First Look: War Of The Roses

Fatshark’s medieval melee combat game War Of The Roses is a big deal for their publishers, Paradox. It’s the most expensive game the company has ever made, but it is also one of the games that the creative team at the head of the company have always wanted to make. Talking to the company’s CEO, Fredrik Wester, it’s clear that the idea of a full-blown multiplayer combat game with swords, bows, castles, and horses, is something of an ideal project for the man at the top. He gazes off into the distance wistfully as he talks about the dynamic sword combat.

But while Wester’s view of making the game is one of fulfilling a dream, for Fatshark’s creative lead Mårten Stormdal is very much of the practical reality of building a melee game that will be immediately comprehensible and playable, while offering the sort of level of customisation and persistence of progression that shooters such as the recent Battlefield games have managed to exhibit.

At the Paradox summit in a castle outside of Stockholm, Stormdal showed me some of the levels that they’re building for the game, and talked about the challenges they’d faced in putting the game together. I got to see some of the melee weapons in action, which are designed to work with a mouse – hold left click and move to swing quickly or heavily in a particular direction, or right click and move the mouse to parry. It’s a system that I suspect, when mastered, could be extremely flexible and rewarding. “We have of course iterated times on this design,” said Stormdal, “but not that much. We knew it had to work like this, and we had of course looked at games with similar melee systems. We obviously looked at Mount & Blade, because that’s the most recent of melee combat titles. We looked at games like Rune, too, if you remember that, but we felt Mount & Blade at the most solid system.” Leaping around swinging the sword made that choice feel logical, although I did wonder whether the final animation would perhaps be a little more fluid. The game is, Stormdal insists, still at a very early stage.

And should we expecting modding support down the line? “We would like to do that,” says Stormdal, “but the engine is so young. We have really only been working on it for a few years, and so doing that could be complicated.” This is, of course, Fatshark’s own engine which was used for the DX11 “Stone Giant” demo, and Hamilton’s great adventure. War of The Roses is a major, mature project for the company to sink its technology into. (Previous multiplayer game Lead & Gold used licenced tech.)

War Of The Roses will take place across a series of themed levels which include a huge castle area, a wood, a village, a moor, and a few other distinctly medieval-Britain sort of scenarios. Even with just me running around the castle I can see the potential that lies ahead for this game – I leap over a gap in the drawbridge, sword in hand. The experience of battle in the different areas will be “really different” according to Stormdal, and he explained that horsemen with lances might have quite a different game experience playing on the Moor, rather than playing in the castle, where they would have to consider verticality, and the practical difficulties of not being able to get their mounts up stairs.

Stormdal explained that each of the maps will scale, and the playable area will change depending on how many people appear at the start of a game. “You can define it per map,” he explains, “as well as it being a server-side setting.” The game will, of course, have its own dedicated servers, with a master server handling your character’s profile, storing your unlocks and so on.

In terms of this being a game of unlocks, it works similarly to Battlefield. Players will create their profile but then have a number of distinct characters within profile. “You can have a knight, or a crossbowman, or a guy with a horse,” says Stormdal, “ and you can switch between them in a match. And you don’t lock anything down, you can always tweak and switch between things.” The game will allow players to level up, too: “you will unlock weapons and armours and perks, stuff like that,” says Stormdal. He explains that it will be a universal points system, though, rather than distinct class unlock threads. “You can unlock a new sword by playing with the bow,” he explains. “That sort of flexibility was important to me. I didn’t want to exclude anyone. I don’t want to force you to play with the new sword to get to the next one. You can play with the bow instead.”

Of course it’s the use of these bows and swords that game will be all about, but also surviving being attacked with them. Stormdal had already shown me the three different tiers of armour, going from padding, through half-plate, to full plate armour, but now I asked about the injury and health system. “There are two tiers,” he explained. “When you are alive and running around, you regenerate quite quickly, so you take a few hits, run away, and be fine again. But if you get to zero then you will be knocked down. You can be revived by a team-mate at this point, and I wanted to put that so that instead of having a death-cam, I wanted players to see what is happening, call out for help. And this also means there’s a good reason for people to finish you.”

So finishing moves? “Oh, yes.”

The question that all this seems to beg, of course, is how much more powerful a long-term player will be than a veteran with some unlocks and perks. Will they be able to stomp newbies coming onto the server? “No,” claims Stormdal, “the point about this system is for players to become more specialised rather than more powerful, and all the good things have drawbacks. Something quick is weak, for example. Something slow does more damage. Trade offs for everything.”

