War of the Roses preview

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Graham Smith at

War of the Roses preview

George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarance, is popularly thought to have been executed by drowning in a barrel of wine.

“I was not that into 15th century English history before I started this,” says Marten Stormdal, lead designer of Paradox’s largescale melee multiplayer game, “but reading up on the conflict is crazy... Also you don’t have to explain why the red team is fighting the white team.”

The wars were fought between the Lancaster and York families, whose heraldic badges were a red and white rose respectively. Most members of both families died in the many battles, doublecrosses and executions that followed, before they finally just married each other to end the whole thing. Think A Game of Thrones, only without the dragons.

War of the Roses preview

Why is it called a longbow, anyway?

For Paradox’s game, think Battlefield.

The map I play is set in a castle. Countryside sprawls beyond. Volleys of flaming arrows crash onto the battlements from the treeline, and castle buildings are already on fire.

These maps are huge, set in forests, villages and castles. If you’re on a 64-player server, you’ll get to whack the crap out of each other with longbows, crossbows, maces, lances, axes and swords on the full thing. If fewer medieval mentalists are available, the level will shrink, shutting castle gates to trap players within courtyards for more immediate battles.

Melee combat is mouse controlled. Click and shift your mouse upwards, and your soldier swings his sword from above. Click and shift your mouse to the right and he swings from the right. It’s smooth and intuitive. The hope is to avoid the messy flailing of Skyrim by slowing attacking swings, and making parrying movements almost instant. It feels better than any other multiplayer melee I’ve ever played.

War of the Roses preview

Don’t laugh at their tights.

If you want to trample soldiers under hoof, you can hop on a horse. Horseback combat works in the same way as melee, and you’ll be formidable against foot soldiers. You’re slower to turn though, and a large target for watching archers.

No amount of metal plating will save you from falling from a horse, but developers Fatshark are still spending a lot time on players’ light, medium and heavy armour, on the 10+ helmet types, and on the crests that adorn them. There’s a reason for that.

To make back their investment, Paradox are hoping to entice players with a hefty game that includes dozens of weapons and 60 perks that unlock abilities and let you customise your play style. But they’re also planning a deluge of paid-for post-release content. Think new crests. Think hat attachments, such as fancy plumes or absurd ornaments. We were shown one helmet that has a squatting gold fox on top of it. It’s brilliant, and I’m already hoping for a microtransactional Barrel of Wine to drown my opponents in.