GDC 2012: Hands-on With War of the Roses


The tone was set at the War of the Roses demo as soon as it was revealed that assets would be distributed on flash drives attached to life-sized wooden swords. The medieval combat game from developers Fatshark is unapologetically 15th-century.

Building off the success of Mount & Blade War of the Roses offers third-person melee brutality on a large scale. Players will choose from a variety of different classes and venture forth onto the battlefield to cleave and bludgeon their way to victory.

Combat is performed by holding down the left mouse button and sliding the mouse in the direction you want to swing from; left and right to cleave from the side, downwards to produce a stabbing thrust, and upward to produce a two-handed overhead smash.

Blocking follows a similar pattern: hold the right mouse button and move the mouse to the side you want to defend. The game also includes ranged combat with bow and crossbow, which switch the camera to a first-person perspective when used. The crossbow requires a realistically long “reloading” time, during which players are vulnerable as they crank the weapon up to potency. Mounted combat will also be available, though it is not yet implemented.

The game’s War of the Roses setting apparently fulfills a life-long dream of the Fatshark CEO. Though the murky historical record makes total accuracy impossible, maps will center around key buildings that do appear in contemporary accounts of the wars, like towers and churches.

In practice, the game plays like Battlefield 1462. Teams of 32 (or, potentially 64) players mill about, scoring kills, triggering gory execution animations, and accruing experience points that can be spent towards unlocking new weapons and armor. The combat system takes some serious getting used to, particularly the swing speed and the range of different weapons. Hitboxes seemed unnecessarily small and finicky, though the game’s pre-alpha state might be to the blame. Unfamiliarity with the mechanics also led to a lot of goofy Keystone Cops behavior on the part of the assembled journalists. After taking a couple hits, a red player would run away, chased by a blue player, who in turn would be chased by a red player, chased by a blue player, etc.

The demo map looked immaculate, with sharp textures, bright sunlight, and strategically placed red rosebushes. Character models and weapons were particularly attractive, rife with detail like carefully rendered roundels and faulds.

Server logistics will be handled by Multiplay, who were on hand to rush to the circuit breaker when the demo game succeeded in blowing a fuse. Mod support is still being debated, though Fatshark is generally mod-friendly; War of the Roses’ lead designer got his start as a modder.

There’s still plenty of work to be done, but the game looks like a promising multiplayer arena for fans of medieval violence. Check out the screenshots below for a better look.

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