Sunday, October 07, 2012

War of the Roses Gameplay Review

I'm playing War of the Roses, a medieval third-person combat game by Fatshark and Paradox Interactive



The game is light on features, with only two game modes (team deathmatch and conquest) and an atrocious offline training mode that features poor organization and tips combined with awful AI. When you join a battle, the first objective is to choose a class; at first, only default loadouts are available (footman, crossbowman, longbowman, and footknight), but you can eventually design your own class when you have logged a couple of hours of game time. The customization options are strong: you can select from a wide range of primary and secondary weapons (swords, axes, clubs, spears, polearms, lances, bows, crossbows), armor, helmets, daggers, and shields with varied options. You also get to choose perks that grant offensive, defensive, support, or movement bonuses, or benefits for your squad. Controls are typical for a shooter-type game, though the mouse wheel does not switch between weapons. Melee combat is performed by holding down the left-mouse button and then swinging the mouse in the direction you wish to attack (top, bottom, left, or right). You can hold down the button indefinitely (although you move very slowly while doing so), which makes for the mechanics more unrealistic. Holding down the right-mouse button blocks in the same four directions, and lowering your visor restricts vision but offers greater protection. The result of this method of attacking is a lot of random swinging by newcomers and successful blocking by veterans; landing a victorious blow (attacking from a direction that is not being blocked and landing the swing on an unarmored part of the body) is rewarding, although luck is some part of the equation. It usually takes several hits to incapacitate an opponent, so most battles involve slowly circle-strafing your opponent, holding out your shield, and waiting for help to flank them. The combat certainly takes practice, and without a serviceable offline component, most new players will be at a distinct disadvantage to experienced players. Using ranged weapons comes with their own liabilities: the bow is inaccurate and causes little damage, while the crossbow takes a long time to reload. Mounted combat is not very popular, likely due to the map design that lacks large open areas to gallop through. If you receive damage, you may bleed, which requires using a bandage for five seconds before you bleed out. If you are knocked down, you are not out: you may be executed by a member of the opposing team (a long five-second animation, during which the execution can be interrupted) or revived by an ally as you lay helpless on the ground. The executions are brutally effective, shown from a first person perspective as your opponent stabs you in the eye. The unorganized chaos of battle is not helped by the ability to spawn on your squad leader: you can be in a tense one-on-one battle, but then another opponent magically appears nearby and unbalances the contest. I did not care for the style of combat War of the Roses has to offer, as I felt that the limited control scheme makes aiming too difficult: the third-person perspective leads to confusion since you have to use the camera angle to both aim and see. The bare functionality, slow pacing, and combat shortcomings limits the appeal of the brutal, methodical battles of War of the Roses.