Hailing from the strategy masters at Paradox Interactive is War Of The Roses, a third person action title that puts a medieval spin on the genre. Rather than a gun, players get a sword. In place of a pistol sits a bow. Instead of C4, players ride on stalwart horses and joust each other on fields of battle. It's an interesting game, and one I've waited for my entire childhood. Does it set the bar for quality like Doom did with shooters so long ago, or is it a nice idea that falls flat on its face?
So Much Customization - There's so much customization for your 4 potential custom characters in this game that it's almost a flaw. Not only do you choose 5 perk trees that branch out into insane details, but your weapons are customizable all the way to the base. Sure you may start with a standard longsword, but pretty soon you'll be buying a new fighting style, different material for the sword to be made out of, and probably a new hilt. It's the kind of character customization that makes every unit on the battlefield unique to their player.
I'm Not Just a Knight - It may take players a long time to realize this, but there are many roles on the battlefield that need filling. At first a player might snipe enemies as an archer to give the ground infantry a leg up on the enemy, or even participate in grunt warfare. However, as they unlock more customization options for their character, they'll soon realize that fast-moving medics and heavy cavalry are as essential to victory as a bastard sword wielding berserker.
I Can Swing My Sword, Sword - Anyone who's played Paradox's other combat series Mount & Blade will feel right at home with War Of The Roses. Taking the best from the aforementioned series, Paradox has ramped up the combat for this new title. Requiring players to swing at the right angles at the right distances to score the most possible damage, good execution rewards players with one hit kills. Meanwhile, those that play without strategy will feel their weapons bounce weakly off their opponent's armor as they face a painful decapitation.
How's My Axe Taste - It may be a stupid gimmick, but I can't get over the humiliating ways you can kill your opponents in War Of The Roses. As if plowing someone down with your horse wasn't enough, Paradox has implemented a wide variety of 'special' kills you can perform to a downed opponent to ensure they don't get healed by an ally. My personal favorite is dropping an executioner's ax on someone's neck.
I Can See What I'm Doing - Admittedly, I've played many games with better visuals than War Of The Roses. On the same note, many of these games are god awful movies pretending to be games. War Of The Roses may not be pretty, but I can see what I'm doing well enough to enjoy myself. At the very least, the game gets the atmosphere right. The rain honestly makes a castle siege feel like a weary poet's dream as my mace turns an archer's face into mush.
IT SHOULDN'T HURT TO BE A NOOB
That's a Learning Curve For You - With a paper-thin tutorial, War Of The Roses is a merciless online slaughter for first timers. In fact, most players may immediately be turned off by the fact that there is a very limited single player campaign and the fact that most of their first few game sessions will be spent dying horribly over and over again. The complete lack of any deep single-player experience is a large inhibitor for this title that should be taken into consideration.
Why Do You Have a Horse and I Don't? - The learning curve is bad enough without all the extra bonuses higher leveled players get. It wasn't until I was about level 20 with a full medicine bag, a heavy set of armor, and a sweet mace that I felt I could fight other players with limited problems. This required roughly six hours of play, during which I spent six hours dying in terrible ways.
The Symphony is Tears of Pain - At the time of writing this, I had just gotten out of an online session. At this point in time I can honestly say I don't remember what the music sounds like, or if there's music at all. Most of the sound is metal hitting metal, cries of pain, or my lance breaking for the umpteenth time on a tree branch. The occasional sound clip of the announcer telling players what's going on is the only noise not created by player interactions. On the bright side, no soundtrack means players can have grooveshark running as they play.
It's a Bug Hunt! - I purchased a second copy of War Of The Roses for my wife so that she could play it with me. As it stands, my wife's computer is better than mine in almost every way. However, she was getting choppy gameplay the whole time while my game is running smoothly. After a few hours of troubleshooting the whole ordeal, we chalked it up to the game still needing some “minor” tweaking. It's a bit troubling to see a computer that can handle RAGE at 1600x900 choke on a title like War Of The Roses at 1024x768 with all the visuals turned down.
War Of The Roses is a title that's not for everyone. I love the crap out of it simply because it's the game I'd design if I could. The steep learning curve, limited single player and lack of polish draw away from an otherwise beautiful game. If players can get past the first few hours of gameplay, War Of The Roses opens up to be a beautiful title with so much more to offer than what it first reveals. If players can make it past the first few hours there’s lots of fun to be had here.
*This review was based on the PC version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*