War of the Roses beta preview
Well, we have been having us some exquisite medieval fun recently with War of the Roses, the highly promising title from Fatshark. The game is still in beta and should be out on 2nd September, but it is already well off in beta and gaining massive popularity.
Admittedly, Fatshark is not a renowned game developer, having had some limited console and PC experience so far, but it seems that they’ve hit jackpot with their current sword and shield title. And judging by the reactions of the player audience so far, War of the Roses is heading its way towards becoming an AAA title.
House of York and house of Lancaster
Based on the historic conflict of houses York and Lancaster that was dubbed War(s) of the Roses because both their heraldic symbols were roses, white for the house of York and Red for the house of Lancaster, this game lets us revisit that violent and merciless era. I won’t spoil you the suspense and reveal who had won (though you may have seen the movie, if you haven’t read enough Shakespeare), but in this game, you will have the opportunity to rewrite history.
The gameplay is mercifully simple and straightforward, you get to play a medieval soldier and fight the opponents of the rival house. Death by sword, arrow, spear or dagger, that is the question! War of the Roses is currently in beta build 9.01 and supports matches for up to 32 players; the final version will allow up to 64 players battling it out on a single map. There are four classes in the game at this moment, a footman, crossbow and longbow armed ranged soldiers and a knight. You also have the ability to unlock four slots for custom characters that you will be able to equip and style according to your own preferences.
You will start your tour with the footman, which is the first (and only) unit you will be able to play with at the start. Fret not, it takes just a couple of matches to unlock the crossbow, longbow and the knight. Every soldier has a primary weapon, one-hand sword and a shield, crossbow, longbow or a halberd, which is augmented by a secondary weapon to which you will switch if circumstances demand for it (trying to hit a footman with your longbow at a distance of five feet can be exceedingly frustrating, not to mention stupid). After the recent massive updates to the game, all progress has been reset and now the playing field has once again been leveled, and everyone starts from scratch.
You take your right foot out…
The mechanics of the game are very simple, you can swing your sword from side to side, up to down or thrust forward, and if you time it well and judge your reach properly, you might hit the opponent instead of your teammate who just ran straight into your swing. Right click will make you defend with your shield, and if you should not have one, you will try to block with your weapon to the best of your ability. If you are using a long range unit, you will have limited armor and should beware from venturing too far into the battlefield, but a skilled player will manage to survive even with the secondary weapons. In War of the Roses, a lot actually depends on your skill, timing and the quality of your team, and only partially on the quality of your gear. It is not about the fastest trigger finger, but more about who has the best strategy and tactics.
Once you are in the heat of combat, hacking merrily away at your opponents or trying to send an arrow to their sweet soft spots, someone will inevitably go down, bleeding and dying. Most of the time they will survive and remain lying on the ground for a short time, unless if the opponent manages to insta-kill you (meaning what it so colorfully describes, dead on spot), and await their fate. If you happen to be there when your opponent goes down, get close to him and hit E (game will alert you when you are close enough) to enter a short, yet very cruel animation of you slaughtering your helpless victim. Next to the boost to the player’s ego, it will grant you both XP and extra coins (more about the currency of the game in a bit). Sometimes, depending on your armament, you will finish off the enemy with a broad sword, but mostly he will be dispatched by vicious dagger stabbing, straight into his throat and face. Not a pleasant way to go! If you should find yourself lying on the ground helpless, rest assured that you will see that same sequence from the perspective of the victim. The stuff that nightmares are made of is all too often also the stuff that makes us gamers go “weeeeee!!!”.
If you are struck down to the ground and there are friends around, they will be able to revive you in the same fashion they would finish off a wounded enemy. Step closer, hold the “E” key for couple of seconds and your fallen comrade is back on his feet. If you are hit and find yourself bleeding, but still standing on your feet, hit and hold “B” key to bandage yourself. Slightly arcade-ish, but works well in the game.
The battlefields of old
There will eventually be seven maps in War of Roses on which the fighting will take place, all inspired (and somewhat resembling to) actual battle places, on which the Deathmatches and Conquest modes will be taking place. While some are situated in castles where you will be fighting on the walls, climbing ladders and dueling it out in the yards, some battles will be taking place on bigger, open maps where you will be able to mount a sturdy steed and charge into enemy soldiers! Riding has been done very nicely in this game, and fighting on the horseback is a valid and frightful way of engaging your enemies as well as it is skill demanding.
The game is filled with interesting little details, alive with impressive animations and eye pleasing graphic. For instance, when you are loading your crossbow, there is a little mini-game in that process, and if you are skilled, you can shorten the reloading time, if not, you will prolong the entire ordeal for a couple of seconds. Then again, you can simply hold right click and have the crossbow reload in automatic fashion, but where is the fun in that? All of your kills, assists on kills, executions and other successful acts of murder will be rewarded with XP and coins. With coins you can buy gear, choosing carefully what will improve your fighting skills, and with leveling you will also be able to gain some useful perks that will make your gameplay a more satisfying (not to mention more deadly!) experience. All in all, there are some 30 authentic weapons you can obtain in the game, plus customizable helmets, armor and your own heraldic symbol. As for the perks, there will be also around some 30 of them, some enabling you to charge into the fray, some making your aim better etc.
A rose by any other name…
So far, we’ve been enjoying the beta, especially the latest build. Even now, the game is quite promising and the bugs are few in between. Not everything is polished, sometimes the knight has problems realizing that a click means “hit that sneaky archer with your halberd!”, sometimes we get stuck in an odd viewing angle (only once since the latest patch, though) and we get to peak under the world surface, but in general, War of the Roses beta is a steamrolling success. There are pre-orders up and running for the game right now (the game will require Steam to run) and it will reward players with access to beta, early access to the game (starting September 25th) as well as a free upgrade to House of York Deluxe Edition. So far, this deal looks golden!