War of the Roses Preview (PC)

There’s something incredibly special about War of the Roses, it’s hard to really put your finger on it – to mainstream gamers, I’d say think of a medieval Battlefield, with your guns and mortars turned in for big-ass deathsticks and maces. To the more stoic PC gamers, just think of Mount & Blade with a bigger budget, with a smaller amount of players but much, much higher in quality. Whatever your frame of reference, know that out of all the Paradox games coming out this year, this is the one you should all sit up and take note off. We’ve mentioned this before in earlier coverage, but there’s a reason this is the company’s flagship title for this year.

It’s a testament to the quality of this product as well that, despite being a Pre-Alpha build, the game looked and played just as good as anything we’ve seen pre or post release, and we were rather excited when we finally got some hands-on time. The controls can be a little fiddly at times, but once you get into the hang of things you really put your mind to mastering the art of whatever weapon you have. All mêlée weapons, despite having the same basic controls, require a certain style to get right. Axes are good on the swing, Swords with point… me, I just rocked the Spear like a boss and shanked everyone in the gut with my extra range.

Some maps even come with dead guys already there, just for atmosphere

The devil is in the details… or God, whichever version of the phrase you prefer to use, and the team at Fatshark has spared no expense when it comes to customising your character. With a full modern FPS-style progression system, you obviously start with pre-made classes such as Spearmen, Knight, Bowmen, Crossbowmen etc… but as you progress up you get the chance to customise your classes completely. Really, the only thing that ‘defines’ a class is the traits and perks they use, so whilst it’s not possible to have an uber-knight killing machine, you can easily take the basic archetypes and modify them to your needs.

It’s when you come to picking your armour and weapons, that’s when things get really interesting. Armour, there’s three types across all possible zones, so Head, Body, Legs etc… all can choose Light, Medium or Heavy gear. There’s no restrictions, no ‘Load-out’ points that limit what you can choose, every single choice when it comes to decking out your guy is only meant to subtly affect gameplay and your stats, so it’s really a question of protection vs. Speed, and then you can also have feathers or other devices for aesthetic lolz. When it comes to weapons, you choose primary, secondary, and everyone also gets a dagger. You choose the basic weapon, polearm, sword, axe etc… then the sub-category… then the metal material, the handle material, what fighting style you’ll use… even writing this, I’m not convinced I’ve got it all down yet. The mind, it boggles.

Stick them with the pointy end

Perks and Traits are pretty easy to figure out however – you get a limited number of slots, and you basically need to choose some things to help specialise your character. Some traits also allow you to access certain weapons, like bows, shields etc…whilst others allow you to heal faster, or you’re better with certain weapons, and so on. There’s also a Commander trait for the squad system – the Squad leader gives buffs to the men around him, so it pays to stick together. We would like to see more mechanics like this, stuff that would further distinguish ‘classes’ of players other than the obvious, but we imagine the team would say that’s not what the game is trying to do.

There’s also going to be two game modes at launch, along with seven maps, although whilst the rendering engine is fantastic, the environments themselves aren’t really interactive in any meaningful way. Fatshark may have spent a lot of time on your characters and classes, and it doesn’t look like they’ve spent much on anything else. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – it’s still fun as hell and an objective-based mode called ‘Assault’ will be coming post-launch (we’re not sure if this is connected to the Castle Siege we’ve also heard about), but considering they have Battlefield veterans, and especially looking at what the Battlefield franchise is doing currently with destructible environments and support equipment etc… it would have been a nice touch, is all we’re saying.

Oh, we forgot to tell you about the awesome execution moves and kill cam. Oh well...

It’s almost a shame that this is a PC only game – Paradox have been courting the consoles for a while now, and at the time of writing have only had one game published on the console – this would have been a perfect game to help bring awareness to that audience. But then at the same time just looking at the game… we shudder to think at the compromises that would have had to be made to make it fit with the current generation. Roses will have an offline single-player campaign as well, but given that multiplayer is the focus we imagine this is just to help practice for online and possible pick up some easy unlocks.

If you haven’t gotten the message yet – be excited. I’m not one to encourage hype usually, (and the last time I did I got burned), but to be honest I can’t see things going terribly wrong from here. It might not be the most interesting period of English history (or history in general, in my opinion), but Fatshark have definitely gone above and beyond, and we’re looking forward to seeing the finished product with all the features fully realised. We’re even looking forward to what’s coming post-launch. War of the Roses will be releasing on PC (initially?) sometime in Q3 2012.

Most Anticipated Feature: Seeing what a full 32 v 32 battle would look like, especially in the rumoured Siege mode/level…


By Caedes (SI Veteran Newbie) on Apr 27, 2012
Just watched some pre-alpha footage of this game on youtube. The potential is great. I hope they do an open beta.