Total War: Three Kingdoms Mac Review: Can you run it?

by | May 31, 2019 | Strategy

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.

Total War Three Kingdoms Mac art

85 Metascore
We believed Total War games couldn’t be improved any further. Until Three Kingdoms, the best Total War in a decade, proved us wrong.
$29.99


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.

And critics and gamers all seem to agree. Three Kingdom scored an impressive Metascore and received praise from Steam Users:

Total War Three Kingdoms Mac Metacritic

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 Mac 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 Mac requirements

These are Total War: Three Kingdoms Mac system requirements:

  • 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.

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GenreTurn-basedTurn-basedReal-time
Release date201620182015
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Our rating★★★★☆
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Official Site

The Test: Can you play Three Kingdoms on Mac?

To see how Three Kingdoms really performs on Mac, we tested it on these four setups:

  • iMac 27-Inch (5K, Late 2014): 3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 16 GB RAM, AMD Radeon R9 M290X (2GB)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016): 2.0 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, Intel Iris Graphics 540 (1.5GB)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016) with eGPU: 2.0 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, Radeon Polaris RX 580 (8GB)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2013): 2.4 GHz Intel Core i5, 4 GB RAM, Intel Iris 5100 (1.5GB)

Medium emoji Warning 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!

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.

Total War: Three Kingdoms Mac Review: Can you run it? 1

Our standard tests were performed using the in-game benchmark tool and the following settings:

  • 1280×800 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 1280×800 being too low, we decided to also test the game at 1650×1050 (and not 1920×1080 because that resolution is not natively supported on MacBook).

Three Kingdoms Mac tests 2


The Results: Another fine port from Feral

This graph shows you how Three Kingdoms performed on our Macs:

Total War Three Kingdoms Mac performance V2

We performed three different tests:

  1. At 1280×800 using the recommended settings
  2. At 1280×800 using Medium settings
  3. At 1650×1050 using the recommended settings

Notice how the difference between Medium and recommended settings is much bigger than 1280×800 and 1650×1050.

Model1280x800 Recommended 1280x800 Medium1650x1050 Recommended
2014 iMac FPS93 FPS

Smooth

52.8 FPS

Smooth

63.1 FPS

Smooth

2016 MBP FPS37.9 FPS

Playable

17.2 FPS

Unplayable

22.4 FPS

Borderline

2013 MBP FPS15.2 FPS

Unplayable

8.3 FPS

Unplayable

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.

For your reference, this is how we describe the different levels of performance (in frames per second):

As a reminder, this is how we describe the different levels of performance:

  • 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 12080×800 resolution and Medium settings. When using Feral Interactive’s tried and tested recommended settings, results jump to silky smooth 96 FPS.

Total War Three Kingdoms Mac featured

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 1280×800 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 (1650×1050) 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.

Total War: Three Kingdoms Mac Review: Can you run it? 2

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.

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Download Three Kingdoms for Mac

Three Kingdoms is available for download from all the major digital stores including Steam and Humble Bundle:

Total War Three Kingdoms Mac art

85 Metascore
We believed Total War games couldn’t be improved any further. Until Three Kingdoms, the best Total War in a decade, proved us wrong.
$29.99

Disclaimer: Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission (this is how we pay the bills). This commission comes at no additional cost to you

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19 Comments
  1. Steph

    Im new to PC/Mac gaming. I have a 2017 15″ MacBook Pro with the following specs – processor 2.8 GHz Intel Core i7 – Memory 16 GB 2133 MHz LPDDR3 and Graphics Radeon Pro 555 2048 MB
    Intel HD Graphics 630 1536 MB. can I run Total war three kingdoms?

    Reply
    • MrUNIMOG

      Sure thing you can!
      The game officially supports “all 15″ MacBook Pros released since late 2013 with a 2GB graphics card or better”.
      Your Radeon Pro 555 will be fine, performance-wise it’s even way above the minimum requirement of an Iris 540.
      Have fun with Total War: Three Kingdoms!

      Reply
  2. Kunhetxop

    can i play on my macbook pro 2016 nontouch ??

    Reply
    • MrUNIMOG

      Certainly you can. t’s officially supported.

      As for the performance you can expect, exactly your model has been tested in the article above. It’s the one with the Intel Iris 540 graphics.

      Reply
  3. OLEG

    What about macbook pro mid 2014, 15″ with retina display ?