Weapons will break, too, so your amazing sword might not necessarily last the fight, and you might have to loot fallen combatants for their weaponry. You will, of course, be given your original kit back when you die and respawn. Nevertheless it’s little details like this seem to be what Stormdal is most interested in. This is a game that will, he thinks, genuinely grab people who have even the slightest interest in melee combat. It will even be (although not simulatory in any sense) very close to the historical reality of Medieval war in England. “I had to be very careful with the selection of weapons,” Stormdal explained, “someone will always notice if I got it wrong!”

There’s still a lot to know about War Of The Roses, but questions about this game do not all have final answers, however, because, Stormdal explained, the game is still at an early stage of development, and the team have not yet got to a feature-locked stage. War Of The Roses is still having new things added to it, and could do for some time yet. The first footage of the game in full action, Paradox report, will appear in March at GDC. And we will certainly be looking forward to that moment.

War Of The Roses is set for release some time in late 2012, but I would be surprised if it crept on for a little longer.


  1. Suits says:

    Fatshark ftw ;)
    Krater player testing starting soon

  2. Teddy Leach says:

    As a Yorkshireman, I’m massively excited about this.

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      The problem is the House of York’s power was mainly found in the South with York being a Lancastrian stronghold. So you either have to side with Southerns or Lancastrians I’m afraid.

    • Jonith says:

      Yorkshire man? Well prepare for an arsekicking by me and my fellow Lancastrians then. The Red Rose will be victorious.

    • Howl says:

      Lancashire lad here but with a Yorkshire surname. I might be a bit of a quisling.

      Oh and, Battlefield style gameplay with a DAoC style setting? SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY, etc.

    • Tams80 says:

      “For here’s to the Red Rose,
      The Lancaster Red Rose, Old John o’ Gaunt’s Red Rose,
      The Royal School’s Red Rose. The Barons are vanished;
      The knights are all dead; The old order’s banished—
      Yet the rose still is red.”

    • Guiscard says:

      As long as the spectator team is called Lord Stanley Mode.

    • anotherman7 says:

      Ugh, your civil war’s so much more romantic than ours. This american is jelly.

    • magichicken says:

      Worry not. Paradox offers the dash and gallantry of the American Civil War in Gettysburg: Armored Warfare!
      Who needs believable combat and interesting mechanics when you can move down Feds with a chaingun?

    • bfandreas says:

      If I buy it will the take on The Anarchy next?

  3. mbp says:

    The combat sounds quite similar to Mount and Blade (also in the Paradox Stable) which is a good thing.

  4. AmateurScience says:

    I love italics, but I had to stop my eyes skipping to the end in search of the main body text all the way through that piece.

    Lawks it’s infected the comments system too!

    Edit: or has it? Anyone else seeing the entire article in italics? I may be going mad…

    Edit Edit: Chrome randomly started displaying everything in italics, that was a surreal few minutes.

    • jimmm25 says:

      Are you holding your head at an angle? It looks normal to me.

  5. Necroqubus says:

    reminds me of Mount and Blade :) I hope it will be as good.

  6. Berzee says:

    Righ– hey wait.

  7. Blackcompany says:

    Color me…interested. This sounds, at least, different from mainstream multiplayer games. Also, well thought out. I love the idea of this setting without the elves and magic. About time, really.

    As for the strictly online competitive multiplayer…well, we will see. I suck at shooters but in this I just might be able to compete.

  8. Dariune says:

    Everything im hearing about this game is putting me off it to the point where i am barely interested at all.

    It sounds like the Mount and Blade combat with nothing else. I thought the M&B single player was far stronger than its multiplayer and without an overriding and complex campaign the game just sounds like a hollow sword em up.

    Colour me dissapointed. (What colour is that?)

    • Khemm says:

      Agree. This would be a game right up my alley if it actually had a proper single player RPG-ish campaign like Mount and Blade, maybe with more emphasis on story and power struggle between factions.

      Multiplayer I’m not interested in at all.
      What a shame/wasted potential indeed.

    • Blackcompany says:

      I can definitely see this point of view. Though the idea of Sword-em-Up multiplayer is at least somewhat original, or different, I too felt a pang of disappointment when I learned this would not be an RPG. I would love an open, involving single player campaign in an RPG with no elves, no Orcs and no magic. Sort of a Sword-&-No-Sorcery RPG. A quality game fitting that description would be a day one for me, in fact.

      But alas, we get a medieval beat-em-up. All hail the gods of multiplayer, new rulers of the gaming space?

