On 28 May 2021, developer Creative Assembly released a development update video for their latest mainline Total War game, Three Kingdoms.
In the video (which was released just a week shy of the second anniversary of Total War: Three Kingdoms' launch), members of the development team thanked fans for their support throughout the game's run.
They announced all kinds of fun statistics (5m soldiers killed by Lu Bu, 8.7m campaigns started), and discussed the future of Three Kingdoms.
With the release of Fates Divided, the last major expansion pack, it was announced that the content road map for Three Kingdoms was complete.
Creative Assembly would be shifting focus to an entirely new game, one that would, however, still be set during the Three Kingdoms era of Chinese history.
Alongside the developer update video, CA released Patch 1.7.1, which contained a substantial amount of bug fixes and tweaks and also included some alterations to the campaign map, to make it more historically accurate.
In response, outraged fans took to Reddit and Twitter to make their displeasure known. Some fans felt betrayed and saw CA's shift to an entirely new title set in the same era as being motivated by greed.
Others felt let down and disappointed, pointing to comments CA themselves had made in the past, vaguely indicating that there might have been another expansion in the works to flesh out the northern part of the campaign map.
This frustration culminated in the review-bombing of the Three Kingdoms' Steam page. As of the time of this writing, the recent reviews section showed that almost 7000 negative reviews have been posted in the past week, resulting in a rating of Overwhelmingly Negative.
Just reading through some of the more recent reviews, it's clear that the negativity, for the most part, has more to do with the cessation of support and CA's perceived business practices, and not the actual state of the game as it is.
A More Constructive Approach
Now, I am personally against the practice of review-bombing, which, I know, is a heroic stance to take.
I think the reasons for it are unfair, and more importantly, I just don't think it's an effective way to show a company you are unhappy with the direction they are taking.
Far more effective, in my opinion, is the power of the consumer's wallet. If you are truly unhappy with Creative Assembly moving on from Three Kingdoms, then don't buy the next title they are working on.
This route is harder, admittedly, as it means forgoing that which made you a fan of the franchise in the first place. But soft sales of a new title will get a company's attention in ways a barrage of negative user reviews will not.
My Favourite Entry
I say all of this as someone who very much loves the Total War franchise, and in particular, someone who very much loves Total War: Three Kingdoms.
I loved it so much, in fact, that it remains to this day the only game I've professionally reviewed that I've given a 10/10 (or a 5/5 in this case).
It launched in a state that was virtually unheard of in the Total War franchise; technically sound, it ran incredibly well right at launch and was relatively bug-free.
Total War games are complex creatures, and Total War fans have been burned in the past. Some games in the series, like Rome II, for example, are infamous for the poor state in which they launched.
I spent several blissful weeks with the base game of Three Kingdoms, well over 100 hours of playtime, in fact. Like most games in the series, it was incredibly replayable, and any complaints I had were minor.
Creative Assembly released a succession of paid major expansions and chapter packs, all of which added meaningfully to the game (although some, admittedly, less than others), in addition to numerous free updates and add-on, and I played them all.
The current state of Total War: Three Kingdoms, in my opinion, is just about as good as it is ever going to get. Sure, there will always be a couple of bugs missed, but in terms of content, I can't imagine needing more.
Two years on, I have more than 300 hours logged in Three Kingdoms, across the base game and all of the campaigns added via expansions post-launch.
That might seem like a lot to some, but I assure you, it is perhaps average at best, compared to your regular Total War consumer.
I'm excited to explore more of this era, one which has taught me so much about an era we in the West aren't exposed to, outside of the Dynasty Warrior's games, and major Chinese blockbusters like Red Cliff.
And so I'm glad CA is moving on. Two years is a long time to support any game that isn't live service, and I'm ready for something new.
Elsewhere within the Total War franchise, innovations have been made that will, ideally, come across to a new Three Kingdoms title.
The lessons learned during the development of Troy, and the upcoming Warhammer 3, can only serve to improve whatever comes next.
The Total War franchise has been on an upwards trajectory, in my opinion, ever since the release of Warhammer II.
If only for my own selfish reasons, it's time for Creative Assembly to move on from Total War: Three Kingdoms. I need them to get to work on the next grand epic, so that I can lose myself, once again, in whatever comes next.