War of the Roses|
With the release of War of the Roses and Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, this October is definitely an exciting month for those who want a multiplayer medieval combat game because now you actually have choices. Up until now, Mount & Blade has been the only option for those wanting this style of game, and a little competition can only mean good things for the genre. War of the Roses attempts to make medieval combat more accessible to those of us that might not be willing to put up with the awkward feel of similar games.
Having only ever played bits and pieces of Mount & Blade, I only barely knew what I was getting myself into with War of the Roses. Though, in all honesty, itís not as complex and inaccessible as I thought. In fact, War of the Roses is similar to a Battlefield game in that it has modes like team deathmatch and conquest on large open maps, as well as custom loadouts and perks that were popularized by the Call of Duty games. Whatís the difference? Well, just replace the guns, tanks, and planes with medieval weapons like swords, spears, shields, bows, and, of course, horses. Oh, and one last thing, itís third person. So yes, Iíll admit this game doesnít really sound like Battlefield on paper, but the structure of the gameplay actually feels very similar.
The maps, of which there are seven, are very open and large enough to support up to 64 players, while the similar game modes bring the strategy and tactics of Battlefield to the medieval era with surprising ease. As expected, the players with longbows and crossbows sit in the back of the pack or perch themselves up high in order to pick off the enemy while those with melee weapons march on the front lines to engage in brutal battle. The key to victory is not just being good at the game, although that definitely does help; itís sticking together and playing as a team. Running off alone into a group of opponents will almost surely result in death, while sticking with a group of teammates be formidable. Thatís why War of the Roses takes another cue from the Battlefield games by having players join squads of five on which you can spawn in the middle of a fight. And just like other multiplayer games, the team working together is usually the team that comes out on top.
Combat in War of the Roses has a sharp learning curve to it, but after many hours of play it becomes less frustrating and more exciting. Thereís always a problem with trying to jump into a multiplayer focused game that already has an established community or players who are exceptionally good at the game because itís simply discouraging to constantly be on the receiving end of bullets, or in this case arrows and swords. It took me about five to ten hours before I started making some progress and actually feeling like I was contributing to my team, and once I made that turn for the better I started having more fun than Iíve had with a multiplayer focused game in a long time. The combat is slow and methodical enough that every move, every swing, and every shield bash can be thought out and calculated. When you die, you know itís because you did something wrong or played too risky, and rarely are there times when you feel like thereís nothing you could have done to prevent death.
Even though it can be really fun, thereís room for improvement on the combat mechanics. Melee weapons work by clicking the left mouse slightly dragging it up, down, right, or left, and the direction picked determines what kind of attack will be done. Up does an overhead attack, down does a stabbing attack, and left or right does an attack to that side. The problem with this way of attacking is that the direction the player is looking is also controlled by the mouse. This causes situations where attacking a target to the right of the player with a left swinging attack can be very difficult to pull off because of having to move the mouse left to pick the attack, and then turn right to execute the attack. Thankfully, the execution of an attack only happens when the left mouse is released, making it the combat system manageable but not ideal.
This same problem arises when trying to block with a weapon and not a shield. Blocking with a shield is done by holding down the right mouse to bring up the shield and pointing in the direction an attack is coming. Blocking with a weapon works exactly like attacking, where the mouse needs to be clicked and then slightly dragged in a direction to block in that specific direction. This makes blocking incoming attacks with weapons extremely clumsy, and extremely frustrating. In the end, it works out by giving a defensive disadvantage to the offensively powerful two handed weapons, but that doesnít mean there arenít ways to implement the same tradeoffs while also having an easier to use combat system.
I eventually got fairly good at placing my attacks, even if I still havenít nailed down two handed weapon blocking, but there are some things in War of the Roses that donít get better with experience. The game does a really bad job of giving you feedback about what is actually happening and why. The tutorial is lacking and doesnít do a great job of explaining the game, but itís better than nothing. The real problems arise when actually playing multiplayer.
When in combat, damage numbers pop off of enemies when you hit them, colored shield symbols pop off of them when they block or deflect an attack with armor, and blood will fly in the air when you take damage, but the amount of health anyone has is a mystery. Sometimes it felt like I could take dozens of hits, and other times I went down in only one or two. There were plenty of times when I felt like I hit someone directly in the back, but the game wouldnít give me feedback on whether or not it connected. Other times, I would do damage to someone when I would have sworn they either blocked my attack or were out of range. The lack of communication about what your attacks are doing makes the combat feel like two players hacking at each other until someone dies rather than strategic combat requiring thoughtful tactics.
I have my complaints about War of the Roses, and itís not a perfect game, but considering how unique the concept is and how much fun I personally got out of the game, I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes team based multiplayer games. Whether developer Fatshark is going to continue making these types of games is a mystery, but Iím excited to see where this genre goes in the future and what improvements will be made to an already fresh and exciting multiplayer experience in a world filled with a million multiplayer shooters.