If I was asked what it is about modern day competitive video games that I loathe so much, I would honestly struggle to answer. Putting it down to a lack of realism, a poor community and any number of other things, I began to doubt the possibility of a competitive title that I would actually enjoy, and as such turned my back on the rather encompassing genre as a whole. That philosophy changed however when I stumbled upon the Slogan for War of the Roses; ‘Skill Is Not An Unlock”, which instantly gained my undivided attention as it seemed to call out specifically to me and offered something I had longed for for some time without really knowing it.
Taking place in the late 1500s, the title places you in the shoes of a knight, baron or even a peasant during the rise of the red and the white roses. With each battle taking place on rugged farmlands or spectacular castles which are perfectly balanced to cater to both the needs of the archers and that of the swordsmen and cavalry, it was clear that this title had forged the perfect mix of realism and competitivity.
Taking up arms as a Lancastrian foot soldier to start, I was both impressed and enraged at the difficulty of combat to such a point that I began to question whether I even understood the mechanics of the game at all. Round after round I found myself becoming ever so slightly better at the game, but it wasn’t until a revelation that I really managed to take the field. Coming to the conclusion that both the speed and the strength of my swings were of little relevance at this point I instead began to prioritise precision over power, which I found to be surprisingly successful in quite an intriguing fashion.
though it took quite some practise and getting used to, I found that precision was essential in War of the Roses with even the slightest of details carrying a huge weight. Depending on the armour, different areas would receive different levels of damage, which forces one to apply a bit a pre-thought and implement approachment tactics, and although this is fairly typical of most games of the genre it’s the precision in which it’s approached that really defines the combat in War of the Roses. To use an example, chainmail leaves players vulnerable to lower leg damage where as a full plate would see the joints being of a particular vulnerability, as well as the eyes should the guard be open. In short, the combat is unforgiving, precise and above all difficult but should you manage to master it, it becomes what is easily the most rewarding combat I’ve yet to experience in a game.
Already amazed at the level of realism in the combat proper I was left without words when I unlocked my first customisable slot. Leaving you with full roam in regards to your loadout and offering you an impressive suite of weapons from one handed maces to two hand halberds and waraxes, as well as an equally indepth selection of armour, any fan of weaponry would be besides themselves with joy, however the customisation gets taken further again. Having chosen your weapon of choice you are presented with further options including fighting style and materials as well as grind options and counterweights, all of which harbour benefits and drawbacks which are startlingly true to life and to the age.
With such realism throughout, it’s clearly difficult to maintain balance between the classes and this is perhaps the most verbal complaint I’ve heard against the game. With full plate armour being almost impenetrable by weaker blades, and heavier weapons being easily avoided and worked around, it is at a glimpse easy to assume that the title is infact quite unbalanced and favours the extreme classes above the middle ground. Although the complaint is often made I must admit I fail to see the issue as I have spent quite some hours in a range of particularly varied classes and although certain mash-ups between contrasting classes often seem one sided, it is in effect no different from a grenadier facing off with a sniper and as such, is a complaint I can only liken to aggravated and easily annoyed children.
From the combat, the setting and most surprisingly the weapon details, it’s clear to see Fatshark did their homework on the age and missed not a single aspect of the date. With so many games these days focusing on realistic warfare and immersion it should come across as quite the praise when I say that War of the Roses is definitely the most effective in both of these regards. Managing to capture even the most under appreciated traits of history, such as mercy daggers and the like, War of the Roses is a title that portrays its setting with such perfection and factual backing that it truly immerses one in the chivalry and knightmonship that is British warfare at its greatest.
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