Ever wondered what it’d be like to charge into battle in 15th century England, swinging wildly before having your helmet and, consequently, skull crushed in by some bastard’s spiky-ball-on-a-stick?

War of the Roses


Neither has anyone else (hopefully), but if depressingly realistic depictions of medieval warfare falls anywhere within the realm of things you’re willing to spend money on, Fatshark’s “War of the Roses” is a game after your own heart.

Set during the extremely interesting (not really) and titular War of the Roses, a series of battles over something no one in America will have learned or cared about outside of specialized college courses, the game puts you in the midst of 64-man Team Death Match and Conquest modes. Two teams of 32 knights and company affront one another, in the former to kill each other repeatedly and in the latter to control zones on the battlefield.

Character personalization allows for diverse gameplay and individualized warriors. The game boasts over 30 weapons from the time period, three different armor types, hundreds of helmet combinations and the ability to create your own crest to represent the player out on the battlefield. It feels very much like a third-person “Battlefield” or “Call of Duty,” with crossbows and huge swords instead of rocket launchers and combat knives.

“War of the Roses” includes over 30 “perks” that alter your character’s abilities slightly, and all of these combined make for a playing experience that is aesthetically and functionally customizable to each player’s needs.

The lobby and user interfaces are clear and effective. Not too much screen real estate is devoted to knowing how well or poorly you’re doing, the menus are intuitive, and character loadout screens mimic their first-person shooter counterparts rather well. The more you play, the more you level up; the more you level up, the more ways you can maim and kill foes. Leveling up takes too long to make it worthwhile, but the promise of new gear and abilities is always there for players willing to put in the work.

Here’s the problem: “War of the Roses” is hard as hell. Fans of “Mount and Blade” will feel at home with the wonky swing-to-hit-things gameplay and the horseback battles, but newcomers will be put off by an incredibly steep learning curve and unfriendly camera angles. Attacking and blocking require the player to react and adjust to positioning by moving the mouse in the direction of the hit, something few other games incorporate. The tutorial does a poor job of preparing players for the thrills of multiplayer, where the weak are trampled and trodden upon mercilessly.

The game doesn’t feel fun or rewarding until a certain baseline of “skill” is acquired through blood, sweat, tears and broken keyboards and mice. “Realistic” combat comes with the joys of dying instantly, over and over, without any hope of figuring out what you did wrong in your next six seconds alive. “War of the Roses” does difficulty wrong: Instead of providing players with combat that is accessible but provides opportunities for high-level decision making, it makes combat arbitrarily difficult.

On top of that, the game doesn’t look amazing. The environments are true-to-life, the music is atmospheric and reasonably good, but it all feels pretty “meh” compared to games with similar settings.

Many of the game’s contemporaries (“Skyrim,” “Dishonored,” “Demon’s Souls,” “Dark Souls”) deliver challenging hack-and-slash gameplay, exciting environments and rewarding combat. “War of the Roses” and its artificially created need for “skill,” unattractive settings and the grind necessary to do anything other than run around in basic equipment seems an unlikely candidate for mass appeal.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.