Following on from our Total War: Three Kingdoms graphics card performance benchmarks and graphics settings analysis, it's time to hone in one graphics setting in particular - Unit Size.

Unit Size is a graphics setting in Total War: Three Kingdoms which can also have a profound effect on gameplay. In Total War, each unit is comprised of a set number of troops, and shifting Unit Size up or down reduces or increases this figure. For example, a unit of infantry on ‘Large’ will typically have 160 individual soldiers, while on ‘Extreme’ this figure jumps to 240 soldiers. While each unit is defined as a single entity in terms of the over-arching strategy, each individual troop member does battle independently. As a result, changing the Unit Size also affects the gameplay.

The Gameplay is balanced around the ‘Large’ setting, as well as forming the default for multiplayer. In terms of single-player though, you’re free to put it at whichever setting you’d like. Increasing the size of armies will increase the challenge though, and Creative Assembly says Extreme unit sizes are “only recommended for experienced players. Note: this option can affect performance and has not been factored into our minimum or recommended specs.”

There are a huge number of factors at play in terms of why larger unit sizes are more difficult in Total War games. The mass of a unit changes, for starters, and a cavalry unit will tear through proportionately more of an infantry unit if they are stacked up in a deeper formation. Heroes can also be swarmed much easier by grunts, while the possibility for ultra-wide formations can block off potential flanks and also completely surround a defensive position.

AoE (Area of Effect) skills are also affected. AoE attacks can do a fixed amount of damage and/or kills. As a result, they do proportionately less damage to the unit as a whole. This makes trebuchets and other range AoE attacks much less efficient and therefore favours the attacker in a siege situation.

Total War: Three Kingdoms Unit Size Graphics Option Comparison


(Slide your cursor over the image below to compare)

Total War: Three Kingdoms Unit Size Performance Impact

Unit Size is also the single most demanding graphics setting in TW: Three Kingdoms. It’ll knock a hefty chunk off your frame rate depending on your specific hardware configuration.

Here’s a rough outline of what you can expect in terms of frame rate dips when increasing the unit size. This is going to vary depending on what graphics card and CPU you have, but it does provide a rough idea.

Total War: Three Kingdoms ‘Unit Size’ benchmarks performed on PNY XLR8 GeForce RTX 2060 6GB | Intel i7-5820K @ 4.2GHz | 16GB DDR4

As you can see, on this particular rig there's a 14.6% frame rate cost associated with enabling 'Extreme' rather than 'Small'. It's not really a factor for the RTX 2060, but it's certainly going to be an important consideration for gaming PC's below Total War: Three Kingdom's recommended system requirements. Considering the game is balance around Large, anything above this is done purely for looks rather than any particular gameplay advantage. It's definitely pretty awesome to see those huge battles in action, although knowing CA has focused on Large in terms of unit balance does play at the back of your mind.

Which Unit Size setting do you prefer to play on when you boot up Total War? Do you love the all-out carnage of Extreme, or do you prefer to play as the makers intended? Let us know!