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Looking at War of the Roses

War of the roses logo

War of the Roses is a third-person multiplayer action-RPG. Though originally released in October of last year the game had a bumpy start and poor timing due to the other medieval theme title Chivalry:Medieval Warfare launching shortly afterwards. Personally I think War of the Roses deserves a little more press than it receives so here is a brief look at Paradox and Fatshark’s War of the Roses.

If you have ever played the ever popular PC game Mount & Blade, then the general control scheme for War of the Roses (WotR) will be fairly easy for you to understand. For everybody else, the main idea is that you control where your weapon goes through a combination of the direction you move your mouse and clicking your mouse. You can strike from the left, right, overhand, or underhand and block from these same directions. Differences in gameplay between Mount & Blade and WotR become more striking from there on out as Armor and weapon types mean a lot more than they do in any other game I have played. Wearing Plate Armor will make most light cutting attacks bounce right off of you forcing your opponents to charge a heavy blow leaving themselves temporarily open. So the downside to plate is your movement speed right? Well not exactly….you see WotR tries to balance historical reality with gameplay and because of that plate armor does not really slow you down very much at all when the man wearing it has been training in it most of his life. However there are more noticeable slowdowns when it comes to charging an attack as though you have a full range of motion, overlapping plates do not much help your ability to swing your arms around. On top of that is the ever so much fun “Visor Vision” where your helmet greatly restricts your field of view even though you play from a third-person perspective.


Before using the Visor


After using the Visor

It may sound like a good idea to just avoid using your helmet’s visor since you can see so much better without it, but,well, that is probably the worst thing you could do. If there is one thing that WotR exceeds at it is hit detection. Face, eye slits on a helmet, armpits, elbows, behind the knees, neck, groin, EVERYTHING has its own hitbox that different weapons react to differently depending on the type of armor being worn. Being protected is a wonderful thing, but being able to strike first can be better. So while plate can protect you from an otherwise deadly blow, an experience player is going to stab you right between the plates and ruin that otherwise impenetrable armor. That is of course unless one of your enemies has a crossbow, blunt arrow tips, hammers, polearms, or just about anything that could crush someone to death, in which case plate only delays your death. Footwork and blocking will determine how long you survive in WotR and at first you will not be surviving very long at all, plate armor or not.

So the game is deadly but what else can distinguish it from the crowd? How about some of the deepest class customization available in a multiplayer game, as well as one of the largest medieval arsenals? After playing for about an hour or so even the worst players should have accumulated enough kills and assists to be rewarded with a good amount of experience and gold (used for unlocking new weapons/traits/cosmetic upgrades) to get their own custom class. A custom class (of which there are 8 slots available) allows you to change everything about your medieval soldier. You can change between different perks in the game, which either define what your character can do (archer or melee, infantry or cavalry) or that will specialize your character even further (fire your bow faster or get more range out of it, make melee attacks more likely to break shields or to hamper enemy movement speed). There are nearly a dozen different sets of armor separated into three different classes and over 50 or so different melee weapons, each allowing the player to choose the type of steel used, the wood for the shaft/handle, the type of edge on the blade, and fighting style for that particular weapon. All of these allow a degree of fine tuning that can turn a slow axe into a faster weapon or a hard hitting hammer into an even harder hitting one.


The number of variables you can change is impressive to say the least.


And the sheer amount of customization keeps getting crazier.

A common worry I hear when describing this system is a fear that veteran players will easily outclass newcomers. The vast majority of changes in the game may improve one stat but will almost always hamper another. Customization allows you to fine-tune something to your liking, not make it superior to everything else. Also rest assured that though the game launched with some balance issues the developers have brought things into line where they have been for months now. The game constantly releases free updates that add new maps, new modes, and even more equipment. At first the developers were worried about simply adding more, but, after the community cried out, Fatshark has since taken a step back, rebalanced all existing gear, and taken their time before releasing any new content patches (which have so far all stayed free).


New players needn’t fear others getting a-HEAD of them….I’m sorry.

If you still are not convinced to shell out the $20 for the game then how about this. WotR has a full multiplayer demo that allows you to play for an unlimited amount of time with other players. All of the kills and other actions you take during the game will earn you experience and gold that you can use when you buy the full game but should you choose not to do so you can still play for as long as you want. What is the catch? You cannot access the customization window without first buying the game which is one of the games strong suits. So while the default character classes you have to start with are on par with everyone else’s custom classes you will never be able to tweak them to your liking or experiment with new setups. Still, unlimited playtime that transfers your progress over if you purchase the full game? I don’t really see how you can argue with that system. I hope to see you on the battlefield, my new halberd could use a few test subjects.

War of the Roses

October 2, 2012

Developer: Fatshark

Publisher: Paradox Interactive

Available now on Windows PC