Saturday, 5 October 2013

War of the Vikings steam early access musings


Fatshark and Paradox interactive are back again with another literal stab at the multiplayer melee combat genre.  You may remember War of the Roses which nowadays goes by the name of War of the Roses: Kingmaker, a relatively good online game that pitted a maximum of two teams of 32 players to slice, hack, chop and shoot each other with a variety of medieval weaponry. 

War of the Roses received generally positive feedback from reviewers and did enough business to earn it a spiritual sequel of sorts called War of the Vikings.  Again set in the cold overcast climes of Britain but now during the height of the Viking raids on the coasts of Britain.  Players either sign up for raiding and plunder as the Vikings or attempt to defend their homes as the Saxons.

Being in an early alpha form the game is looking pretty good and a major step up from the combat of War of the Roses which could at times become frustrating and unbalanced depending on your equipment.  War of the Vikings now referred to from here in as WoTV simplifies the combat somewhat while keeping the same skill based combat of it's predecessor.  At this early stage the game allows players to pick from three preset builds ranging from shield bearing swordsmen, 2 handed axe wielding heavy troops and bow wielding archers. 

The maps are densely detailed and quite picturesque
Combat is fast and generally quite furious and the ebb and flow of battle can be seen as one team pushes into anothers spawn area and surrounds their opponents only for the other team to respawn and elsewhere and start the push all over again.  The few maps available are quite detailed and pretty even at this stage and the developers are rotating new ones in every fortnight along with new features and builds for the different classes.

At the moment if you buy into the alpha you can only select the aforementioned three classes with no ability to customise your loadouts but the current ones give you enough of the game to get a good idea where Fatshark are taking WoTV.  The combat is faster than Roses and relies more on dodges, counters and stamina than before.  With no plate armour in this period to literally soak damage you need to be far more manoeuvrable on the field and ready to quickly switch targets as they come at you.  Striking is the same as before but now feels much faster and responsive and without the worry of having the right kind of piercing weapon your hits do damage pretty much every time you land a blow.

Executions are effectively gone unless added later on.  The current system allows you to "finish them off" which usually means hit them again to prevent them from being revived.  Reviving isn't as long as it was in Roses either, generally only taking a second as friendlies get themselves back to their feet after a few seconds, allowing you to protect them with your shield.  Watching a shield wall go to work is quite impressive as player coordination makes all the difference here.  I do miss the old executions and hope they make a comeback later on.

VIKING! SMASH!
Tactically the game has changed as even melee classes can now dole out limited ranged damage through the use of throwing axes or knives, but there will be spears and Javelins at a later date as more weapons and styles are added to the game.  There are still perks available although I wasn't entirely sure if they worked or not and I didn't know if I was activating them or if they just worked passively or not, it was a little confusing.  No doubt as the game continues to expand closer to release these things will be covered in the customisation screen. 

Graphically the game is pretty nice to look at.  Again I am not too clear if the engine is the same used for War of the Roses but either way the game looks great.  Character models are detailed, armour looks authentic and weapons glint in the midday sun.  All they really need to do is get a bit of gore in there and it will really feel like a Viking raid.  Ping can be a little high sometimes but netcode improvements will probably be in the works amongst many other additions and features.

Personally I am really looking forward to War of the Vikings, it marries the combat of War of the Roses with the speed and simplicity of Chivalry, a winning combination.  I can't wait to see what else they add between now and release.

Get it over on steam for £13.49 if you own War of the roses or £14.99 otherwise.  If you ever fancied a PVP game with sword instead of guns then you couldn't go far wrong with this.

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