Hands On: War Of The Roses

He's called Lance
When I play a big multiplayer combat game, I like to stop fighting and look around. I judge a lot of games on what I see at those moments, seeing how the battle feels when I’m not a part of it: In Battlefield, it’s thrilling to see jets gracefully curving through the air as tanks blast them from below; In Team Fortress 2, ubered Heavies leading a charge as the enemy hastily rework their defenses makes me happy. During a lull in my hands-on of War of the Roses, I took stock: to my right, through grasses and the trees, I watched a knight stand up, yanking his sword up out of the face of an unseen body on the ground. The effort it took to wrench metal from skull was beautifully transparent from the animation. Behind him, a galloping horse dropped in that heavy way horses do, crashing to the ground and out of sight in seconds, spilling its lance-wielding rider. A lot of intimate battles formed as the slow, deliberate combat locked people together.

War of the Roses is third-person medieval multiplayer combat game from the developers of the underloved Western multiplayer game, Lead and Gold. It’s set in England during the bloody battle between the Yorks and the Lancasters. Even the producer describes it by saying “take Modern Warfare or Battlefield and then throw it back 700 or 800 years”, which is an a unworthy, general description for something that really treads more of its own ground than you’d expect. The similarities, multiplayer, 64-person servers, character customisation, don’t tell real story of War of the Roses.

It took me a while to figure out what that story is: this is the multiplayer game where you’ll take time over every encounter. No weapon feels outright deadly, apart from a lance from horseback and that’s a massively difficult thing to do, so no-one just drops without having put up a fight. Every death at my hands took work, and I never gave up my own ground easily when overwhelmed. Everything takes time: aiming a longbow, priming a crossbow, loading a gun, swinging a sword. You have to be sure that you’re about to make a meaningful impact, because trying again means hopping through the same hoops.

So it breeds a personal rivalry, even in huge multiplayer melees: if someone is that focused to take the time to load knock an arrow, to aim, to wait for the two little circles to rotate to the highest strength… well you have to respond. One fight I’d selected a Man at Arms, so I had a spear. I ran into a two-on-one fight, swinging so the tip of my staff was striking (if you hit with the wood it doesn’t do anything): as my team-mate backed up, keeping out of reach of the attackers, he led one into my spear point before pushing back into their cosy little melee. I danced around him, aiming strikes as and when he left an opening. We were a little clot of angry stabs and slices, in a world of our own. He died just as I landed a killing blow on one of the pair of assaulters. I backed up, trying to keep out of range of the other’s sword, but couldn’t get a good retort and fell to a slicing, angled blow to the neck. When you have the time, you can stand over your opponent and execute him. I watched from first-person as he flipped his sword over to prepare jam it into my eyeballs: I watched the point waver and he fell forwards. I survived: one of our archers had shot him before he could finish me off, and another closer player revived me.

Because I was part of a press pack battle, no-one on the server had a signifying name: if I’d know who had bested me I’d have spent the rest of the game seeking revenge. Handily that notion is supported with the wide customisation offered off the battlefield: apparently mimicking the vanity of the knights of the time, who were exceedingly vain, there’s an entirely customisable suit of armour and weapon set for you to smith. Beginning with the choice of fighting style, you can then modify things like the thickness of the armour, what goes on the armour’s flairy headpiece (one knight of ye olde tymes had a clocktower), the choice of main weapon, the wood and metal on that weapon, what sort of edge it has, it’s balance. It’s both aesthetically driven and tactically important: do you want a visor on your helmet? Sure it might look cool and protect you from arrows, but it also dims your vision a lot. With careful scrutiny, you should have rough idea of a combatant’s strengths. Even back then, the armour was coloured to show what side the knights were fighting on.

This is all modified on the battlefield: like Mount and Blade, you define your angle of attack with a swipe of the mouse, but War of the Roses has a deeper system in place. Just after you’ve angled your attack, a meter appears that lets you judge the strength before you swing: It’s a system that makes slashing away without thought less effective than feeling the pulse of the fight and acting accordingly. Like I mentioned before, firing the longbow requires the timing to bring together two rotating markers: hold it too long and you’ll lose power and accuracy. Do it from the back of a horse and you might we well be on a roller-coaster. I managed to hop up on one as a longbowman and died shortly after. Switching to a cavalry unit wasn’t much more effective, as controlling the speed and direction of the horse while keeping a bobbing lance steadied is a little too involved, but I did provide another with the joy of sniping another rider off his horse. It’s quite the humiliation to land on the ground and watch another person hopping on your equine ride and seeing them slash down into your supporting team mates, but sort of worth it to feel like boss on top of a horse while toting a giant splinter.

