Total War: Three Kingdoms was released for Mac on May 23, 2019, the same day as the Windows release (an impressive feat).
But more importantly, with some calling it the best Total War in years, is the Mac version good enough to earn a spot among the best strategy games for Mac?
Developed by Creative Assembly and ported by Feral Interactive, Three Kingdoms is the first Total War to be set in ancient China. It’s also the first Total War to truly innovate in a long time.
But what about Three Kingdoms on Mac? Is the Mac version as polished as the Windows version? Let’s see how it runs in the real world, on real Macs.
First things first, is the game any good?
Set in 190 AD, Three Kingdoms explores a beautiful but fractured China. The time for a new emperor has finally come, and as one of 11 legendary warlords, you’ll fight to unite the country under your rule and create the next great dynasty.
And as can be expected from a Total War game, Three Kingdoms combines a gripping turn-based campaign of empire-building with stunning real-time battles.
After so many Total War games released over the years, many thought they couldn’t be improved any further. Well, according to Vice:
Three Kingdoms Is the Best Total War Game in a Decade.
What sets Three Kingdoms apart is its perfect combination of realism and romance.
Total War fans rightfully expect a realistic strategy game that demands smart tactics to win and Three Kingdoms doesn’t disappoint. But on top of that, Three Kingdoms also features larger-than-life heroes capable of taking on dozens of “normal” soldiers.
And they can challenge opposing heroes in epic duels!
Three Kingdoms also has a “realistic mode”, in case you prefer your battles historically accurate, but those larger-than-life moments are exactly what makes Three Kingdoms great. No wonder the game has already sold over one million copies…
Ambitious and sometimes overwhelming, Three Kingdoms does a great job of capturing the complexity of China’s vivid past.
Chris Tapsell – Eurogamer
Total War: Three Kingdoms
Our Score ★★★★★
- OS: macOS 10.14.4
- Processor: 2GHz Intel Core i5
- Memory: 8 GB RAM
- Graphics: 2GB Nvidia 680MX, 2GB AMD R9 M290, 1.5GB Intel Iris Graphics 540 or better
- Storage: 52 GB available space
The game is officially supported on the following Macs:
- All 13″ MacBook Pros released since 2016
- All 15″ MacBook Pros released since late 2013 with a 2GB graphics card or better
- All 21.5″ iMacs released since 2017
- All 27″ iMacs released since late 2012 with a 2GB graphics card or better
- All 27″ iMac Pros released since 2017
- All Mac Pros released since late 2013
PS: To check your Mac model, select About This Mac from the Apple menu on your menu bar.
To see how Three Kingdoms really performs on Mac, we tested it on these four setups:
iMac 27-Inch (5K, Late 2014)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016) with eGPU
MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2013)
⚠ Be aware that neither our 2013 MBP nor eGPUs are officially supported. We still tested them just to see what was possible but you should not try this at home!
What Mac do you have?
It would be impossible for us to test Three Kingdoms on every Mac model available so we did the next best thing we could: test it on representative models.
Even if your exact Mac model wasn’t tested today, either our high-end iMac, our average 2016 MBP or our old 2013 MBP should have somewhat similar specs to yours.
Our standard tests were performed using the in-game benchmark tool and the following settings:
- 1280x800 or equivalent resolution
- Graphics Quality: Medium and Recommended
- V-sync: Off
- Anti-aliasing: FXAA
- MacOS Mojave 10.14.5
By the way, as some of you have complained about 1280x800 being too low, we decided to also test the game at 1650x1050 (and not 1920x1080 because that resolution is not natively supported on MacBook).
We performed three different tests:
- At 1280x800 using the recommended settings
- At 1280x800 using Medium settings
- At 1650x1050 using the recommended settings
Notice how the difference between Medium and recommended settings is much bigger than 1280x800 and 1650x1050.
|Model||1280x800 Recommended||1280x800 Medium||1650x1050 Recommended|
|2014 iMac FPS||93 FPS|
|2016 MBP FPS||37.9 FPS|
|2013 MBP FPS||15.2 FPS|
Keep in mind that Feral literally performed hundreds of tests to define their “recommended” settings. While we always test games on Medium settings, you should follow Feral’s recommendations.
Expand to see how to interpret these results
|Below 20 FPS||Unplayable||Laggy gameplay, full of stutters and slowdowns.|
|20-30 FPS||Borderline||Can be Ok in slow paced games. Still, not optimal.|
|30-45 FPS||Playable||Acceptable for most (most gaming consoles do this).|
|45-60 FPS||Smooth||Fluid gameplay, with no perceivable stutters.|
|60+ FPS||Very Smooth||For hardcore and professional players, a luxury for most.|
We usually aim for 30 FPS, because 30 FPS is enough to guarantee a smooth and fluid experience.
Can my Mac run Total War: Three Kingdoms?
As always, owners of high-end machines will be able to easily run Three Kingdoms on Mac. But what does high-end mean? To keep things simple, we’ll consider all Macs from 2016 onwards and with dedicated graphics to be high-end.
For example, our 2014 iMac runs the game smoothly at 52.8 frames per second (FPS) using a 12080x800 resolution and Medium settings. When using Feral Interactive’s tried and tested recommended settings, results jump to silky smooth 96 FPS.
You can expect similar results on any other modern Mac (from 2016 onwards) as long as it has a dedicated graphics card, including MacBook Pros.
Pro tip: For the best combination of performance and visuals, we recommend keeping settings to Medium and pushing the game’s resolution as high as possible.
Can you play Total War: Three Kingdoms on a MacBook Pro?
And what about MacBook Pros with only integrated graphics? The game officially supports some MBPs with integrated graphics. For example, our 2016 13-inch MBP is officially supported and can indeed run the game at 37.9 FPS at 1280x800 and using Feral’s recommended settings.
That said, if you try to run the game on Medium settings, performance drops to 17.2 FPS. Clearly, any MacBook Pro can run Total War: Three Kingdoms but some will have to settle with lower than Medium settings.
On the other hand, using the recommended settings with a higher resolution (1650x1050) results in 22.4 FPS, which is borderline playable and looks better.
Bottom line: Three Kingdoms is a demanding game but any modern Mac will be able to run it, including Macs with integrated graphics. Feral Interactive clearly did a great job optimizing the Mac version of this game.
But what if you have an older Mac?
For the record, our 2013 MacBook Pro doesn’t even meet the official system requirements and you should not try this at home. We still decided to test it and see how an older Mac can handle it.
As expected, our 2013 MacBook Pro could only run the game at 15.2 FPS using the recommended settings. Our conclusion: Make sure your Mac meets the minimum system requirements!
And what about eGPUs?
Three Kingdoms on Mac does not officially support eGPUs. If you have one, you can still use it and probably have better performance than without using it. That was our case when using an eGPU with our 2016 MBP (45.9 FPS VS. 17.2 FPS on Medium settings).
It works fine but the game is clearly not optimized for eGPUs, which is probably why Feral prefers to not officially support them.
Total War: Three Kingdoms
Our Score ★★★★★