    • Hanban says:

      I welcome a game like Mount & Blade except with less terrible animations. A role which I hope War of the Roses will fill.

      The only thing that I find to be terrible (I can live with unlocks) is the regenerating health. Which I somehow find to be unsuited a game about cutting people open. For some reason I don’t have this issue with FPS games. Maybe I’m just too used to M&B, but that’s the only thing that didn’t agree with me.

    • westyfield says:

      Pale orange.

    • JiminyJickers says:

      Oh fudge, I didn’t know that this game wasn’t going to have a single player campaign. I was looking forward to a Mount and Blade game with a more involved campaign or something.

      Will just stick to Mount and Blade then, have to have another go at playing that. A bit of a shame really.

    • protospork says:

      I agree as well. I was stoked (Do we still say stoked? This is the only time I’ve ever felt it appropriate) about this game while I thought it would have singleplayer. Hearing it’s MP-only is pretty crushing :(

      EDIT: Wait a minute, the paradoxplaza page says the game will have a “Single Player Campaign Mode”. That’s not quite enough hyperbole for my tastes but it’s still fantastic news. I’m not sad anymore!

    • Chris D says:


      “Do we still say stoked?”

      I say yes, but then again I still say groovy so take that for what it’s worth.

    • UncleLou says:

      I could not possibly agree more, I imagined a higher-budget M&B game all the time (which may have been my fault). I am not at all interested in a multiplayer-focused game. :-/

  9. Bodminzer says:

    This looks like the kind of game I hoped would be around by 2012 when I was a kid. Big wars with all your mates;

  10. Danny says:

    This is the type of game I have want to play for years. M&B obviously delivered for a great part, but this sounds even more extensive when it comes to melee combat.

    And he mentioned Rune! God, all the nights I’ve played that game online and all the fights with my dad this resulted in (56k modem, pay up son).


  11. Tyshalle says:

    This looks very promising, but from a marketing standpoint they’re gonna have a major hurdle to jump with a name like “War of the Roses”. If they intend for this to be a widespread commercial success, they’re gonna have to change the name to something a bit more heavy-handed, IMO.

    • Jockie says:

      Why’s that? It’s a game about the War of the Roses, and as far as Wars go, i’d say that it’s a pretty standout name (none of this numbered malarky, or basing it purely on geography).

    • Tyshalle says:

      I’m not saying it’s not a good/clever name, it’s just doesn’t strike me as a very salable name, marketing wise. Unless you know your European history (which most Americans don’t), the name isn’t going to register at all with you, and nothing about the name itself lets you know what you’re in store for (sure, it says War, but it also says Roses, thus canceling each other out on the badass scale).

      You might disagree with me on whether or not this is how it should be, but if you want to disagree me on whether or not this is how it is, then I suggest you go talk to Joss Whedon, who frequently laments that one of the biggest problems with getting Firefly/Serenity to audiences was that the names just didn’t work. They didn’t sell “Sci-Fi/Western/Comedy/Drama/Action” to anyone. Likewise, unless you know what the title is referring to, War of the Roses isn’t going to sell itself to anyone in the way a Call of Duty/Gears of War/Battlefield/Grand Theft Auto does.

    • Jockie says:

      Well HBO announced 2 days ago that their third most viewed series of all-time is the rather unfashionably named ‘A Game of Thrones’ (which incidentally GRRM has said many times is heavily influenced by the war of the roses) and that’s based on US stats.

      I don’t think gamers are that heavily influenced by a game’s name. I mean look at Skyrim, that sounds like someone performing Anilingus on a cloud.

    • Tyshalle says:

      What you name your product is important. If it wasn’t, then Stephanie Meyer’s publisher’s wouldn’t have made her change her book series from “Forks” to “Twilight”. If you don’t think it matters, you are essentially disagreeing with every major company that has ever released a product, ever.

      And Skyrim doesn’t count. Marketing when it comes to names, book covers, movie art, album covers, etc. is all about getting people who have no idea what your product is to pick it up (or to change the minds of people who aren’t quite sure it’s for them). Skyrim is the continuation of a well known, and enormously publicized/popular franchise. But I agree, it’s a terrible name. There are, of course, always going to be exceptions to this rule. But by and large, if you look into it, you’ll find that it mostly holds true.

    • Howl says:

      Maybe they will localise it for the Americans. Just stick a thrash metal soundtrack over the trailer, change the box art to a bunch of random people staring intensely into the middle-distance and change the name to something instantly forgettable yet terribly masculine, like “FORCE WARS or SWORD WARS!”.

