Story mode feels much more fleshed out from previous versions, staying more true to the Romance of the Three Kingdoms story line from the novel of the same name, rendered in beautiful cut-scenes. Story mode can also be played with another player, through the Jin, Wu, Wei, and Shu dynasties. In most levels you can play as 3 characters from that particular event, and all progress done in any mode, not just story mode, will carry over to other modes. Each story mode can take about 5 or 6 hours each, in my experience, and the events during game play of the story levels are much better fleshed out and more story driven than previous versions, featuring in-game cut scenes, as well as full rendered cut-scenes, which I must say are very beautifully done. You can also get Hypothetical endings as well for playing the story mode again and completing the requirements.
My only complaint about story mode, is that the “Other” campaigns, featuring Zhang Jiao of the Yellow Turbans, Dong Zhuo, Yuan Shao, and others, only feature one level to play as them, and not a full blown campaign like the other dynasties, but its a minor thing, as the main dynasties have much better fleshed out story line and more involving cut-scenes and game play.
Ambition mode, is a base building side game, where you build up a town to welcome the Emperor onto your town, featuring recruiting new allies, building facilities and much more! You select a single character you have unlocked, and your goal is to build up your town, which will benefit all characters you have gathered, and carries over all leveling up from ambition mode to story/free mode, and vice versa. This mode plays like a mix of XL game play from previous games, featuring random enemies and placements, which can be quite interesting. You can play several different battles, such as skirmish fights, which are required for gathering facility and weapon materials to upgrade your buildings. Unconventional Battles are fights where you can get fame, which is required to get more allies, and then there is great battles, where you can gather allies to further your cause!
You can build several different buildings, which will aid your entire gaming experience, such as a blacksmith, which allows you to get better weapons, upgrading them, and even reforging and tempering and other special abilities. Merchants allows you to exchange materials for other materials (weapon material to facility material, and vice versa), as well as buying and selling animals. The academy and training room allows you to level up your characters and power up their stats and levels with gold (the academy). There is several other facilities that will aid you, like the tea house, farming building, and stables, will all help immensely for all characters, in and out of ambition mode.
Ambition mode can be played online with another player too, and can visit each others towns and play the battles together, which I feel is a nice addition.
Free mode allows you to play any levels you have unlocked with different difficulty levels, and can also be played with a friend online as well, as well as offline game play too! There isn’t too much for free mode, except for replaying old levels, just like in previous games, in case you wish to level up characters, play on harder difficulties, and so forth.