War of the Roses Review

by on October 18, 2012

War-of-the-Roses-ReviewGame: War of the Roses

Developer: Fatshark

Publisher: Paradox Interactive

Available on: Windows PC Only

The War of the Roses was a turbulent time in British history, the fight that started between the Lancastrian Henry VI and his cousin, the Yorkist Edward IV, waged on for many years, and we all know who won it in the end. The battles have since been romanticised, told in stories, in films and even in songs, but it always seems to take on a fantastical quality, as if it never really happened and that it’s simply just something the parents tell their kids in order to stop them fighting with their own cousins. I would probably have laughed if, a few years ago, someone told me that a video game based on the War of the Roses was in development, that it would be down to earth, gritty and realistic while still maintaining the essence of what the War of the Roses was; a fight over the throne of England between the House of York and the House of Lancaster. However, here I am, a few years more knowledgeable and with Fatshark and Paradox Interactive’s game sitting on my computer. The fight between the County of my birth and those filthy dogs over the Pennines having never been more real. This is where the fight begins and ends, in the muddy fields in the North of England. This is England, this is war, this is the War of the Roses.

War of the Roses - Screenshot 01

GRAPHICS: War of the Roses is built on the BitSquid engine, that same engine that Fatshark’s last game (Krater) was based on and, as such, has the potential to look rather impressive. And it does, from a distance. Get up close to anything in the game world and you’ll start to notice little inadequacies in how the visuals are put together. It’s never anything bad enough to take you out of the immersion and when you’re elbow deep in a member of the opposing team’s entrails you’re not going to care at all, but there’s a distinct sense that the developers could have pushed a little harder on the engine without it all going to pot. That being said, the main problem with the engine that’s used to run War of the Roses is the fact that it doesn’t seem to be optimised at all. My gaming rig isn’t shoddy, it’s fully capable of running Battlefield 3 on Ultra settings without so much as a jitter, but for some reason it had problems with War of the Roses when it was set to the ‘High’ graphics settings. The frame-rate would drop drastically to a level that was almost unplayable for a couple of seconds, then it would be fine again, and texture pop-in and streaming scenery was something that was always plaguing my games. Again, none of these are something that ruins the gaming experience, but it’s just an area that could potentially be worked on by Fatshark and improved upon in the future through patching.

SOUND: If you’ve ever watched a TV show set in medieval England, or even anything that uses swords, shields and the like, you’ll be expecting to hear the clash of swords, the galloping of horses and the sounds of distant battle occurring somewhere on the horizon. That’s exactly what you’ll get. Some of the sounds can get a little bit repetitive when you’re hearing them over and over again but there’s only so many ways you can record a sword hitting a shield before you just have to assume you’ve got enough for the sound bank. Fatshark have done a good job at making the player feel like they’re in the thick of battle, nothing sounds as fantastical as the TV would make you believe it does in these scenarios, and most players will soon learn that if they can hear the sound of steel clashing, they’re about to become part of the battle. Hopefully one they’ll win.

GAMEPLAY: The gameplay in War of the Roses is extremely simple, although managing to actually execute it is part of an unnaturally steep learning curve. There are two games modes that you’ll be engaging in, although most people will probably have a favourite and just stick to that. Conquest is an objective based team game where your team is tasked with capturing certain points on the map by standing around them until they are “yours”. The more of your team-mates are congregated around the flag, the faster you’ll capture it and the harder it’ll be for the enemy to come in and attempt to steal it from you. The other game mode is Team Deathmatch, and is something that many people will be used to by now. All you have to do in that mode is pick a team, either Yorkshire or Lancaster, and kill as many of the opposing team as you can in the time limit. The team with the most kills when the battle ends is the winner. These game modes aren’t difficult to understand, most people will have played the game types in other multiplayer games over the years, but they do take a bit of getting used to just because of the way you’re controlling the characters while you’re in game.

You’ll be awarded experience for actively participating in the battle, as well as performing other things during your time in the game. Healing an injured team-mate, executing a downed enemy before a member of their team has the chance to heal them or, of course, killing a member of the opposing team will all generate experience for your character. The more experience you earn, the higher level you’ll become and the more items will be unlocked for you to buy to improve your profile. Just unlocking an item doesn’t mean you automatically have it in War of the Roses, you’ll have to buy the item too. Money is gained in the same way as experience, albeit in lower quantities, so you’ll have to be careful about what you’re going to spend your money on when you decide to try something new out.

War of the Roses - Screenshot 03

The learning curve in War of the Roses is excruciating at times, and things aren’t helped by the fact that the “tutorial” is, frankly, terrible. You’ll be thrown into battle with just a basic knowledge of what you’re supposed to do and, more often than not, you’re told to simply kill the enemy without much information about how you’re actually supposed to do such a thing. If you manage to stick with it though, and I highly suggest that you do, you’ll soon learn the War of the Roses is unique in the fact that it’s not just a game where the person who can click the mouse button the fastest, or the person with the best perks always wins the game; it’s a battle of skill at its purest level. You’ll face off against people who are just spamming the left mouse button, trying desperately to kill you, but if you know how to swing your sword (or in this case the mouse, seeing as you do actually have to swing with the mouse if you’re going to want to do any real damage) then you’re going to come out on top no matter how many perks they happen to have. War of the Roses really is a game where how skilful you are with your character takes precedence over everything else, and the game is infinitely more fun because of it.

LONGEVITY: As with any game that’s meant to be played along with a vast amount of other people across the globe, the amount of time that you want to spend in War of the Roses is entirely up to each individual player. There’s plenty of things to be getting on with, the levelling system, unlocking perks, and all of the usual stuff, but if you just want to get together with a bunch of mates and whack the opposition up the side of their head with a giant lance, then there’s never been a better time to do so.

VERDICT: War of the Roses is at heart an extremely fun game to play, especially after you’ve gotten past the difficult part of actually learning what you’re supposed to be doing. With a terrible tutorial section that doesn’t actually teach as much as it infuriates and an engine that doesn’t seem to be optimised in the least, War of the Roses doesn’t look much on the surface but once you’ve spent a few hours with it, learned what you’re supposed to be doing at each given moment of play, decided on your favourite class and load-out and simply just gotten involved in the game, you’ll be hooked. The problems that are in the game could be patched out in the future and now that Paradox has hired a team to take care of the War of the Roses franchise, I expect them to do just that. Battlefield with broadswords? Why not? For Yorkshire!

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