      They will lap it up once you “de-gay” it.

    • JiminyJickers says:

      They need to go full cheese.

      Imagine gravelly voice:

      Blood is thicker than WOTR!!!! – War. Of. The. Ro. Ses!!!!!!!!

    • Unaco says:

      I think they should change the name… To the “WARS OF THE ROSES”. Not “War of the Roses”, which is a novel from the early ’80s, made into a movie with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. The WARS of the Roses where a series of conflicts… multiple wars. Plural.

    • Tams80 says:

      Oh my goodness! You’re not one of those people who classify themselves as a ‘hardcore’ gamer as well, are you? One who couldn’t possible play a war game which has the word ‘Roses’ in it’s title?

      As fro Skyrim. I’ve met people who I would never have though would have played Skyrim, who have most certainly never played a past Elder Scrolls game and many of whom don’t even know it’s part of a series.

    • Tyshalle says:

      Tams, I don’t have a problem with the title personally. I just don’t think it’s a very marketable name. As for Skyrim, I guess your anecdotal evidence completely 100% proves me wrong in every way. So when they changed ‘Forks’ to ‘Twilight’ and ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ to ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ or ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ to “The Beggar Maid’ or ‘Eaters of the Dead’ to ’13th Warrior’ or ‘Tonight he Comes’ to ‘Hancock’ or ‘Scary Movie’ to ‘Scream’ (look it up), or ‘Rapunzel’ to ‘Tangled’ or ‘Wiseguy’ to ‘Goodfellas’ or ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ to ‘Blade Runner’, or ‘Die Hard 4.0’ (in the UK) to ‘Live Free or Die Hard’ (in the US), I guess they just did it for funsies, and not because titles actually affect the marketability of your product.

    • devlocke says:

      As an American who is mostly ignorant of Anglo-history, I like the name. I thought that the only thing I knew about the Wars of the Roses was that there was an Edward or something that wore black armo(u)r, but glancing at Wikipedia shows no sign of that, so I was probably thinking of some other war and some other dude (I think the Edward-or-possibly-something-else person I was thinking of was involved in some war on the Continent, and this one appeared to take place on your island?), but anyways, I apparently know absolutely nothing at all about the actual War(s) of the Roses, and I don’t think that detracts from the title.

      It probably adds to it, really. You’ve got something in mind; I’m just thinking armor (mistakenly black) and flowers that are all gothy and thorned and make one think of blood and Ryan Adams songs (I swear, that guy is rose-obsessed). How is that not a video-game marketer’s dream? The name’s more of a problem in the UK, where people have more concrete and possibly less romanticized associations with it.

  12. Swanny says:

    Is this at all related to the Tad Williams novel of the same name?

    • mbp says:

      Nah its about a bunch of medieval English dude’s who blatantly plagiarised William’s “War of the Flowers” by calling their war “”War of the Roses”. I expect Wiliam’s publishers will soon issue a cease and desist notice and any history books mentioning the war will be banned.

    • Swanny says:

      Roses, flowers, same thing.
      Yet another mea culpa for me here on RPS.

  13. Lev Astov says:

    I’ve never really considered a FPM game before, but this sounds fantastic! I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this.

    The only other good first person melee game I’ve owned was Dark Messiah, but I never tried the multiplayer in that. I suppose I should try Mount & Blade, shouldn’t I?

    • Mynameisaw says:

      I would seriously suggest trying M&B: Warband, it has a strong single player and the multiplayer is great, though there’s no persistance to it, think, CS:S rather than BF for M&B.

  14. Joshua Northey says:

    I love paradox, but you should advise people to stay far far away from their releases, I have been buying their games for a decade, and I am not sure a single one of them was really ready for prime time at release.

    And the Sword of the Stars II debacle, well I don’t even know what to say about that. No idea how both Kerberos and Paradox could drop the ball so badly.

    Anyway these are great games to buy six months or a year after release, or better yet after the first expansion, but at release they will just frustrate you if you are sophisticated game consumer because you see so much potential and so many bugs/unfinished features et cetera.

  15. Nameless1 says:

    “It’s the most expensive game the company has ever made”
    And why in the seven hells they couldn’t spend them on Mount and Blade 2?

  16. Mattressi says:

    I’m genuinely excited for this game. I’ve been craving more M&B combat mechanics and this sounds even better than M&B. If reviews are positive, I’ll even buy it at full price (that means a lot coming from me)!

