War of the Roses | Beta Hands-On

Published on September 7th, 2012

Strength in numbers…

War of the Roses | Beta Hands On

"All rise for Mr Poleaxe."

There isn’t a multiplayer shooter out there more viscerally violent than ; there we’ve said it. Between slashing each other’s fleshy forms and dramatic finishing moves which involve players pinning their foes down and viscously stabbing them repeatedly in the face, Fatshark hasn’t sanitised medieval combat in any way whatsoever. Instead they’ve painstakingly recreated the feel of hand-to-hand combat in a manner which makes their 32 or 64 man online arenas feel authentic and ever so slightly terrifying.

Each swing from the Halberd, each thrust from the sword; everything feels as though you’ve taken a step back to the fifteen century battlefield the game is set, with bowmen sniping each other from afar and steel clad warriors clunking towards each other in dozen man ballets looking to score a lethal blow. And that isn’t even taking into account mounted combat, or the cheeky one-fire pistol to take enemies out – which unfortunately wasn’t available to sample in the beta.

War of the Roses | Beta Hands On

The class customisation system is very reminiscent of COD

War of the Roses feels a bit loose at first with the directional based swing dynamics taken a while to get used to. The delicate strafing battles which form a key part of the game’s melee-based combat look a bit comical at first, but then you witness the majesty of a well timed stroke for yourself and see your prey quivering on the floor waiting to be finished off – before one of his mates comes along and skewers you in the chest, revives his ally and then promptly puts you out of your misery – and you finally get the game’s appeal.

This isn’t a theatre where one soldier can rule all, instead team-play is absolutely essential as big skirmishes soon turn into what can only be described as chaos but then that’s medieval combat. Picture some of those epic battle scenes from Braveheart and you’ll get an idea of what we mean – it’s the wrong time period of course, but it’ll do as a frame of reference.

War of the Roses | Beta Hands On

When downed players can either finish you offer with a few more hits or engage in this brutal looking finishers. It's a bit like teabagging an enemy, only with more stabs to the face.

To balance out this frenzied combat there are more civilised choices like rolling out as a Crossbowman who’s able to pick players off at range with a few accurate arrows, or one swiftly delivered to the head, but then these medieval snipers are easily quashed at close range, with only a pithy dagger to defend themselves.

It’s worth noting that any character class be it Footman, Crossbowman, Longbowman or Footknight is fully customisable with dozens of different weapons to become proficient in, but for at the start of their career, players only unlock the most basic customisation options with others becoming available as you earn XP.

War of the Roses | Beta Hands On

In the castle map, anyone with ranged weaponry could be dominant.

We played on two maps altogether, one set in the courtyard of a castle with high walls, so bowman can take out foolhardy attackers from below, and the other was set in an unassuming field lined by farmhouses further than the fences. Both perfectly suit the combat, with victory only determined by who has the higher death count, Lancaster or York.

Competitive multiplayer experiences are two for a penny nowadays, but Fatshark has found a theatre of war which other developers have long shirked away from, yet here it really works. For purists this multiplayer experience may be a bit too mad-cap, with the revive-system ensuring that those with the numerical advantage usually win skirmishes, but in sheer adrenaline terms alone,War of the Roses is hard to beat!

War of the Roses | Beta Hands On

There are plenty of different armour items for players to choose from.

To round off this delicately poised combat there’s also an offline mode with bots, so you can understand the minutiae associated with blocking and countering in a more controlled environment, and there’s a coat of arms creator so you can ensure your armour stands out on the battlefield.

Fatshark clearly has a great fondness for this tumultuous period in English politics and after you’ve spent a few rounds with War of the Roses, we suspect you will too.

To try War of the Roses for yourself, be sure to bag yourself a beta code by following this link.

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