War of the Roses Review

Brutal, bloody, barbaric. Three words that accurately describe my local Women’s Institute Saturday morning, home-bake table-top extravaganzas. The rush for top quality Lemon Drizzle Sponge Cake at these cut-throat events can be a life or death ordeal. They are also three words which happen to describe War of the Rosesa new team-based third-person action game set in 15th century England. Let’s crush some skulls and spill some guts. Yeeeeuuuurgh.

The 15th century in England was a particularly gruesome era. Surviving in the face of famine and plague, avoiding being the star of a public beheading for petty crime, or burnt at the stake for witchcraft, made every day a real hum-dinger. Even if you were a non-spell-casting, law abiding citizen, the diet of mostly gruel, bread and beans meant that life was dreary with a capital D. Add to all that gloom and doom the fact that the only available game to play was a barbaric forerunner of football using a pig’s bladder as a rather slimey, vomit-inducing ball and you have one heck of a depressing time.

Might as well join your local army, go to battle and stab fellow human beings in the face all day long.

Fatshark’s War of the Roses captures the brutality of medieval England perfectly. Two rival branches of the Royal House of Plantagenet: the house of Lancaster (reds) and the house of York (whites) fight for the throne and don’t mind creating a steaming heap of blood and intestines along the way.

The first thing that struck me (like a proverbial mace to the face) when I began playing, was the wonderful quality of the graphics in this game. Player models have an outstanding realism; the fugly faces of soldiers, their shining armor and blood-curdling weapons immediately indicate a highly polished product. Sound design captures the barbaric horrors of battle, and the music shifts from stirring strings to playful medieval pop. The over-all affect is satisfyingly immersive.

Gameplay begins with an engaging single-player, offline tutorial, which I highly recommend. It introduces the combat physics, weapons and game modes by way of five maps, each one ushered in by an educational commentary. Bots in the single-player events are, it must be said, rather dim-witted, but the immense fun that is popping their heads like blood-filled balloons with a lance, or turning them in to human pin-cushions with arrows more than compensates. The online multiplayer modes, Team Death Match and Conquest, will be familiar to anyone who’s even glanced at a video game. At the time of playing, there were around 200 full or highly populated servers, a good deal of which are official Multiplay ranked.

Essentially, War of the Roses is a class-based, team game such as Team Fortress 2 and Battlefield et al, but it has also been inspired by popular role-playing games, particularly, in my most humble of humblies, the legendary Mount & Blade: Warband mod, cRPG. It is most-definitely a third-person game, though aiming with bows, crossbows and lances changes the view to first-person. Players can fully customize their combatants with over thirty play-style changing perks, authentic weapons, armors and helmets. Successful slaughtering brings XP and gold to invest in persistent upgrades, which can be earned in a relatively short time. There is also a surprising amount of satisfaction to be found in creating fully 3-D crests for that personal touch. Again, seemingly inspired by Mount & Blade is the mounted melee combat, which takes a bit of practice, but the swift, decapitating pay-off makes it all worth-while. A special mention must go to the absolutely mind-blowing work of genius that is the execution move. Whether serving this heart-stopping brutality or receiving it, gut-wrenching joy is assured. Online multiplayer maps take place in seven historically inspired war zones and can host up to 64 players in both Team Death Match and Conquest modes, for maximum mayhem.

War of the Roses is an excellent game. It exemplifies everything I love about PC gaming. The sheer quality of this release is genuinely astonishing. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun. Yet again, Paradox Interactive  have come up with the goods and delivered a proper PC game, tailored for PC gamers. Auto-aiming console kiddies wouldn’t last a minute here. All options can be customised to suit your hardware and the menus are pleasing to the eye and easily navigated.

Additionally, this coming November will bring the first free new content, which will introduce a variety of weapons, including a horn-spanned crossbow and Hospitaller pollaxe, as used by the legendary company of knights bearing the same name. Some new Heavy Armor, The Milanese Knights Hospitaller can be customized with ten paint options, visors and one new helmet. Winter will also see the arrival of two new game modes and snow-laden maps. The first mode to be introduced is Pitched Battle, which appears to involve perma-death.

If modern-day and futuristic combat is beginning to feel a tad too clinical and efficient, then the messy chaos of medieval slaughter could be just what the doctor ordered. An especially twisted doctor, who will prescribe turnips and leaches, admittedly.

Release Date: 2 Oct 2012

Developer: Fatshark

Publisher: Paradox Interactive

Official Site

War of the Roses on Steam


Hardware Used: 

Intel i5 3570k 3.4GHz Quad Core CPU



This entry was posted by Ian Brown.

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