Tiger Knight free on STEAM! 虎豹骑

So my friends, I don't know if you've heard, but if you love the much acclaimed Mount and Blade series and you love Chinese history, specially Chinese history during the late Han dynasty- Three Kingdoms period, there is now a current-gen game for you that marries the best aspects of Mount and Blade's combat system with the massive armies of Dynasty Warriors. Oh yes, it's also free.

Tiger Knight~ as it was originally called, was released in China in 2014, and I've kept my eyes on it for some time. I don't usually do direct endorsements for games~ except perhaps ones with extraordinary artworks that highlight and displays authentic Chinese armor, well, this game does exactly that. I am writing to let you know that after 2 years of great success on Oct 24 it recently arrived seemingly out of nowhere in the west via STEAM, as Tiger Knight, Empire War.

Interestingly~ despite almost 0% effort in getting people to know about its launch, it has now garnered over 2200 reviews on STEAM since its release and still holds a "Very Positive" review~ on equal footing as the original Mount and Blade entry.  So far, to say the least, the game has garnered the attention of its would- be audiences.

As of early November, its current form is mostly a repackaged version of the original Tiger Knight, however in the coming months, and by early 2017, the game will roll out new features that will truly make it something on par with the new Mount and Blade Bannerlords, For Honor, and Kingdom Come Deliverance: The inclusion of 3 new empires that the player character could play as, each a regional great power during 200 AD. The Kushan Empire (Indians,) the Parthian Empire (Iran,) and finally the Roman Empire- many models and concept art for Rome has already been released- So if you are interested my friends, you can find the Beta of the game here.

In order to depict the armor and stances of most troops, the developers actively studied Han dynasty relifs.

The reason I am interested in writing about this game and gush endlessly about it is solely due to the developer's efforts in modeling and rendering authentic Chinese armors and weapons from this period. For those who are generally unfamiliar to what I am talking about~ the Chinese has always depicted the arms and weaponry of the Three Kingdoms era (220 AD) in a "revisionist style"~ in that they would dress those ancient characters in the armor and costumes of the much later (and much more flamboyant) style of the Song and Ming dynasties~ featuring mountain scale armor and mandarin caps etc in a manner not so different from how the European artists of the 16th century would dress ancient heroes with the contemporary Renaissance era plumed helmets and plated cuirass. Or how most Europeans depicted the Trojan Wars in Classical hoplite garbs.

In depth study of the arms and armor of this time period. What I love about this game is its dedication to authentic Chinese arms and armor, a quality that really made it stand out. There may have been many games about the Three Kingdoms era, but none that showed as much accurate as well as well rendered units in combat as they did. 

To give credit where credit is due~ those revisionist renditions of Three Kingdom legends like Guan Yu, and Lu Bu in gaudy mountain scale armor are rather stunningly spectacular and had indeed inspired generations of imaginative youth, including yours truly's general fondness of the era.

Red Cliff~ The first high budgeted film production depicting this period's soldiers in authentic arms and armor of the period. 

But I think that although this colorful (re)-rendition of the era served well in giving our fertile imagination a setting to admire, to talk about, to return to- at a fundamental level, it lacked a sense of authenticity to the fabled age- in that its very easy to say that out of the many, many, many TV series, movies, or video game that has come before Tiger Knight, aside from John Woo's "Red Cliff," (being one of the first movie to commit to showing the era accurately) there just isn't many mediums we can point to and show to others as legitimate examples of Chinese soldiery of this era.


Therefore, I truly admired Tiger Knight for treading the road not taken. By choosing to depict those rather simple and grotesque looking Han armor with all of its flatness and lack of grace, and instead made them...communicate personality. This is where they broke with tradition, and still did so with fanfare and artistic integrity. If anything, their concept art showed this in abundance.

For the discerning mind and those with discerning eyes, there are indeed several anachronisms within the characters armor and weapons below, such as a Tang dynasty Minguang armor for one of the Wei cavalry and the samurai/ yabusame inspired design motif/ silhouettes for the Wu swordsmen and archers, mostly as artistic flourishes (a feather here, a tassel there) to enhance and exaggerate the characters, but those are the 15% rare abnormalities rather than the norm. The norm~ the broad brush stroke of the characters that composed of the 75% of their torso + helmet designs are quite good. 

Please zoom in to appreciate their details. 

First, we have the northern Kingdom of Wei, led by the brilliant, ruthless, and ambitious Cao Cao. His was a kingdom that linked up the arid Gansu Corridor in the west with the flat and fertile Northern China Plains and served as the bulwark of China's north- they have also augmented the best vanguards of the Emperor's own into their ranks, leading a mobile army that deftly waged- and won many wars against China's steppe barbarian neighbors. Naturally, they would have fielded the best cavalry of all three kingdoms, including both cavalry archers and cavalry lancers in equal abundance, especially the deadly eponymous Tiger Knights - forming an army that's able to both hit hard, hit fast, backed by heavy professional troops. In terms of design, they exude from their smooth curves, square edges, and plain ungilded lamellar of their armor a professional, grim and stark business-like attitude that came with unrelenting force.

Please zoom in to appreciate their details. 

Secondly, we have the western Kingdom of Shu, led by the humble and compassionate Liu Bei, who was related by blood to the Han Emperors, and thus is by Confucian moral the true heir of the throne who- if augmented by heavens' blessing, and several legendary generals- would be the best and only candidate to restore the shattered Han dynasty. The Shu laid in the backwaters of the former Han dynasty, and one would almost say the backwaters of civilization itself, hidden between the gargantuan evergreen mountains of Yunnan and Sichuan, his was a jungle realm of mists and impregnable mountain passes- constantly fighting, and seducing the various jungle barbarian chieftans bordering his realm, and his army reflected that as well. Occasional heavy infantry forms a fighting front and guards the choke points while the light crossbowmen and horse archers rain down a hailstorm of bolts and take what advantage they can in a fray. Design wise, they looked like the "Rebel Alliance" underdogs of many castes and many races they really are, with many earth toned leather armors to give them a ragtag look.

Please zoom in to appreciate their details. 

At last we have the South- Eastern Kingdom of Wu, ruled by the Sun family, like the Starks of Game of Thrones, they were first led by a caring family man- who was murdered, then by a charismatic and indomitable little conqueror- who was also murdered, to be finally succeeded by the family's naive younger son, who knew nothing when he took over the family reins just as the entire realm of the Han empire collapsed into total war. Many may have thought he had a gentle heart, but he has the making of a king- and all the preparations for the wars to come has made him the king his people needed. The Sun family's domain lays in the vast eastern coast of China, from where Nanjing and modern Shanghai is located all the way into the heart of Vietnam- at the time a Wu colony. Though rich, prosperous, and having boasted the strongest navy of all three kingdoms, the Wu lands seriously lacked horses and horse breeding pastures, but they make up for it by having some of China's best blacksmiths. As such, the Wu doctrine reflects this aspect of their fighting forces. Though lacking in cavalry, they would possess a very hard hitting force that is very self reliant. Design wise, they are very reminiscent of the "bro" and "champion" macho "Ichiban" culture of Japanese ashigarus and samurai. A breed of hard hitting, hard fighting band of Southern brothers.



Well, that's all I have to say, some background to the game and a brief introductory bit of history about the era. I'm just glad that I have an opportunity to explore the real arms and history presented here that were faithfully illustrated by the game.

Again my friends, if any of what I wrote interests you, you can find the Beta of the game here