Name: War of the Roses
Genre: Multiplayer warfare
Price: £24.99 from Steam
Battlefield meets the Battle of Bosworth in War of the Roses, a new team-based multiplayer war game from Fatshark. Is a rewarding combat system enough to make up for a relative lack of content in this PC only title? Read our full review to find out!
“A team-based Tudor shanking-simulator”.
Now there’s a description you don’t get to use every day. But that’s probably the most accurate way to describe Fatshark’s War of the Roses. Published by the team at Paradox Interactive (who also have the Mount and Blade series in their stable), it’s online warfare quite removed from the usual glut of modern shooters.Almost entirely devoid of single player options (beyond a wobbly tutorial system), the game thrusts you into the heart of 64-player scuffs, with two teams of 32 players clashing swords and shields in either a Deathmatch mode or Conquest capture points mode.
With the focus almost entirely on multiplayer combat then, it’s a good thing it’s so compelling. Plenty of effort has gone into making each sword swing or bow shot feel weighty and realistic, which leads to a unique combat system that’s very rewarding. It most closely resembles the afore-mentioned Mount and Blade. When wielding a sword one mouse button handles sword attacks and the other handles blocks, or parries with a sword or shield depending on your equipment. When using bows, you’ll have to build up power in a shot before releasing.
At a surface level these are quite standard, simple controls, but there’s another layer underneath at play. With a sword equipped, you’ll have to direct swings with a quick slide of the mouse, helping you target specific body parts or avoiding blocks and parries, building up power attacks that leave you vulnerable to enemy blows. With a bow equipped your warrior can only maintain the strength needed to fire off a powerful shot for so long before having to release, meaning you have to quickly pick off your enemies. Add to this the added power of a running charge, mounted horse-based combay or the physics and dynamics of the many different weapons on offer and it’s a complex system at play.Executions are a bloody highlight too. Downed warriors enter a short bleed-out stage, given a brief opportunity to bandage themselves to battle on or slump over to face execution at the hands of the enemy. These “finisher” animations are visceral and satisfying; there’s nothing quite like seeing a shield plow into a foe’s face repeatedly, particularly if it’s someone whose standard you recognise as a particularly persistent and troublesome enemy. Watching these executions play out around you is similarly exhilarating, adding to the feel of genuine chaos each battle brings.
As well as the visual pleasure derived from executions, there’s also a character boost earned too, with extra experience dished out following successful executions with which to pimp your soldier. The trade off here of course is that executions themselves aren’t guaranteed successes every time. They take a fair few seconds to pull off, leaving you vulnerable all the while to enemy attacks. The gamble is thrilling, and shows the game at its best.There’s a steep difficulty curve to master however. All players start off as lowly footmen, poorly armed and even more poorly armoured. Success on the battlefield opens up further classes (knights, longbowman, etc) and perks to augment your character with. But those early battles are tough and it takes nerves of steel and supreme patience to take on the leagues of more powerful and experienced gamers at the beginning, in the face of almost-certain defeat.
Though there’s depth to the combat, the same sadly can’t be said for the quantity of game modes. Just Deathmatch and Conquest fights are available, and they’re limited to a measly seven maps. There’s no real story to speak of either, aside from a few quotes pulled from Shakespeare’s Richard III. Fatshark promise regular content updates for the game, but as it stands War of the Roses feels a little lightweight for its £29.99 price tag.The same goes for optimisation. For a PC-only title, we were shocked to see it erratically struggle to hit consistent framerates, even on our moderately powerful rig. It’s never game-breaking, happening just sporadically enough to frustrate rather than ruin. But even with the substantial chaos onscreen at once, it’s visually hardly a game that should stretch resources as much as it sometimes manages to. And with War of the Roses relying so much on timing and skillful, fluid movements, you may fall foul of a few cheap deaths as a result. It’s nothing that a bit of patching cant fix, so hopefully updates will land before too long.
It’s got its problems, but War of the Roses is quite unlike any other team based battler on the market right now. If you can persevere with a steep difficulty curve, and have the patience to stick with a handful of maps while the developers pull together a wider pool of content, you’ll have a lot of fun with War of the Roses. It’s a unique experience, and one that deserves to be played just for trying to do things a little differently if nothing else..
By Gerald Lynch | October 9th, 2012