Intimacy of large-scale combat in War of the Roses

War of the Roses is an interesting prospect: a multiplayer-driven action game set in the Middle Ages with large-scale combat for (up to) dozens of players. And at its core, War of the Roses features a deep customization system ensuring each of the soldiers on the battlefield is incredibly unique.

Battling other LAN-connected attendees at a recent event, I was given a taste of the the chaotic skirmishes featured in developer Fatshark's upcoming title. Before long, I was gleefully fighting with and falling under sword and spear.
The personalization in War of the Roses is daunting. The cosmetic stuff is vast, but the real power lies in being able to create several classes for varying scenarios:

If you want to take down cavalry or keep foes at a distance, you can wield a poleax with a heavier set of armor designed to protect you from the occasional arrow. Lighter gear paired with a short sword or mace allows you to outmaneuver adversaries, giving change to rush in and out of battle formations. Archers can pluck enemies from a distance with a long bow or crossbow and retreat laughing to a safe haven to reload and repeat. Or you could mount a trusty steed run down enemies with a wooden lance.

There's a vast array of options available for players, ensuring new encounters in each combat scenario. I spent time prowling rooftops with longbow in hand, firing upon unsuspecting foes, until one knight dared step on my roof. Soon we faced off in a magnificent and tense one-on-one battle where I eventually walked away victorious.

I methodically marched toward enemy archers behind the safety of my shield before cornering them. I imagined the poor archer cowering and pleading for his life before I coldly struck him down. Battles explored open fields, side-by-side with my allies – which I noticed did not include any female character models.

The carnage and graphical fidelity in War of the Roses makes the conflicts all the more real. Clipping the legs of a horse with a swing of a two-handed broadsword, bringing down its rider in a violent spray of blood is both jarring and satisfying – all the more so the latter after a tense conflict with an enemy soldier.

During one-on-one encounters, movement and weapon determine attack and defensive capabilities. If you've got a shield, block by pressing a button. Easy. But for two-handed weapons, players must anticipate incoming blows and defend accordingly. So if an enemy is swiping horizontally, for example, you need to step to the left or right – stepping to the right to move your weapon to your left side, and vice versa – to move your weapon to either side of your body and hold it vertically to bounce back the blow.

Vertical strikes require standing still or stepping into the attack to block across the body, horizontally. It seems simple enough, but in the heat of the moment, a simple misstep could mean death. I grew comfortable with this parry and blocking system relatively quickly, becoming quite the patient killer – allowing my foes rush in wildly and punished accordingly.

While War of the Roses is slated for launch later on this year, my brief time with the game proved that it could be a viable product in its current state – a multiplayer game that felt unlike any other multiplayer game I had played before. I can't wait to see 32 players waging war in a single match, and spilling my fair share of their (virtual) blood.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.