There’s a lot of tuning needed for War of the Roses, but in the rough state I played it in it convinced me that there’s room beside Battlefield and Modern Warfare for a historical combat melee game. In fact, the slow-pace and the effect it has on the combat, I’d argue that it’s needed. It adds skill and back into the perk and unlocked dominated genre, and the thud of arrows, the clop of horses, and the clash of metal

BONUS! It turns out Total Biscuit was at the same preview event and recorded some of the combat.


  1. Splynter says:

    Looks like this will be a whole lot of fun. I apologize for not thinking of a good pun to start off the thread.

    • Premium User Badge

      Hodge says:

      I’m disgusted! Imagine what a glorious thread this could have been, if only we’d had someone capable to helm it.

      • Chalky says:

        I totally sword that coming.

        • Baboonanza says:

          Now you’re making a cuirass out of yourself.

          • darthdie says:

            It spears this thread is unlikely to ride anywhere.

          • jonfitt says:

            I don’t think this will be the lance thing we hear on the matter.

          • TsunamiWombat says:

            I hope our derision really hammers home how dissapointed we arrow.

          • darthdie says:

            Iron bet you before the knight is through someone else will comment.

          • mazzoli says:

            I was warried, but it looks like the pun thread rose to the top as usual.

          • JB says:

            Mace I say how happy I am that you guys saved the comments from being punless?

          • Blackcompany says:

            Mounted an assault on the RPS comment thread. They’ll be at this all Knight….

          • Drayk says:

            It used to be an amazing blog but thanks to you it took an arrow in the knee!

          • Tams80 says:

            Everyone should take a longbow for rescuing this thread from being punless.

          • fyro11 says:

            I’ve valour lot of time to think on this, but I think they’re being harsh on deserters than run melée. I could claymore of my feelings but nobody would spear less.

          • Coccyx says:

            Do Tu(dor) know what you’re doing? I’m WARning you. Stop.

          • RaveTurned says:

            I thought these puns would be made of flail, but I was wrong! Bravo to all for your rapier wit. :)

          • Soggy_Popcorn says:

            You all seem like the clubbing type. Let’s keep this going ’till the morning stars come out.

          • Kazzan says:

            I’d like to take a stab at being punless too!

          • Screamer says:

            Lets see if we can catapult this to the front page.

          • RegisteredUser says:

            Not to be unpeasant, but riding on your high horses can be fun.

        • Mjauv says:

          You are not being very chivalrous right now.

    • liquidsoap89 says:

      phalanx for ruining it for everybody!

    • Grape says:

      Oh God, I can’t take this shit.

  2. Chalky says:

    I saw that video by TB yesterday and I must say it looks pretty fantastic. Obviously rough around the edges on account of being alpha, but the game play looks like it could be really good fun.

  3. Grovy says:

    Mount&Blade Warband multiplayer for the unlockz n perkz generation

  4. Elmokki says:

    I still think Mount & Blade Warband looks better as a game. Graphics are better in War of the Roses, but at the moment animations, especially related to hits are pretty bad.

    The biggest issue I have is the 64 player limit when Warband can easily run 120 player servers and probably closer to 200 with the improved network code of the new dlc-expansion. Medieval warfare screams for big battles.

    • HTAPAWASO says:

      Worth pointing out that Warband is officially limited to 64 players also.

      No reason to believe this can’t be worked around in War of the Roses either.

      • Grovy says:

        As of the latest patch, Warband is officially limited to 200, as it has been unofficially for the two years since it was released.

        • Reapy says:

          Though generally there is a huge amount of server lag as you go over that 64 player limit.

          • Elmokki says:

            Well, cRPG mod servers have been running at 120 without issues for long now, at least like two years or so I think.

          • BoZo says:

            Yeah C-RPG used to have a 200 player server and it worked perfectly. However the maps are a bit too small…

    • S Jay says:

      Looks like he didn’t mention “pre-alpha” enough.

