sort of trigger all kinds of actions and you can infiltrate a faction from within. This will allow all these cool stories to be created because it can happen to you as well. You might find out one of your most trusted generals is actually a spy working for your enemy. You could potentially unknowingly adopt a spy, who could be your faction heir. And they could take over the faction and cause a civil war. With espionage you could trigger a coup d'etat and take over the faction."
Does this sound like the personal and political intrigue of the original Romance of the Three Kingdoms? It sure does! Our latest interviews seem to add merit to the claim that the characters have their own preferences, friendships, and personal enemies that develop during the course of a campaign, and that this will actually impact your campaign story. If CA gets the AI mechanics right, the characters and spy system will add a lot to the story element of each Three Kingdoms campaign.