New Total War campaign draws on obscure history and impresses Chinese fans
Creative Assembly is using the sensitive Eight Princes era in its Three Kingdoms strategy game and Chinese fans are thrilled
A new campaign for Total War: Three Kingdoms portrays China at its most corrupt and vulnerable… and Chinese gamers are thrilled.
The Eight Princes campaign, now available as downloadable content (DLC), is based on the War of the Eight Princes period. The prolonged period of disorder ultimately weakened the Jin dynasty, making it vulnerable to neighboring barbarian kingdoms.
This period of history in China is not remembered fondly, at least among those who remember it at all. The excitement in China seems to stem from the fact that a British game developer has paid such close attention to a period that doesn’t receive a lot of recognition elsewhere.
“This is impressive. The developers can even make out the rebellions of all the different clans. They really know Chinese history. I am waiting for the next DLC to be about the Uprising of the Five Barbarians,” one person commented online, referencing a period that follows the War of the Eight Princes and sees China fractured into more than a dozen small nations.
Another popular online comment gave Creative Assembly even more credit, saying the game developer was able to see the charm in an otherwise chaotic time in Chinese history.
“In the eye of Eastern game makers, this marks the beginning of national suffering,” the commenter wrote. “It marks a moment of hurt for nationalism. That explains why even Japanese companies that make Three Kingdom games have been staying away from this period, be it deliberately or inadvertently.”
For the uninitiated, Total War: Three Kingdoms -- a turn-based strategy and real-time tactics game -- has been a massive success in China, taking the top spot on the Steam bestseller list days before its launch. Its popularity in China helped Three Kingdoms become the fastest-selling game in Creative Assembly’s history. This led the company’s chief product officer, Rob Bartholomew, to say China “has kind-of gone crazy for us.”
Chinese gamers have previously praised Creative Assembly’s handling of Chinese history in Three Kingdoms. Many wished that developers in China were as good at turning Chinese history into successful PC and console games. Perhaps that’s why the game’s fans in China seem to trust Creative Assembly's handling of the sensitive historical period.
But some people also question whether the more obscure Eight Princes era can attract players as much as the original campaign.
“I don’t get the thinking of Chinese gamers,” one gamer commented. “This history is so obscure. What’s there to play?”
“Many people don’t even know Chinese history as well as Creative Assembly does,” another person retorted. “Formal education didn’t say much about this period of rebellion. Creative Assembly gave us a chance to revisit it. Good! We have to take our history seriously.”
On a more humorous note, at least one person thought the new DLC might not connect with non-Chinese players because the familial infighting means many characters share the same surname.
“Gamers overseas are probably going to go mad. At first glance, all the factions are named Sima,” a popular online comment said.