Watch your coffee
I've been a fan of Mount and Blade ever since the original reached Beta status. When I heard that Paradox was publishing a multiplayer game featuring Mount and Blade's highly immersive combat system, I giggled girlishly with anticipation. However, things did not pan out the way I expected. War of the Roses does feature an updated and slightly modified version of the aforementioned combat system but other elements of the game simply don't add up.
The Mount and Blade combat system was a revelation to me. Its fundamental characteristic is that when you press the left mouse button while holding a melee weapon, the character does nothing. Holding it down and dragging either left, right, up, or down triggers the character to ready his weapon, preparing himself to swing it from the direction that you indicated. Releasing the button finally sends the weapon flying into the enemy's body with a satisfying thump. This method, although a bit complicated and difficult to get used to at first, puts you in complete control of your character's actions. It immerses you so successfully that you will inadvertently twist your own shoulder in the direction of the blow, possibly leading to an unfortunate coffee spill. At least, that's how my keyboard got ruined.
Hardwood for your spear
When I first got my hands on War of the Roses, I could have sworn the collision detection was off. I kept running into battles flinging my sword around waiting to kill someone but I never seemed to land a hit. Meanwhile, every blade that flew past me sent a squirt of blood from my person to my enemy's face. I found the archer classes much more appealing as you really feel the impact of your hits. Each successful shot sends a damage count flying into the air and critical hits and headshots trigger a drum sound which is immensely satisfying to hear. Later on, however, as I unlocked more and more advanced melee weapons, it became clear to me that the problem wasn't the collision detection. It was that the lower level melee weapons are pretty much useless. Even with the first axe unlocked, you will feel much more powerful than with the standard sword. Having the blood squirting - in the right direction is immensely satisfying in a purely animalistic way.
At first, levels will open up quite quickly and a lot of new things will be unlocked in a relatively short time. This slows down really fast, however, and those unlocks could have been better distributed. Around the 10th level, unlocking items becomes a matter of grinding for cash. Although the game doesn't feature any character customisation in terms of looks and appearance (apart from a customisable crest that is) what you can customise are your perks, armour, weapons, and your weapon perks.
You can even choose what materials your weapons are made from. For example, when choosing a short pronged bill as a sidearm, you get to choose whether the head be made of standard steel or passau steel, the passau option granting greater penetration protection and damage absorption when used to block incoming attacks. Furthermore, the edge grind can be flat, double bevelled, convex, or hollow grind, each option slightly modifying the weapon's balance, speed, and damage. Even the shaft gives an option between standard or hardwood, affecting speed and balance. When choosing a bow, you can choose the shape of the arrowhead, either making them fly farther or do more damage. Multiple choices are available, so you will be able to make the class fit your play style perfectly. You can even choose your soldier's fighting style, such as the Imperial style that does more damage at the cost of slower speed and Milanese that does the exact opposite.
Of axes and craniums
The graphics engine of War of the Roses gets choppy on the highest settings, even on powerful machines that do not flinch when running Battlefield 3 on the highest settings in Full HD. The game also suffers from some technical issues and the game crashed three times during my time with it. During battles, I kept hearing complaints from other players about spawning and falling through the ground. These issues, coupled with an aesthetically pleasing yet unimpressive graphics engine, make the game quite disappointing in the technical engineering department. Luckily, the gameplay itself is quite a ride.
War of the Roses is quite enjoyable and works well as a multiplayer game that you can jump in and out of for a 10 minute bout. Although it doesn't have the production values of AAA first person shooters, it serves its purpose well. I use multiplayer games as stress relief. When I feel annoyed, I start up a game in which I can kill people, and it is so much more satisfying to kill someone by burying an axe in their cranium than blowing them up with a random grenade. Unfortunately the many technical issues, average production values and an unbalanced levelling system make War of the Roses fall short of greatness.
Satisfying action, great weapon customisation options.
Crashes, levelling system needs work.