If you asked everyone you know to describe their dream game, it's a fair bet that not many of them would say they want a melee-centric medieval 64-player game for PCs only. Yet, for Paradox Interactive CEO Fredrik Wester it's the very idea of heaven and, to hear the story relayed by various members of his staff, the game might have been put into development just to stop him talking about over drinks every Friday night.
And, of course, one of the benefits of owning the company is that Fred was able to appoint a developmental dream team to bring the idea to reality. Former Bad Company 2 producer Gordon van Dyke joins up with Mount & Blade designer Mikail Yazbeck under the roof of Fatshark Studios - it's the former who does most of the talking as we sit down to take a look.
'War of the Roses was part of Fred's dream, to take multiplayer combat away from being just modern warfare and guns,' says Gordon, confessing that the project is by far Paradox's biggest budget title yet. The game will retain all the established practices of other multiplayer shooters, such as being able to customise your character and create classes, but it'll respin it with a blade-and-bow focus.
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The medieval setting is something that Mikail has a lot of experience with and, as the control system is introduced it's hard not to see parallels between War of the Roses and his previous work on the Mount & Blade series. Effective attacking and blocking is again decided by the direction and force behind a blow, with players able to choose how to hit by changing the movements of the mouse.
'War of the Roses is very different to Mount & Blade though,' says Gordon. 'It differentiates itself in all sorts of ways; how it presents itself, for example.'
In-game footage communicates this more clearly than Gordon does, however - the big screen at the front of the room showing a literally awesome amount of detail and scale when you consider the game isn't even at alpha yet. Mikhail and Gordon ram home the idea that what we're seeing isn't final yet - there'll be weather effects and 'ambient war' arriving in a constant rain of arrows, for example - but it looks gorgeous as it is.
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War of the Roses moves the combat model on from what was offered in Mount & Blade too, introducing new weapon and damage types, as well as a redesigned dynamic crosshair. What little we see of the combat suggests that it's a lot more accessible and fast, while still retaining the circling tension of Mount & Blade's design. Every blow matters and it's important to understand exactly how the various damage types intersect with the available weapons and armour if you want to succeed.
Pain can be inflicted in four types, though the names and details for these aren't totally formalised yet. Mikail and Gordon agree that the first three are Piercing, Slashing and Blunt, but there's debate over whether the last is Hacking or Chopping. Likewise, there are four types of defence; the predictable first three of these are Heavy, Medium, Light and have the expected implications for speed and protection. The fourth form is the option to carry a Shield, which frees you up from having to block attacks in the correct direction but also limits you to a one-handed weapon.