Guanxi System (Friendship and Loyalty) is a game-play mechanic in Total War: Three Kingdoms. The system is modeled after guanxi, the Chinese concept of dynamic inter-relationships. The Creative Assembly team states that the game has taken a paradigm-shifting approach to character agency with iconic, larger-than-life heroes and their relationships defining the future of ancient China. Each character has their own unique personality, motivations, and likes/dislikes. They also form their own deep relationships with each other, both positive and negative, that shape how each story plays out.
Guanxi defines all interpersonal interactions between characters in the game. Characters will form positive/negative opinions between each other based on relevant influence they had, including past events, friendship/jealousy, faction friendliness/hostility, battle record and similarity/discrepancy on ideology, personality and behavior.
Before two characters meet each other, they hold no opinions and relationships toward each other.
As characters become embroiled in the same events, or hold positions in close-proximity working environments such as armies, faction court, or the administrational office of a commandery, they can develop positive or negative relationships with one another based on traits. These relationships can influence their satisfaction and their performance in battle. Player can view a character’s relationships under the relations tab in the character panel.
Aside from working closely, characters can also form relationships with one another, when localised events happen involving them both. Such events are many and varied; battle outcomes, duel outcomes (or interruptions), diplomatic acts between faction leaders, appointment to – or recall from – an administrational or ministerial role, adopting a character, or appointing an heir, are all good examples.
Harmony and Disharmony
Once a relationship is formed, a character’s traits can enhance harmony or disharmony between the two individuals.
Characters can have opinions on their colleagues based on traits (or background). Resonant traits between characters, or traits in a character that another respects, may promote harmony. Dissonant traits between characters, or a trait in a character that another dislikes, can promote disharmony. For example, a merciful character doesn't like to work with a cruel character. These fluctuations cause relationships to deepen.
Player can check if characters are working with someone they particularly like or dislike on the court screen or on their character panels. Characters’ attitudes towards others in close-proximity working environments are indicated by speech-bubbles over their portraits. When characters like each other, their relationship is considered as harmony with a green tick displayed. When characters dislike each other, it will display a red crosses.
When characters in a faction are harmonious in court or army, they will become more satisfied with their job and eventually become friends. On the other hand, disharmonious characters will dislike each other and leave the faction if they feel unsatisfied for long time. Although worth noting that disharmonious characters will try to compete with each other on the job if they're in the same court/army, resulting in a slightly performance buff.
Player can overcome disharmonious relationships by letting characters to win heroic battle together, but sometimes it may not worth the time. Generally speaking, put up a harmonious team is the most efficient way to achieve a confidence, consociate workforce.
Friendship and Rivalry
Relationships begin as positive or negative Acquaintances, with more contact it can further develop into Friendships or Rivalries, enhancing their effects. They may ultimately evolve into the two most powerful forms of relationship: Oathsworn or Nemesis.
To form friendships and rivalries, player can let characters continuingly hold positions in close-proximity working environments side by side, the bonds will deepen as friends or rivals. Fighting together is often the quickest way to form deep levels of Friendship and Rivalry.
Working with friends improve characters' satisfactions under player's service. Characters working alongside one another – such as generals in the same army, ministers in court, or administrators and their assignees – can develop positive or negative relationships depending on the harmonies or disharmonies between them. Professional proximity to friends increases satisfaction, while working close to rivals reduces it.
Player can check the friendship under the relation tab inside character's information window. Character's performance depends on the bond, whether they're together or separated. Harmonious characters hold a better opinion by default, which makes them easier to become friend together. But a strong friendship can still be established by overcoming the hardship together.
A character’s relationships can alter their capabilities in battle. If a character is rivals with another in the same battle – whether friendly or the enemy – he will act more aggressively, gaining bonuses to his offensive abilities. Likewise, if a character has a friend in his army or the enemy’s, both will mutually gain defensive bonuses. If one falls however, the other will enter a state of rage – they will gain large combat bonuses and become uncontrollable for a period.
The impact on relationships caused by events involving two characters is always amplified if one is a faction leader, and characters may also develop a fondness or a grudge toward a specific factions as a result of their actions.
Characters working with other family members will have higher satisifaction. They are also more likey to develop positive relationships, including family members serving in different factions.
Interaction outside player's faction
Characters under player's service can also form friendship or feel harmonious toward characters in other factions, causing potential effects in battle or on the campaign map. If enemy's character is not satisfied with their leader, they can leave their faction and join player faction because he/she has friend under player's service. Same thing applies to character from player's faction as well.
Wandering candidate in the global recruitment pool will also seek faction with friendly or harmonious leader.
- Main article: Undercover Network
The relationship between the Faction Leader and other characters can deteriorate by enemies' covert actions. Be aware the sudden drop of characters' opinion on the faction leader and their satisfaction level toward the faction.
Each character is persistent in the world – at least until they die – and may have worked for other factions before joining player's faction. Player can track their past employment history by hovering cursor over the Past Loyalties icon beneath the character’s name in their character panel. Past Loyalties often indicate that the character had been banished by its previous employer, so the character may have grudge agasint his/her former faction, which the player can use to add some fuel to the flames. But sometimes, it also means that they are the spy sent by their master. Player cannot tell simply from looking at a character’s past employers whether they are a spy, but it may certainly fuel some suspicions.
Guanxi system is designed to be intuitive, so a good rule of thumb is to take a common-sense approach to relationships. If player think something will work in a certain way, it probably will. For example, if there are two characters who are Oathsworn to each other – one in player's faction, the other in an enemy faction – and player choose to execute the enemy character post-battle, the one in player's faction will become upset and hate the player faction for the incident. Characters in his/her close-proximity working environments may even become his/her nemesis, and he may develop a grudge against player's faction. His satisfaction will plummet because he/she hates the job, and he/she will likely leave to join another faction, carrying his hatred (and retinue/administered land) with him/her!
In summary, the tendrils of a relationship can reach far and wide, beyond faction boundaries. It’s therefore important to keep an eye on the characters’ developing relationships, whether with friends or foes, as they can make a big difference to a character’s performance in battle, their satisfaction in the court, and ultimately, the choices player make as the faction leader.