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Developer Fatshark’s War of the Roses brings a unique multiplayer experience that puts you in the armor of a knight in the Middle Ages. Playing a match in War of the Roses is like hopping into a third-person shooter--perks, load outs, squads, and all--but then swapping out the rifles and grenades for battle axes, two-handed swords, and crossbows. The culmination results in a surprisingly entertaining online experience.
War of the Roses is primarily a team-based online multiplayer game. You'll be able to jump into a match of up to 64 players and bash in other players’ heads as a warrior for the Lancaster or York teams--the two opposing sides in the actual historic War of the Roses. It isn't the prettiest game out there. The animations are a bit stiff, but the environments and player models do well to create a realistic medieval world to accompany the brutal combat.
There are fairly limited options in terms of game modes--team deathmatch as well as a conquest-style mode, in which players capture areas, are the only match types. The lack of variety in game modes means the team-versus-team matches can get tiresome. But what War of the Roses lacks in modes, it compensates for in the novelty of gameplay.
Getting a kill in War of the Roses is no easy task. It takes a combination of mouse clicks and mouse swipes just to swing your weapon. Blocking works in almost the same vein, so sword fights between two players feels like a real medieval duel. Every move is deliberate, and winning battles comes from skill rather than getting in a few lucky shots. When you outmaneuver an enemy and come out the victor, it's because your skills at blocking and attacking got you there, not because you mashed a bunch of buttons.
Every attack or bow shot must be calculated and perfectly timed to land, since opposing players can block, dodge, or interrupt your attacks at any time. However, because it is so difficult to land a critical hit, when you actually manage to deliver a crushing blow, it's incredibly satisfying--especially when you perform a gruesome execution on a defeated player.
Those who have played the Battlefield series, will immediately recognize the squad system. When players respawn, they have the option to do so on different points on the map, including on other squad members. This does well to keep teams together and working toward objectives, making War of the Roses a very team-based game. Lone wolves don't survive long, especially if they run into a two-on-one battle.
When in combat, you have the option to carry a wide variety of weapons, including swords, shields, axes, bows, and poled weapons--like Halberds and spears. Each weapon type differs in effectiveness, and encourages different fighting styles. Maces crush armor-wearing foes, one-handed swords are effective at close range, and pole weapons keep foes at a distance. The rate at which you can swing your weapon, the damage it does against the enemy's armor type, and even the direction the attack comes from--all of these factors come into play in combat. So, you'll have to try out the different weapon types before you find one that fits your play style.
Your choice of armor plays as much of a part in combat as your weapon. Not only can you unlock visually intimidating armor sets, certain character attributes can be affected, including movement speed and defensive abilities. Some armors can even completely deflect attacks. Armor types--like plate, mail, leather, and cloth--absorb different amounts of damage from specific weapon types. For example, piercing weapons penetrate chain mail and bludgeoning weapons are strong against plate armor. Furthermore, hit detection takes into consideration armor coverage, so a sword strike to an opponent’s exposed face will do far more damage than a strike delivered to a helmet visor. All of the variables provide a great way to encourage experimentation with player loadouts in the customization system--which is also very robust.
As you level up from winning matches and getting kills, you'll earn money, which can be used to purchase weapons, armor, character perks, and other bonuses like mounts. The perks break down into offensive, defensive, and squad support perks called Officer perks. Certain perks must be equipped to allow you to use bows and shields, or to ride horses. This system makes it tougher for newcomers, who will have a difficult time defeating well-equipped veteran players--even with the stronger default loadouts--but, overall, earning new upgrades and items becomes incredibly addictive.
War of the Roses is an online experience unlike the vast majority of competitive war games out there. After you get over the initial clunkiness of the controls, wading into battle with a massive two-handed sword and bringing it down on some poor soldier's head is even more exhilarating than getting a multikill in most online shooters. The combat is fast-paced and the customization is addictive. If you’re looking for a competitive online experience that is a little out of the ordinary, but is immensely entertaining, War of the Roses is a game that you won't want to miss.
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