Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I killed a York

Some posts ago I mentioned a number of things I was looking forward to. Now I can cross the first item of my list: War of the Roses, a multiplayer medieval mayhem game which is out on 2nd October, but since I pre-ordered it I got it today (well, technically yesterday but I had forgotten all about it and discovered it was ready to play by accident a couple of hours ago). 

What A Song of Ice and Fire diehard would not want to try out this game? It is, after all, based on the, surprise surprise, War of the Roses, which in turn influenced George R.R. Martin a great deal. The conflicts between House York and House Lancaster provided a feast of exciting battles, political intrigue and backstabbing and peculiar characters for Martin when he began A Game of Thrones. Not saying the War of the Roses is his only inspiration, but one must conclude that it has been an important one - York/Lancaster, or Stark/Lannister?

Being a Lannister-man I was naturally inclined to side with the Lancasters, even though, when reading up on these wars (I recommend Alison Weir's Wars of the Roses) I kind of cheer on the Yorkists.

So, the game downloaded and updated, I hit play. The main menu is laggy, but the music is very nice when it doesn't stutter. There's little to do; either choose a training session, or jump straight into multiplayer bloodshed and doom. This is unfortunate; I had looked forward to create my own character, with his own name. Instead all I can pick is "Footman". 

Ah well, the atmosphere is all good. Oh, I can do one thing though - I can play around with the design of my shield, choosing between various ordinaries and all that jazz. It's not very gripping, as the choices are pretty limited and the colors don't really stand out, so I let my son design my shield. So instead of a character I just have a generic Footman but with a unique shield design. Kind of weird. Cause when you play York or Lancaster, you really should have been wearing the tabards of those houses and not your own design. Minor nitpick, but for me it took away some immersion straight off the bat.

Ser Footman Footmanson II
So I decided to test a "Training Battleground" first, you know, to get the drill. 
Turns out these training areas are nothing like a sparring yard or a castle's courtyard with men training their combat abilities.
It's just the multiplayer maps, without other players. It taught me to move (surprise! W A S D) and how to climb a ladder. 
It was quite buggy, with soldiers standing in corners and not dying from my savage blows. The map also didn't allow me to move out from a certain area under the threat of being "hanged, drawn and quartered", so I was basically standing there not doing much for a good while. 
Shrugging, I decided to go for the multiplayer battles which, after all, is the meat of the game.


Having learn how to swing the sword (left-click mouse button as you move the mouse in one of the four cardinal directions, hold the button down for more powerful blows before releasing it), I entered a map featuring a big tournament field and two other players, as seen in the picture right below this here olde text.

Kill the Starks! I mean Yorks!

I understood right away that I better turn down everything to get some movement in the game; it lagged, it stuttered, it even threw me out a few times, forcing me to start the game all over gain (fortunately the loading speeds are fair). So I went into mortal combat, swinging around, using the right button to block with my shield (or parry with the sword, when the shield broke), and for a moment there, despite the utter lack of running satisfyingly, I was caught up in the medieval mood of death and destruction, blood spattering all over, and receiving more than one death blow, nicely animated (probably) with opponents either bashing your head in with a shield, or sticking a dagger through your throat.
With the game barely running, I had no chance (though I'm not sure I'd do that much better with a good computer) - I ended up dead. Quite a lot.

The most common sighting of Footman Footmanson II.

Still interested, I went on to try out different fields of battle, some more interesting than others; there's a great map with a river, and a bridge and watchtowers, there are castles, and though the graphics probably aren't good enough for today's hippest gamers, I felt like I was there, fighting and hiding, and as I finally got in a kill (or rather, what the game calls an 'execution'), I gained some points and unlocked Crossbowman, and later Longbowman and some sort of Knight, as well. They felt different from each other, which is a good thing. 

In conclusion, I can't wait to get a modern computer capable of running this without hitches, and I can't wait for updates and patches to fix bugs - especially the one throwing me out of the game, which happened a lot. I hope for more variation, better coloring of shields and armors, and I hope to understand what the hell I am doing at times. I see people on the game forums talk about gaining levels, for example, but nowhere did I see anything about "levels" in the game. Still, warts and all, this is a promising little title. It needs more stability, it needs more options in the shield designs, but all in all for the price it's not too bad and can only get better.

The last thing I saw before leaving the game tonight.

I'm not sure if I dare recommend the game as it is right now, but in a few months' time it may be kicking some plated ass. 

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