      • psyk says:

        People seem to think an alpha is going to have the same polish as a game they buy.

        • Mctittles says:

          Really? I generally notice people seem to dream up all kinds of possibilities when a game is in alpha, then are disappointed to realize the actual game was not far off from the alpha shown.

      • Elmokki says:

        The animations I can expect to get better, but networking code? 64 players is enough in terms of what’s standard for a game nowadays and combat that requires recording precise physical hits of objects tends to be somewhat bandwith and/or computing power needy too. I hope they can squeeze in at the very least 128, but if they can’t it’s a huge hit for the game.

        Pre-alpha or not, it’s not like they code something major in just to be replaced. To be built on, surely though.

    • Snschl says:

      Oooh. Warband was like porn to me. I imagine this will be like super-kinky vintage porn.

      Yes, stick that lucerne hammer right up my bascinet.

  5. f1x says:

    Sounds awesome, I love the concept of kills not being easy, so that makes it somehow realistic

    add some castles, sieges, etc and this could be amazing

    • wodin says:

      More than most, until longbow on a horse was mentioned.

      • Gramarye says:

        Didn’t notice he said longbow on horseback didn’t work, eh? Nothing would stop an actual longbowman from jumping on a horse, what’s realistic is making it difficult to use the bow and negating nearly all of its advantages in that position.

  6. minerwilly says:

    Sounds like Game Of Thrones without the license. Do opponents fall on the floor when beat, or can you purposely attempt to disarm (Or disleg, or dishead) your enemy?

  7. Grinnbarr says:

    Haha did anyone notice the dismounted knight performing an execution with the lance? Classic.
    This looks interesting but I hope there’s more physicality to it – like knock back from being run into by a horse.

    • jonfitt says:

      It looked a lot less physical than Age of Chivalry. There was no visible weight or registration to hits as far as I could see, just a damage number popup.

    • Vorphalack says:

      Horse physics will be implemented, so they say.

  8. engion3 says:

    Do the horses have big wieners?

  9. Njordsk says:

    That video is clearly a fake.

    There is no such sun in England, I’m sorry folks.

    • Vorphalack says:

      Ah, but the sun always shines on the righteous, and the Yorks are out fighting. Definatly not a coincidence.

      • Dozer says:

        “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” – Matthew 5:45b

        • Vorphalack says:

          So what you are saying is they need to add little clouds over the heads of the Lancasters?

          • Dozer says:

            It should rain or be sunny on all players equally – that’s the meaning of the verse.

    • JB says:

      At least it’s raining on the menu screen!

  10. frenz0rz says:

    Looks like this game has a lot of potential, but as TB says, they definitely need to sort out the strange backpedaling and strafing by slowing down such movement. The combat animations and weapon interaction need a lot of work too.

    Hopefully a good organised clan v clan skirmish will involve teams grouping up for a nice thick melee rather than sprinting around the map chaotically. I’d love to see a cluster of heavy infantry duking it out while the archers and hobelars pick people off at the edge of the fray.

    Also, do we know if heavy cavalry will have impact/shock damage? It’d be great to see a formation of lanced knights charging into a wall of shields and seeing them rebound or crash through. Rather than, y’know, just clipping straight through them.

    • Binho says:

      I’m not sure I necessarily agree with slowing down backpedalling and strafing.

      The thing is, video game sword fighting can’t simulate all the dodges and footwork of real sword fighting. Uniform movement speed in every direction is a good way to represent that, I think.

      If they slowed down backwards and sideways movement, there would be no way to dodge incoming swings, and I feel combat would devolve in to close range bashing match where whoever intially came in with the most health would win. It may look wrong, but I’d say it adds to the gameplay.

      • PacketOfCrisps says:

        Slowing down strafing and backpeddling seems to work fairly well in Mount and Blade, I don’t see why the same cannot be applied here.

        • Binho says:

          You’re right, it does work well. Hadn’t played M&B in awhile. I don’t think faster movement would make the fighting worse though. I’d like to try it out in any case.

      • frenz0rz says:

        I assume you can manually parry/block attacks, yes? Then slowing down movement would make timing your attack and defence much more important. Bear in mind I’m mostly talking about foot-knights in heavy armour here – an archer in a leather jerkin should be able to dart out of combat whenever he likes. Right now, it looks like everyone can do that, including the hulking steel bucket-heads.

