by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
History comes to life
Fifteenth century England is a strangely untapped time period for video games. The Wars of the Roses were particularly significant not just due to the variety of weaponry and tactics employed, but also because of the high stakes involved. The two rival royal houses, Lancaster, denoted with a red rose sigil, and York, with its white rose sigil battled it out for the throne of England. Gunpowder had just been invented, meaning the battlefield was a diverse place, with a mixture of guns and bows, knights and cavalry, leather and chainmail, axes and swords. All of this makes for a great video game setting, and Swedish indie developer Fatshark is trying to bring the history of this conflict to life with War of the Roses. Publisher Paradox is on board to get the game out on the PC on October 2nd, 2012.
War of the Roses is a team based third person action game where the player must battle opponents and support allies on multiplayer maps of up to 64 people. It might be best described as Battlefield, just with fewer fighter jets and a lot more horses. As you play, you will level up, and can choose from over 30 perks which will add to your arsenal of abilities and combat options. Additionally, you will be able to customize your armour and weaponry to an enormous level of detail. It’s not just cosmetic either, as leaving weaknesses in your personal defences will allow an enemy to target that point to great effect. Donning extra heavy armour will not help much if you leave a small chink which can be exploited by a smaller weapon or a skilled archer. There will be cosmetic additions you can change though, such as your crest and coat of arms, bringing a unique look to your character.
The huge amount of weapon and armour customisation on show, along with the perk system makes for an exciting multiplayer experience. With so many options available, players will undoubtedly be creating new ways to overcome opponents that perhaps even the developers never dreamed of. The levelling system will keep players coming back, as well as the promise of unlocking new titles so you can brag to your friends and taunt your opponents. Fatshark hopes that War of the Roses players will encounter epic moments of battle from emergent gameplay. For example a team of knights might be trying to flank an archer position, without knowing that a cavalry charge awaits them around the corner. The developers promise groundbreaking mounted gameplay, which is easy fodder for the sceptics, as this feature has almost never been implemented to much success in video games.
Up close and personal
Players will fight it out online within one of the seven historically inspired zones. The visuals look impressive, with nice weather and lighting effects in addition to the textures on the character models and objects. The environments range from castles to settlements and large open fields, so getting around these areas safely is another problem that players will face. Rushing across open ground to attack an archer who knows you are there is ill-advised, so sneakier tactics will have to be devised.
Archers won’t have all the advantage though. Ranged attacks will be powerful against slow melee units, but most of the time an enemy will have to be finished off up close and personal. Once an enemy is down, one of their team mates might be able revive them. So it’s up to you to go over put an end to them for good with one of War of the Roses’ finishing moves. These are grizzly animations which the victim has to suffer from a first person perspective. Of course, having to finish encounters in close proximity means leaving yourself vulnerable to other enemies, so awareness, teamwork and just a dash of luck are paramount.
Fatshark is creating a very intricate combat system, where players will have to think and exploit weaknesses rather than using all out force. The developer is also implementing a high level of detail in the customization options. For someone like me who enjoys a chaotic multiplayer experience but has grown tired of the shooter format, War of the Roses seems like an excellent idea, and will hopefully be a game which delivers on its lofty promises.