Review: War of the Roses offers up medieval brutality at its finest with a steep learning curve
For years now, we’ve played war games that put you in the shoes of famous generals in historical eras, most notably in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms era in Dynasty Warriors. But very rarely does a game put you in the shoes of the footsoldier and attempt to paint a picture of what combat was really like in medieval times. War of the Roses sets out to do just that with a vastly different type of combat system than we’ve previously seen in games from this genre, specifically, it’s not a button masher. You really do have to pay attention in this game, and it is not very forgiving to errors. For people looking for something different, you’ve come to the right place.
Contributing to the game’s overall difficulty is the realistic interplay between various weapon and armor types. Hitting a heavily armored player, for example, will not do much for you with a bladed weapon unless you are aiming very specifically for the seams in the armor. Similarly a crushing weapon will not do as well against someone wearing lighter armor, as the wearer is more likely to be able to move after the blow, rather than have his armor caved in.
Melee is not the only place this carries over into, as archers enter the fray quite frequently. Ranged combatants can’t simply point and shoot in this game – they have to take things like trajectory, wind and other factors into account. And that’s before they even hit in a vital area. In addition, firing into a crowded melee can more often than not spell doom for your allies rather than helping them, so you have to be careful.
This care is hard to execute at times as the gameplay is fast, frantic and at times rather confusing to keep track of what’s happening around you, especially as a melee class. But again, this just goes back to the whole realism thing that the developers were going for. Speaking of realism, the game looks fantastic. If I wasn’t so focused on the frantic combat, I’d have noticed it more at first, but after trying some of the ranged classes, I had a chance to look around. Definitely a site to behold, even if it does come complete with a healthy amount of blood spray.
Over the course of your gameplay you unlock further weapons, combat perks and roles for use in battle – a formula that’s proven successful for Modern Warfare over the years. It is employed to great effect here, making you really feel like you are progressing and getting more powerful as time goes on.
There’s only a few bad things to speak of at all in War of the Roses. With a game that has such a strong historical backdrop and an amazing combat system, you would think that the developers would take advantage of this and give players a chance to experience what being a medieval footsoldier would’ve really been like in these wars (chances are, it's because life was NOT fun for these individuals). Regardless, it would’ve been an interesting history lesson for those not familiar with the era.
The tutorial system is unfortunately garbage. It doesn’t try to engage you in any meaningful way, whatsoever. And it’s a shame really, because this game is brutally difficult. Not joking at all, if you spend less than three days of play being totally mutilated by the rather skilled community in online matches, we’d be very impressed. On the plus side, there are only two game modes to learn, so aside from the steep learning curve on combat, at least you don’t have to try and remember various gametypes. It’s probably for the best that the options are rather slim anyway – we can’t imagine a Capture the Flag style game working very well. In function, that would just end up looking like flag football with the kids holding nerf swords running in circles more than anything else.
I did run into a few graphical glitches – things like indoor rain. Sometimes I spawned in midair to fall to my death - That was more funny than anything. Ultimately, they were very minor bugs that didn’t take anything away from the experience. If anything, they gave the game more character.
So in summary, if you want a game that will truly test your mettle as a gamer and give you some perspective on what medieval combat might really have been like, you can’t do much better than War of the Roses.