  11. fyro11 says:

    This game is an extension of me: I need it for completion’s sake.

  12. Simas says:

    They need to do something about that UI clutter. Too much stuff on the screen.. And names floating on the head.. Other than graphics, Mount & Blade still looks like the king to me.

    • Torgen says:

      Well, you’re comparing a game that’s been out how many years, to a *pre*-alpha, so that’s hardly fair, is it?

      • Simas says:

        The “pre-alpha” seems to be a great excuse, but let’s just say I took part in M&B Warband Alpha/Beta test and did not find the UI/HUD irritating.

        I am surprised so many are excited about this. I mean, they are advertising this as Medieval Modern Warfare.. the studio hasn’t really done anything impressive in the past and by the looks of it – the gameplay is blatant copy from M&B. What excites you so much? 64 player multiplayer? You can join a 200-player server in M&B Warband.

        • Torgen says:

          Projecting much? Why the attacks? Are you afraid this game will drain the M&B multiplayer community or something, that you attack people who aren’t sharing your hostility? All I said is that comparing a game that’s been out for years to one that is not close to feature complete was an unfair comparision, and you bare your fangs. sheesh.

          Edit: I see you edited your post to say “so many” instead of directing it at me.

        • PacketOfCrisps says:

          “let’s just say I took part in M&B Warband Alpha/Beta test” I’m going to go ahead and doubt the claim that you were an alpha tester. Besides, this is pre-alpha which means that it only includes the very basics of the gameplay. Complaining about the state of a pre-alpha is absolutely ridiculous.

  13. Post-Internet Syndrome says:

    They need to seriously slow down movement when swinging and blocking. The concept looks like it could work but all that strafing and jumping is silly.

    • Torgen says:

      I’m sure a knight in his prime was a badass athlete, but nobody’s gonna be jumping with 150 lb of armor on.

      • Binho says:

        You’d be surprised what fully armoured knights could do! The French knight Boucicault could climb up the reverse side of a ladder using only his hands, while in full armour. Not that full plate weighs as much as you’d think – only about as much as what a modern infantryman has to carry around with him. Less by some accounts.

        I do agree there is too much jumping though. Maybe they should make jumping context sensitive? ie. you can vault low walls, but not bunny hop around.

      • Subject 706 says:

        Ahem, no military armor weighed 150 pounds. If memory serves me right, a set of full plate weighed in at about 29 kg, or 60-something of your medieval pounds. Due to the weight being distributed very evenly, suits of full plate were actually much easier to run around in than mail, for example. So yes, jumping was quite possible in full plate. Though I don’t think jumping around was a very viable tactic in a melee.

        • Salix says:

          While it may have been possible to manage such things in full plate it was still massively exhausting to fight while wearing it, the best example of this I can think of being agincourt.

          • Binho says:

            Sure, that’s true. How much is hard to say though. People who wore full plate trained in it fairly frequently. Like anything that involves physical fitness, the more you train the less exhausting it is. I doubt the advantage the more lightly armed, untrained troops had in terms of stamina was very great. It would most likely be offset by the quality of the armour in the end.

            Though that’s too much to model in a game. Full Plate = slow and powerful is a trope, but it works for game balance.

          • Apolloin says:

            There IS a law of diminishing returns to physical training, otherwise grizzled NCOs would be able to haul artillery around and launch helicopters by throwing them like darts!

            That said, examination of a major War of the Roses battlefield shows that Knights were a lot bigger and stronger than we assume possible of that era. Lots of good quality food and regular exercise and all that.

          • Subject 706 says:

            History mode again!
            While wearing full plate sure was more tiring in battle than wearing no armor, the advantages usually were greater than the disadvantages. In the case of Agincourt (and Crecy and Poiters) the French defeats had to do with tactics and terrain. Meaning, the English picked good defensive terrain, and the French played right into their hands.

            Agincourt is a great example. The french charged the english through a narrow field flanked by woods, that had been churned up by rain so the french were knee deep in mud. Due to the narrow field, the french were unable to use their numerical advantage, instead being packed so tight they could hardly fight. Had the terrain been different, the french would most likely have won that battle.