  17. Reapy says:

    If you want an fps melee game definitely check out mount and blade, though this late in the game the climb might be a bit harder now. Stil it sounds like the debs haveicked up the control scheme and ideas that make the sword slinging so good….I hope they are able to expand upon what it had and make it better, though m&b took some iterations before it got to where it is now, and I hope they understand that and take that path themselves.

  18. CaptainWhappin says:

    Have none of yall ever played Age of Chivalry? This is basically an upgraded Age of Chivalry… which is fucking awesome. Btw, if you haven’t played AOC, get on Steam and download it right now, its free.

    Also, I hope we can you use our fist in this game!

  19. Jimbo says:

    “You can have a knight, or a crossbowman, or a guy with a horse…”

    Wow, it’s like this guy has a degree in medieval history or something!

  20. JamesPatton says:

    Ooh, this looks interesting. I’d prefer a solid single player game but just the idea of multiplayer medieval battles intrigues me.

    But… guys, guys, it’s “Wars of the Roses”. Wars PLURAL.

    *sighs and removes his pedant hat*

  21. ZIGS says:

    Crap, this looks awesome but big, ambitious games + Paradox is usually a recipe for disaster. Please, keep this in production for as long as it needs!

  22. Brian_black says:

    Siege weapons? I’d love to be attacking a castle and be able to use a catapult to create a new path to enter the walls.

  23. D3xter says:

    Looking forward to this.

  24. Joof says:

    So… Is there a single player?

  25. Duke of Chutney says:

    The real question is, will this rival the Juggernaut that is PVK (Pirates Vikings and Knights).

    I was more interested when i though this was going have a campaign map etc (like some posters above) rather than Battlefield or COD with swords.

    Whilst it might be a good game, im not sure it will capture the essense of medival combat. M&B does an alright job. Medivial combat was largley about the landed gentry killing pesants, with a few professional soldiers thrown in. Relativly few professional soldiers fought in the Wars of the Roses. Theres also the question of scale. and formations. Medival warfare was (infact pretty much all pre machine gun warfare between sizable factions) about formations and masses of men that worked on some level together. In a game depciting WW2 or post WW2 warfare it doesnt matter that theres only 30 or fewer people on a server as in a street fight this is all that many soldiers might be aware of, but you can’t pretend that 30 guys in full plate with claymores back peddling back and forth to avoid each others swings is the battle of Wakefield. I dont expect gronard like realism, but i do prefer games that feel like what they their theme. I’ll be interested in this game if they can produce believeable cavary charges, you can get this kind of thing in M&B single player, but it never happens in multiplayer. Multiplayer M&B is about guys in full plate jump straffing to the side of mounted troops and hacking their heads off.

    My guess is this game will be more of a leet em up mele game than a game about medival warfare. Still could be good though.

    • Guiscard says:

      If the game’s archer can’t backpedal, bunny hop and shoot at the same time faster than other classes, thereby ruining the balance, focus on the melee and by extension the fun of PVKII, they might do ok. In any case, Age of Chivalry and it’s upcoming commercial version are the mods to beat here.

  26. hench says:


    Not interested.

    • Mattressi says:

      I don’t like unlocks in FPSs, but I think they’ll compliment this game and make it feel like you’re rising through the ranks from a peasant to a wealthy ___ (knight, armsman, arbalist, etc). FPS games with unlocks, however, feel like you’re some rogue mercenary who earns money from killing people so you can buy the ability to drop a grenade when you die or to buy the latest prototype rifle. It just doesn’t make sense, but to me it makes sense if there isprogression in an medieval online game.

  27. innociv says:


    So their first attempt at an AAA game is better than Bethesdas 5 attempts combined?

    • Harlander says:

      Time will tell, but I already have my doubts about how well “broad-scope single-player exploration/combat action-RPG” and “team-based multiplayer combat FPSword” can be meaningfully compared

    • innociv says:

      Yeah, they’re only the same in being an ancient setting and having action-y combat, but still</em.

  28. FRIENDLYUNIT says:

    It’s going to come down to the netcode. That’s the problem with any MP game that has melee in it. Hope they get it right.

    M&B had lots of potential and I hope they can learn lessons from the whole Warband thing. At the moment the melee in that really lacks.

  29. wodin says:

    I was born in Chorley so I’m from Lancashire.

    However I want be fighting for any rose. I’m fed up with every game these days designed for Multilayer (well pretty much), so i will stick with Mount and Blade warband.