This review is based on the version prior to the 1/24/2013 patch.
At first glance, you might think there’s not much depth to the game beyond the predefined classes. You’d be wrong. It isn’t until you reach Rank 4, that the game opens up and allows you to start customizing your classes. It almost becomes overwhelming at the options laid before you. Now, not everything can be picked all at once, certain weapons and items are locked behind ranks and money. But what you do get available from the start is far from restricting.
Soon you’ll be customizing a sword from the metal it’s made from, type of serration, and even the fighting style you’ll use while in combat. Crossbows can be customized in ways in which you reload, the type of bolts, and being able to zoom. Light, medium, and heavy armor also allows you to choose armor sets, helmets, and adding pieces of flare like feathers or an ornate wooden crest on the top. Your Coat of Arms represents you, or your “family crest”, with the predefined patterns, colors, and objects they give you. You’ll likely not see the same design twice if you put enough work into it. There are also Perks that boost your character’s abilities as well. There’s a lot to experiment with across offensive, defensive, supportive, and even investing becoming an officer at level 20 to point out objectives.
Combat is unique. When using melee, clicking and dragging your mouse left to right (or right to left) does a swiping motion, up does an overhand strike, and down does a poke or jab motion. Each of these actions can be parried or blocked by using a two-handed, one-handed weapons, or shields. With the weapons, right-clicking and dragging in a direction will do directional blocking. The game is good at showing you what kind of attack your enemy is about to give you. Shields can only be held up to protect from being attacked.
It is entirely possible you’ll be “Instakilled” when playing War of the Roses. It doesn’t happen very often, but there are just some wounds you can’t recover from. But for the ones you can, you can be bandaged. You can bandage yourself, which takes an awful a lot of time (even with perks to speed this up). Or, your comrades can bandage you at a quicker pace. Even when you’re down, you’re not always out. If you are killed, you can be revived by a team-mate, should he not be skewered by a lancer on a horse while doing so.
Don’t want to just be a foot soldier? Then mount a horse for some calvary combat where you can slice or pierce your enemies, or simply trample them with your horse. As infantry, it’s pretty easy to attack a horse to drop it and reduce a light-armored lancer to be the victim of someone’s blade. Horses can be taken from your own team’s stable, or the enemy’s and completely overwhelm them with their own horsepower. The crossbow is a great weapon, and features an “active-reload” mechanic in which you can reload your weapon faster than the normal process. Bows and arrows must be pulled taught to reach their maximum damage and efficiency, hold it for too long and you have to let go at the cost of an arrow.
There are only (now) three modes: Conquest, Team Deathmatch, and Pitched Battle. Conquest is similar to that of Battlefield or other capture and hold modes where you capture a base and put up your team’s flag as ownership. When all the points are captured, or the most points held when the round ends – wins. Team Deathmatch is exactly what you think it is, no objectives, just straight up death and murder. Pitched Battle is a new mode recently added, in which there are no respawns like the prior two modes.
When you play on a server, the maps rotate chronologically from place to place. Playing the Conquest mode, you’ll see the roses turn the color of the House that had taken the objective. It’s little touches that make the game really stand out. The game is absolutely gorgeous and stunning, every time. Maps are full of color, such as the map where the sun is barely visible, the fog is still there and the entire map is consumed by orange. The new maps from the free Winter DLC are stunning. From the map with freshly laid snow and a soft sunset, makes the battle almost serene. The other map, a violent blizzard is obscuring your view as night falls and visibility is low, but is intense and insanely fun.
There’s so much attention to detail and subtle nuances here and there. War of the Roses offers a deep and robust multiplayer experience like no other. You’ll likely find similarities to Mount & Blade, but Fatshark delivers a wonderful, bloody, and downright fantastic game. Sadly there’s some in-game purchases you can make for gold to buy better weapons. And it’s a shame it doesn’t have a larger community, but you’ll end up playing with the same people night after night. Each game has many good stories to tell, ready to come back for more.
A review code for the game was provided by Paradox PR for review purposes