        • vonbauernfeind says:

          Having fought in a coat of plates and related 14th century armor, I feel qualified to say, that based on the difference of it’s weight, and the weight of full plate (which I’ve carried) it’s not so heavy as to provide jumping. It’s cumbersome enough to make you regret it pretty damn quick, and it’s easy enough for armor to shift around and cause you to fall down, but to not be able to jump? No way. It’s not really a useful move to do, but it’s technically possible and within the bounds of your average young adult male. Mostly cause armor doesn’t really weigh that much, when it sits on your body properly.

  14. S Jay says:


  15. Davee says:

    As a Warband Competitive MP vet, this game has my official seal of attention.

    Or at least my interest, I guess. Right now I’m hoping they slow down the strafing/backpedaling/jumping quite a bit. :P

  16. Khemm says:

    Looks great, too bad it’s a classic case of a wasted potential – instead of creating an immersive single player experience, they chose to focus on a dumb multiplayer whack-a-mole instead. Only set during the medieval period.
    Typical scenario for mp games on PC – people buy a few copies of those, play for a short time, return to a few chosen “forever favourite” Battlefield/CS/TF2 after a few months.

    • Subject 706 says:

      Agreed. A single player game utilizing these mechanics would be real nice.

      • Craig Pearson says:

        It has single-player, but the focus is obviously MP.

        • Apolloin says:

          Alas “focus is on multiplayer” usually means that single player is an unbalanced and under-featured skirmish mode or a poorly thought out campaign with dreadful AI, scripting bugs aplenty and too little content.

      • wodin says:

        Couldn’t agree more. Multi player only = were to lazy to make an AI, or not good enough at coding to make one.

    • Vorphalack says:

      ”The focus of the core gameplay is on the Multiplayer experience, but we will have an engaging and immersive story driven single player campaign designed to prepare and train players for the multiplayer experience. The single player campaign will give the players direct rewards to use in the multiplayer battles.”

      link to paradoxplaza.com

      Knowledge and humanity, seperated only by Google.

      • Khemm says:

        They’ve stated countless times it’s an afterthought, a glorified tutorial for multiplayer.
        I expect a single player experience like in Red Orchestra 2.

      • Apolloin says:

        C’mon – you guys are experienced enough to parlez-vous Devspeak. Single Player will be a glorified tutorial with dodgily scripted AI bots.

    • ancienttoaster says:

      Isn’t this why we have Mount & Blade?

    • Reapy says:

      Disagree. While I usually enjoy single player games a lot to get lost in, at the end of the day I find they are usually not worth developing any skill at. The satisfaction that comes from defeating AI is usually pretty slim to none, considering most all in any game are easily defeated.

      If a multiplayer game is done right, I find myself spending years instead getting really invested and spending time, as was the case with mount & blade. I enjoyed the single player for a few years before warband came out, but it really ended up with me hopping on a horse for a few minutes once a month or so to ride some people down.

      It just wasn’t anywhere the same level of enjoyable gameplay I found playing other people. I’ll even argue that to have a good multiplayer game requires much better game design than single player. SP games take more work in terms of content generation, and you probably limit your game mechanics so the AI can handle them reasonably.

      So I know a lot of people here are mad it is not a rip off of warband single player, but I’m pretty happy it is polishing up the multiplayer portion of it and doing its own take on it.

      • Apolloin says:

        Hmmm, I disagree with YOU in turn, Reapy. I find most multiplayer modes on Single Player games are a wasteful distraction of resources that could have been utilised to develop the single-player experience more fully. So many games waste resources extravagantly in order to become flavour of the month briefly with the ‘dudebro’ set before they all migrate back to whatever twitchfest is their usual poison, whether that be CoD or CS or whatever.

        It IS nice to learn that Multiplayer is the focus of War of the Roses, since that means I’m highly unlikely to waste my money on it, but it is disingenuous of them to claim that their hastily cobbled together tutorial will be an ‘Engaging and immersive story-driven experience’ when they could have told me that themselves instead of making me decrypt their marketing.

        Personally, I don’t quite get the attraction of competing against someone who you don’t know, who isn’t sat next to you on the couch and who is part of an online community that appears to have been raised in the wild by wolves – Dickwolves, to borrow from Penny Arcade – but if this is a game that focuses on delivering that experience then at least it clears the way for one that doesn’t!

