No, War of the Roses is not a Plants Vs Zombies expansion pack. It’s a medieval third-person Battlefield, and the latest project from Fatshark, the people behind Lead and Gold and Krater. Up to 64 players duke it out in teams with swords, shields, bows, and pole axes. Despite the pre-alpha jitters, it provides an interesting twist on third person melee combat.

The PAX East build only included team death match but it seemed to be a good indicator of what to expect. The station I played already had a pole axe wielding knight which I decided to stick with. The controls were simple enough: left click to attack, right click to defend. Pressing a certain direction in tandem with an attack modifies the type of attack and direction it originates from. For instance, I’m a big fan of stabbing. Holding back while attacking would prepare my character to thrust. The longer I held the attack before releasing, the more accurate the strike would be and the more damage it would do. Blocking works much the same way, using directions to modify your defense. This creates a sort of matching game where you have to closely monitor your enemy’s movements and respond accordingly. That’s the idea anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, the combat was fun and interesting when it worked. There were a number of times where I would do a broad sweeping strike, but if the enemy wasn’t positioned in a very specific area, the hit wouldn’t count, despite appearing to have hit him square on. The same goes for blocking. If I didn’t block a very specific part of the weapon, the block wouldn’t count.

The entire system felt very much like an under-polished Dark Souls, intricate and methodical but slightly broken. Also, some of the animations had strange inaccuracies and clipping issues. Once an enemy is down, you can execute them (usually by stabbing them to death), but usually my character would be stabbing the dirt next to them instead. There were also some weird clipping issues when you were the one being executed. I do have to mention that the build I saw was pre-alpha so it’s possible, if not probable, that all these issues will be ironed out in time for the final release, which the team is pushing for in late 2012.

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Mike is a professional amateur, dabbling in many things. One of those is writing of course, but also co-hosting and producing "Fistful of Pixels", an improv comedy show about theoretical video games.