War of the Roses

War of the Roses review

War of the Roses review

Paradox's medieval deathmatch is bloomin' deadly.

When I saw the medieval deathmatch game War of the Roses in development, I wondered if it might become a complex, po-faced affair, all too concerned with the precise simulation of late medieval weapons and the intimate details of period warfare. I thought the control system might end up unwieldy. I thought the difficulty curve would be too steep.

Well, it does take its arms and armour rather seriously and its controls do take some getting used to, but they're both part of what gives this game its character - and none of it stands in the way of you having a damn good time getting (late) medieval on people's asses. And on their horses, too.

Two teams of up to 32 soldiers each go to war, donning 15th-century armour and choosing from an array of halberds, swords, axes, spears, bows and crossbows. When they meet on the field of battle, whatever steel they swing at their opponents is effective according to its flavour, where it hits and what kind of armour it makes contact with. Slashing weapons won't cut through steel breastplates, for example, but aiming for joints in the plating gets results. It doesn't take long to appreciate that this is a game of manoeuvring, timing and careful parrying - or, if you find you're bleeding to death, a lot of wild, desperate swinging.

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War of the Roses Preview: A Stab At Something Different

War is a profoundly unpleasant thing. At its core it consists of groups of people working together in an organised effort to overcome one another, and the best way to do this is by killing. The weapons they use, whether new or old and no matter how elegant we claim they might be, are designed to disrupt the human body so violently, so dramatically, that it can no longer function, whether this is by trauma, displacement, dismemberment or any other method.

It's such a blunt, naked portrayal of war that influences War of the Roses, which aims to be accurate in not only its modelling of medieval weapons, but also the brutality of those who employed them. The most striking aspect of this multiplayer combat game is also one of its most common sights: that of injured or incapacitated warriors being finished off in a merciless and gruesome fashion.

But these soldiers aren't simply characters in the game, they are players like you and I, and should you find yourself sprawled helpless on the ground, desperate for a teammate to come to your rescue, you may well have to watch as your opponent drives their weapon into your chest, neck or eye. It's best not to think that real Englishmen were doing such things to one other during the country's most vicious civil war.

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