Medieval combat has been featured prominently in videogames. Fantasy RPGs, in particular, have always been filled with swords, axes, and archery. What hasn't really been explored much is realistic multiplayer melee combat. War of the Roses is Paradox's highest-budget game to date, and they are tying their best to make you enjoy hacking at other people with sharp, pointy things.
War of the Roses (PC)
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Release: Q3 2012
Gordan Van Dyke, who used to work at DICE on the Battlefield series, is the lead designer on this project. The rest of the development team, Fatshark, made the multiplayer-only shooter Lead and Gold. Add one of the guys from Mount & Blade to the roster, and you have a good deal of people with experience making multiplayer games.
I really want to stress that this isn't a Mount & Blade game. I love those games -- and sure, there are a lot of similarities at first glance -- but this is something different. Whereas Mount & Blade is created from the ground up to be an open-world medieval simulation, War of the Roses is a multiplayer game at its core, but there will also be a single-player campaign.
Players will have an insane amount of customization options for their characters. There are three weapon slots, over 60 weapons in total, different armor types, and 60 perks that will give you different abilities or bonuses. What's more, each individual weapon can be customized. The level of detail goes so far as to allow you to choose what metal your weapons and armor are made out of. Players can save a handful of options as quick loadouts while inside a match, allowing them to create their own version of an archer, a footman, a knight, or anything in between.
The perks and weapon customization add an unpredictable element, since you can't just look at a guy with a giant hammer and expect to know what he can do with it. He might come at you fast, or might hit you slow. You're not locked into having to play a certain way. Your main weapon is the biggest part of your character's archetype, but even an archer can pull out a sword or dagger to go in for close combat.
You can control the direction of the attack by moving the mouse while clicking. A click while moving left will cause you to swipe from the side; moving up will let you use a powerful overhead attack; and pulling down initiates a direct stab at your enemy's gut. All of these attacks are different depending on what weapon you have. A warhammer will give you alternative attack options from a broadsword. A lot of medieval weapons had different uses, like smashing or stabbing, and the developers really wanted to bring that into War of the Roses. As such, a pike or a polearm can become multipurpose tools of death.
Parrying is also directional based. If you have played Mount & Blade at all, you should be familiar with this method of combat. There, it could be hard to tell what direction you were being attacked from, but in War of the Roses, very clear onscreen visual cues show you where you're being attacked from and what direction you are attacking in.
Your armor weight affects how fast you can move and attack, as one would expect. Heavy armor makes you feel massive and attacks seem full of force. Light armor allows running and jumping around, but if you get hit dead on with a warhammer, you probably won't be running for too much longer.
Gordan Van Dyke made it very clear that they weren't interested in selling map packs after release; he felt that type of DLC only segregated the player base. That said, they will be supporting the game with additions like gunpowder-based weapons. At launch, War of the Roses is going to support up to 32 players, but this limit could be increased over time.
Fatshark is shooting to release the game by the end of summer and it'll be available on Steam. A demo was hinted at -- Gordan wouldn't tell me what it was, but he says that it will be different and interesting -- so expect that sometime before launch. I'm looking forward to it.