'War of the Roses' and 'Chivalry' wage war without all the nonsense

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Of all the games I played this year at PAX East, two unlikely contenders stood out. They weren't indie darlings or supported by the donations of Kickstarter enthusiasts. And they weren't first-person shooters, nor character action games set against historic backdrops. Both games – Fatshark's War of the Roses and Torn Banner's Chivalry: Medieval Warfare – are about as far from my usual radar as games go. That was until I played them, of course.

Both Chivalry and WotR are set in (you guessed it) medieval times, though neither employs its setting much beyond a backdrop. The games are multiplayer-focused affairs; neither has any sort of single-player campaign. Given the backdrop, you might assume multiplayer to be of the Mount & Blade variety. You'd be wrong.

Both games are vicious, fast, and, most importantly, accessible. These are not the sim medieval combat affairs of many Paradox Interactive-published games. These are arcade-style medieval combat games, presented in first- and third-person perspectives, and they're like nothing else I've played in the past few years.

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First, Chivalry:

What I played of Chivalry had medieval warriors facing off in arenas, one-on-one, though larger, full team battles are promised. I chose a class (light through heavy), a couple of weapons (again: light through heavy, primary and secondary), and headed into battle up a blood-splattered ramp into a dusty arena. It was a frantic affair, with opponents swinging battle axes, swords, and all sorts of other medieval weaponry in my general direction.

I carefully blocked heavy double-handed axe swings or deftly dodged them, so as not to lose my head – literally. The one-hit "death blow," I was told, would only decapitate or lop off limbs should my energy already be low enough. Several guided swings were available per weapon, allowing for a handful of potential interactions. Outside of the perspective, the combat isn't dissimilar to that of Skyward Sword, with opponents using wits to outguess each other rather than swinging wildly. Call it "tactical melee combat," if you'd like. That's what I'm going with.

The arena I battled in was full of treacherous spike pits and wall protrusions and ... you know, other sharp stuff. Pretty much the opposite of toddler safe. A well-timed kick or swing can knock opponents to their instant death: a brutal impaling on one of the many sharp things. The mode I played was one-on-one deathmatch, but several other modes are promised for the final product. Few details were available, but they're said to be more objective-based: "smashing in the castle's gate with a battering ram or razing and pillaging your opponent's encampment," for instance.

Chivalry: Medieval Warfare has no set launch date, but when it does arrive it'll be on the PC platform exclusively – at least initially.%Gallery-153890%Now, War of the Roses:

Paradox Interactive senior producer Gordon Van Dyke is the publisher's main liaison with the developers at Fatshark. Van Dyke's history as lead on Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is apparent in many of WotR's systems, from spawning on your "squad," to the game's team-focused gameplay.

Unlike the faster-paced action of Chivalry, War of the Roses has players acting more tactically. Archers can carefully take aim and ward off oncoming attackers while infantrymen defend them in melee-based combat. Knights get to carry larger, slower, and more powerful weapons, and can equip heavy sets of armor to last longer in battle.

Also unlike Chivalry, the combat is very methodical. A click of the mouse button and a slight flick allows a weapon to be wielded in any direction (not tied to several pre-determined directions, like Chivalry), and active reloading (like Gears of War) is crucial in getting that next arrow loaded up before someone's saber runs you through.

Paradox Interactive intends to launch War of the Roses in "early fall," and this one is also headed exclusively to the PC for now.%Gallery-150298%In summary:

Chivalry is the Call of Duty to War of the Roses's Battlefield. Each game is fun and engaging, and each is trapped within a shared setting, albeit for their own reasons. More importantly, both games are accessible in a genre that trends toward niche demographics. I never thought I'd see the day where I'd be excited about not just one, but two multiplayer games based in medieval times, but here we are.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.