    • animlboogy says:

      If you don’t mind some heavy game-y elements, the basics of positional/physics oriented swordplay are a big part of that Dark Souls thingy that is going to be a relevant (read: PC) game momentarily.

  17. Walsh says:

    Getting hit needs to make you stumble or something to that effect. It looks kind of silly hitting someone with a ‘scottish’ longsword and they flinch a little.

  18. Tei says:

    This looks fantastic.. promising. It already have a lot of nice things.

    Also, have give me a idea for a game: Total Biscuit With a Gunship in the Middle Age.

  19. wodin says:

    I think if your wearing heavy armour you can’t jump\run or climb walls. Though it looks like you can do all that in game.

    Also an arrow to the face should be one hit kill. I’d love it if the combat wasn’t hit point related but was more realistic. A glancing blow may make knock you off balance but cause no problems. A heavy strike to armour could kill, loss of arm or leg etc etc.

    Make it realistic and bloody, I want intestines, thats something we haven’t had in a game yet.

  20. Weed says:

    I love slower combat. It’s one reason why I like WW1 flight sims over WW2 or modern flight sims. Slow down the action……make decisions…..feel the impact.

    This sounds excellent!

  21. Davie says:

    Oh my, that sounds excellent. I’m really glad it’s more than just Mount & Blade with shinier graphics.

  22. Warskull says:

    If you guys get the chance you need to ask the big question, will this game have dedicated servers? They launched Lead and Gold without dedicated servers and the game was flat out unplayable. They didn’t bother adding in dedicated servers for months.

    Fatshark’s support for Lead and Gold was awful. No dedicated servers at launch, it was very much a console game release on PC. Then they didn’t bother doing anything about the situation with hacks and the game was completely overrun by hackers.

    Will this be better supported than Lead and Gold? What can they show to prove it?

    • Torgen says:

      Good questions. Paradox is publishing this, and as we saw with Crusader Kings I, if the devs can’t deliver, Paradox *will* step in and take it over to recoup their investment. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, and the devs have taken the lessons learned from Lead and Gold to heart.

      • Warskull says:

        Lead and Gold was also published by Paradox, but they do seem far more invested in this one. Paradox has made some great games and seem to be on a bit of a hot streak lately. Fat Shark’s history is what worries me. Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 was considered disappointing and Lead and Gold was a disaster. So far the videos looks good, but a lack of dedicated servers will kill this game so fast.

  23. Shooop says:

    Never played Mount & Blade so the idea of taking time to prepare a swing and choosing what side to swing it from is very interesting to me.

    Not sure if I’d be crazy about 63 other people doing the same thing online though. I could see it working great for a single-player mode where you’re encouraged to take your time, but multi? Everyone wants a twitch game online.

    • Mattressi says:

      You should try Mount and Blade: Warband multiplayer. War of the Roses most likely looks slow in TB’s video because it’s just games journos fighting – presumably few have played much Warband. Watching new people play Warband is similar – very little blocking and a whole bunch of people slowly walking towards each other with their swords held high. Watching veterans, the game pretty much is twitch combat, but with more reflexes required than a shooter.

      If you’ve played Warband much, you’ll know that you get to a certain point where you’ve learnt how to melee fight well enough that any battle with several bots on the hardest difficulty against you is an easy battle. There really needs to be multiplayer for a game like this. A lot of people won’t care to play so much that the combat becomes reflex, but those that do would get very bored with singleplayer.

    • JB says:

      Everyone wants a twitch game online.”

      No, no they don’t.

  24. Mattressi says:

    Is there directional blocking? I saw directional attacks, but I only once saw someone block without a shield and it looked like an M&B down-block, but it could have just been a generic block (one-block-blocks-all).

  25. BoZo says:

    Just to be an elitist; Mount & Blade actually has that swing strength mechanic. If I remember correctly the strong of your blow goes up til 0.25s of holding your blow and then drops, but I might be slightly off with that number.

  26. cheryl says:

    Wow! This looks like an extremely realistic game with good graphics and good gameplay. I love playing such such games and recently, I came across this game called Horse Racing Fantasy which is available for a free download at http://www.horseracegame.com. It has great 3D graphics and engaging gameplay along with an online community that is extremely competitive and friendly.