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Game Guys review - War of the Roses

9:13 AM, Dec 26, 2012   |    comments
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  • 'War of the Roses', a medieval multiplayer combat title for the PC from Paradox Interactive.
  • 'War of the Roses', a medieval multiplayer combat title for the PC from Paradox Interactive.
    

Game publisher Paradox Interactive's bread and butter has always been their grand strategy computer games.  Every now and then (and increasingly as of late), they release something different.  War of the Roses, a medieval multiplayer combat title from developer Fatshark, is one of those different titles.

In the mid-to-late 15th century, a violent feud broke out between two noble British houses (the House of York and the House of Lancaster) as to which should take control of the Throne of England.  Both houses used a different-colored rose as their symbol, hence the name.  Players take a side in the struggle, then hit the battlefield with period-appropriate sword-and-shield or bow in hand.

While War of the Roses is a period piece as far as video games go, it features a number of modern concepts that will seem eerily familiar to players of FPS games. When starting a muliplayer game, for example, players not only choose a side, but also a class from an available four (plus custom-made build-outs). Available play modes include FPS-traditional "Conquest" and "Team Deathmatch", with the former being a mode in which teams must take and maintain control of a section of the map. FPS similarities aside, this game is no shooter. Expect mostly short-range, melee fighting in medieval villages, rural fields, castles, and tournament grounds.

Controls for War of the Roses seem to work fairly well, though with some awkwardness. Standard foot soldiers, for example, swing their sword from each of the four cardinal directions via input from the mouse by holding the left mouse button and moving the mouse in the desired direction. Shield blocking is done the same way using the right mouse button. Mechanics like these work rather well, but they take getting used to; and even once you're used to them, they'll still feel a little cumbersome. Furthermore, this game pays high attention to where each blow lands. Accurately aiming one's attack is difficult and it's up in the air as to whether ultimate success with this game will be due to accumulated skill with the controls or just dumb luck.

As players proceed through battles, ideally hacking and slashing their human-controlled enemies to bits, experience points and coinage will be earned. Once again akin to FPS games, these points and coins are used to unlock/upgrade skills and equipment. This is easily one of War of the Roses' biggest strengths. The new melee and ranged weapons, shields and armor, and horses that can be bought using coinage can not only be simply purchased, but also customized. Everything from color and metal type right up to the style of fighting the weapon with which the armament will be used can be assigned. Furthermore, even though players are fighting for one of the two British houses in question, they can create their own coat of arms to have for their own -- a nice, personal touch to the game.

Visuals in War of the Roses, perhaps in part to the increasingly outdated NVidia 220 GT graphics card installed in the rig used to test out this game, are good but could be much better. Fatshark did do a good job making everything seen in the game look like it presumably belongs in 1455 England and nothing in the game looks too pretty and shiny in this gritty, war-torn game. Fighter animations, however, aren't as fluid as one would like as movements and attacks look stiff and awkward. Finally, a folly of all characters being user-controller, enemies and teammates are largely unpredictable -- sometimes to laughable proportions as friend and foe alike will be seen walking into trees, walls, and the like.

Unpolished but not uninteresting, War of the Roses is a nice departure from the usual Paradox Interactive-published game. Fatshark gets massive kudos for not only making a good medieval-themed multiplayer combate game, but one that looks quite accurate for its setting. The game can be quite taxing on one's computer system, however, especially if its an epic 64-player battle royale. New players will probably have issues hopping right into this game as success will not come easy for them, but those who find themselves really digging the sword-swinging, bow-drawing action will at the very least find themselves coming back for more.

Final Game Guys grade: B

(GamersGate provided a copy of this game for review.)

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