    Reply
    • MrUNIMOG

      Depends. Do you have the base model with just the Intel Iris Pro 5200, or the dedicated Nvidia GT 750M with 2 GB VRAM as well?

      The latter is officially supported, no worries.

      The former isn’t, but might still run the game just fine, since it’s comparable in performance to the Iris 540 which is the supported minimum.
      It should perform significantly better than the (unsupported) 2013 13″ MBP that was also tested in the article above, since the Iris Pro 5200 is a lot more capable than the Iris 5100.

      Reply
      • OLEG

        I have a base model. Maybe will just wait for more feedback from mac users.
        Anyway thank you for response.

        Reply
  4. Chris

    I have a mid 2015 Macbook Pro (Retina) with – processor 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7 – memory 16GB 1600 MHz DDR3 – Graphics Intel Iris Pro 1536MB. Is my graphics card powerful enough to run 3 kingdoms? Is there any way of upgrading so that I can?

    Reply
    • MrUNIMOG

      Powerful enough it is, in fact your MBP’s Iris Pro 6200 is quite a bit more powerful than the required minimum of an Iris 540, but officially supported it isn’t, for whatever reason. It will probably run the game just fine, just be aware it’s not officially supported by Feral, so there’s no guarantee it will perform well.

      That said, are you sure your MBP only has the integrated Intel graphics? If you have the 2.5 GHz CPU, it’s quite likely you also have the dedicated AMD R9 M370X with 2 GB VRAM, which is officially supported! Both GPUs should show up in the “About this Mac” menu.

      Reply
  5. TIm

    My macbook pro is 15-inch, 2018,
    Processor: 2.9 GHz Intel Core i9
    Memory: 32 GB 2400 MHz DDR4
    Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 630 1536 MB

    Can I play three kingdom well? My biggest concern is the overheating problem

    Reply
    • MrUNIMOG

      The game will probably not heavily tax the CPU, so don’t worry about overheating too much.
      Which of the dedicated AMD GPU options do you have? You must have one, since there is no 2018 15″ model with only the Intel graphics.
      Any 2016 or later 15″ MBP should run the game pretty darn well, as stated in the article above, so stop worrying and start playing

      Reply
  6. Neo

    I am going to get this game tonight! Been waiting for this for decade since playing Medieval Total War !!

    I think my Mac 27″ late 2013 is comparable to the one you tested with 2014 version. But I do curious 2014 Mac can outperform 2016 Mac ? by so much?

    Now I am happy, should I? 😀

    Reply
  7. Andrew

    My MacBook Pro is Retina, 13-inch, Early 2015,
    Processor: 2.7 GHz Intel Core i5
    Memory: 8 GB 1867 MHz DDR3
    Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 6100 1536 MB

    Clearly not one of the officially supported models as that was 2016 and later for the 13″ pros, but any thoughts on if I should still manage to get away with running the game?

    Reply
    • MrUNIMOG

      Should *run* the game, but the question is *how well*. For the article above they tested it on the Late 2013 model with Iris 5100 graphics, which performed poorly, but since yours has a similar GPU, just more powerful, it should perform better than that at least.
      If you lower the graphics settings to the absolute minimum and set the resolution to no more than 1280×800, it might be somewhat playable.

      Reply
    • ET

      Hi Andrew,

      I do have the same MacBook Pro as yours, can you let me know how well the performance on the game?
      I’m thinking to buy this game this week.

      Reply
  8. James

    Can mac users play with PC users on multiplayer?

    Reply
  9. cykoay

    My MacBook Pro is 13-inch, 20172.3 GHz Intel Core i58 GBIntel Iris Plus Graphics 640 1536 MB during I run this game the heat temperature can up to more than 80%(maybe higher) is that normal?

    The fan is perfectly doing the great job I just wondering is this good for mbp. Please advise.

    Thank you

    Reply
  10. MOTAFOKA

    Hi, i have an

    iMac (27-inch, Late 2012)

    Processor: 3.2 GHz Intel Core i5
    Memory: 8GB 1600 MHz DDR3
    Startup Disk: Macintosh HD
    Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675MX 1GB

    Would it be able to support the game? I’m aware that it requires

    * All 27″ iMacs released since Late 2012 with a 2GB graphics card or better

    Just wondering if it could work on my iMac.

    Thanks in advance

    Reply
  11. robert

    MacBook Air 13-inch i3 two core

    Reply
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