TITLE: “War of the Roses”
PUBLISHER: Paradox Interactive
GENRE: Team-Based 3rd-Person Action Game (Historical)
PLATFORM: Microsoft Windows
PRICE: $29.99 USD (Standard Edition)
RATING: Rating Pending (ESRB)
RELEASE DATE: October 2, 2012
Those that have read my reviews of various games developed or published by Paradox Interactive know that it has been a very hit-or-miss experience for me. Every now and then they put out a game that is decently fun, yet quite a bit of the time – at least when it comes to historical titles of whatever kind - they seem to miss the mark. Sometimes this is simply due to them using a very poor engine, bad play controls, a bad attention to historical details, or simply a poorly-conceived experience all around. This isn’t to say that I dislike Paradox; rather, I should instead say that I do admire their effort and the fact that they want to make good games.
All of this said, when I was asked to play their latest historical game, “War of the Roses,” and write a review about it, I was rather skeptical. Yet, knowing nothing about the game at the time, I expected that it might end up being another global strategy game of some type using the same engine they’ve used for so many other games. Thankfully, when I fired up the game on my PC I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was “War of the Roses” not another real-time strategy title, but it was a move in a completely different direction. The game itself is a third-person action title set in the period of the historical War of the Roses (1455-1485), and while I often dislike drawing comparisons like this, it’s almost like playing a medieval version of “Medal of Honor,” but with suckier controls.
The premise of the game sounds interesting enough: It is 15th century England and two branches of the Plantagenet line are vying for control of the throne. You, the player, take the role of an unnamed soldier and are thrust into the fray during various battles of historical significance (like St. Albans). In this respect, the game isn’t about grand strategy and determining the outcome of events in a major historical period. Likewise, the player isn’t even controlling a senior officer or noble in the game, and thus even large-scale battlefield strategy, while important, isn’t the goal of the singular player. Rather, they take the role of a soldier during the battle and it is their job, like with any first-person shooter, to stay alive and take down as many of the enemies as they can.
Combat in the game can be both simplistic and complex, depending on what you are doing. When you take the role of a basic foot soldier, you will have the ability to attack enemy characters with your sword or to block with your shield. Using a melee weapon like the sword requires you to hold down the left mouse button and then waving your mouse one direction or the other in order to determine the direction of the swipe. Blocking is otherwise a simple right-click of the mouse. Yet, one thing I found while playing was that no matter what weapon I was using or what combat situation I was in, the controls were always rather sluggish. Perhaps this makes sense since swinging a heavy sword in real life isn’t exactly a speedy process, yet when you are used to fast-paced games (even fast-paced in the FPS sense of the term), combat in “War of the Roses” can either be painfully sluggish or otherwise frustrating.
Admittedly, Fatshark has tried to implement a few things that are different into this multiplayer genre. The big one that is advertised on the mounted combat system. Indeed, you can control characters that are knights riding on horseback that fight with a javelin and, when that breaks, a sword, but I’m not certain that you can fairly call this a “new” thing. Perhaps it is new to the realm of multiplayer medieval combat (itself not really a very large genre to begin with), although “Mount & Blade: Warband” really seems to have beaten Fatshark to the table here (back in March of 2010), and even that game features arguably better mounted combat simulation.
So, when the dust settles, what are we really looking at here? ”War of the Roses” is a medieval multiplayer combat game set in the historical period of the War of the Roses that presents players with seven “warzones” (maps), 30 different weapon types, mounted combat, and online battles with up to 64 total players. The number of maps is rather small, the controls and general gameplay is rather lack-luster, but the graphics are well-done and the game does, at least, feel like it is dropping you off in 15th century England.
The fact that all of this stuff fits into a multiplayer environment is neat, of course, but recent bugs have prevented some people from joining online matches or even seeing the list of available servers. This is unfortunate, especially when you consider that the offline “training” options are rather limited to begin with.
If you want to give this game a shot, wait for it to go on sale. Otherwise, why not try out “Chivalry: Medieval Warfare” or “Mount & Blade: Warband?”