Medieval madness in a mostly multiplayer mould…
Some games take advantage of a hole in the market, others build on the success of their competitors, and the rare few are a labour of love. That’s exactly what War of the Roses is, an obscure third-person multiplayer love letter to medieval combat during a fifteenth century dynasty war. A theatre where clunking metallic warriors with big swords face down each other while archers try and snipe them from afar before being crushed by a lancer charge from an opportunistic, yet skilled, rider.
It isn’t hard to see why that premise should be a multiplayer goldmine of close calls, funny stories and acts of heroism, and Fatshark has created an experience which offers exactly that, with support for up to 64 players on five different maps in two different game modes. On the surface those slender playing options don’t excuse a digital-only game hurtling towards a full on RRP, but what you’re really paying for is this game’s originality and attention to detail.
Axes, Halberds, longbows, crossbows, lances, swords, Poleaxes and other weaponry are all emulated in a hybrid combat system which allows players to gauge their strikes on enemy warriors while their opponent has a chance to block and counter if they guess the direction of the strike correctly. It’s a great system which requires much expertise, and minimal latency, which makes melee combat very rewarding. When you elect to go for a ranged weapon, like the bow and arrow, the perspective shifts to first person allowing you to savour your shot. All damage is location-orientated so aiming for weak spots in armour will culminate in higher damage, and when that soldier enters a downed state, you’re free to finish him or her off with a devastating dagger to the face, shield to the throat, and other blood-thirsty options. However downed players can also be revived by their team-mates so skirmishes with half a dozen players or more become a deadly game of strafing cat and mouse; you want to finish off that fella you’ve just downed, but at the same time you don’t want to be easy prey to the new challenger entering the ring.
The two game modes are regular Team Deathmatch and Conquest mode, which requires teams to claim ownership of specific points on the map before the other team does, with the first to three judged the victor. We can’t help but lament the omission of capture the flag, especially as that would make the most of War of the Roses brilliant mounted combat, with its sprint and momentum based damage system, but Fatshark are working on plenty more updates to the game.
Unfortunately the single-player mode is little more than a glorified tutorial to explain physics-based combat, and despite maps being based on actual battles from the game’s real-life medieval war setting, there isn’t any effort made to explain the historical context. Sure that’s the nature of multiplayer games we suppose, but a bit of extra informative flavour would have been nice.
Most of that aspect is contained in the game’s fantastically deep customisation system which allows players to not only select their weapon, but also select the material it’s made out of, fighting style, blade type and other options. This in turn is supported by a perk system which is very reminiscent of Battlefield, with bowmen able to equip an ability which nullifies gravity drop off and or extra arrows at spawn. The armour options too are numerous with different sets and helmets available, some sacrificing peripheral vision for better protection, or less protection for better mobility. This is all in the name of ensuring players can fight the way they want on the battlefield, with a Coat of Arms creator and crest options to ensure that visually at least your warrior stands out. Fatshark deserve a lot of credit for making this expansive system so complex.
The team from Sweden has also produced the best mounted combat system we’ve ever seen in the game, with horses feeling quick yet weighty. Taking players out by charging their blindside with a lance on your arm and a noble steed by your plums is one of the best feelings a multiplayer game can produce. Sure it’s overpowered a little, but it’s oh-so-satisfying when you nail your friend while they’re duking it out with an ally.
War of the Roses is expensive for a multiplayer only game, and it is lacking a little when it comes to content. That said, it takes a concept as nuanced and complex as medieval combat and turns it into a competitive experience which everyone can enjoy. On that level it’s undoubtedly a success and it’ll be very interesting to see how Fatshark evolve their game over the coming months.
A great multiplayer experience which is lacking a bit on content
Tags: War of the Roses
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