Mordhau Review

PC

The Basics

Mordhau is the latest multiplayer sensation that arrived on Steam in late April 2019, a medieval hack and slash combat game that combines elements from For Honor, Mount and Blade Warband, and most notably Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. At launch, the game has matchmaking for three main modes: Frontline, Battle Royale, and Horde. It should be noted, however, that there is a server list that expands the game modes to deathmatch, team deathmatch and skirmish but there is no official matchmaking system for them yet.

Battlefield veterans will find an instantaneous familiarity with Frontline. 64 players divided into two teams fight for control points on a battlefield. After a control point has been taken, a set of objectives must be completed until the next control point becomes available for capture. This tug of war continues until the primary objective is completed or until a team’s tickets are reduced to zero.

In Battle Royale, 64 players are dropped onto the map where they must scavenge and fight their way to be the last person alive. The skill element in Mordhau makes this iteration of Battle Royale more palatable; i.e. a player carrying a frying pan is capable of killing an opponent wielding a battle-ax.

Horde mode is a great way for new players to get accustomed to Mordhau’s mechanics. The human team must fight through waves of NPCs with every wave increasing in both quantity and difficulty. The players start the match with a set amount of gold and must purchase equipment scattered around the map. Each successful defense grants additional gold which then can be used to purchase better equipment and so on.

Story & Flow

One does not play Mordhau for a dynamic narrative. In fact, the only pseudo- story element takes place in the games opening tutorial where a witty instructor takes the player through the finer points of combat (if you're new to this class of game I would highly recommend the completion of the tutorial.) After completing the tutorial, the player is rewarded with 2,500 gold pieces to begin building their personalized loadout.

This is where the game’s story begins to take off but perhaps not in the way that is expected. The armory allows players to build custom warriors featuring an endless amount of customization options. Each new warrior created is granted a pool of 16 points. Every primary weapon, secondary weapon, and armor piece draws from that 16 point pool. Have a desire to cosplay as Achilles and wield a short spear and shield? The Armory will allow it. Interested in playing a fast-moving bombardier who skirts around the battlefield lobbing firebombs? The Armory will allow it. Or maybe you want to focus on healing and building fortifications in key choke points. That's right, the Armory will allow it.

Additionally, the Armory has a set of feats that can be chosen at the cost of the point pool to further fine tune the player’s warrior. Some of the feats increase health regeneration, movement speed while a bow is being drawn, and so on. Other feats are for pure entertainment value such as the peasant feat that causes players to have a random “peasant weapon” every time they respawn. There is nothing quite like being charged by a peasant wielding a tree stump in the middle of a melee.

The flexibility of the Armory is Mordhau’s best selling point. It allows the player to tell their own stories as they battle their way through Mordhau’s player base. Legends will remember the day that Bob the Bard wielded his lute and struck down the enemy commander!

However, as exciting as Mordhau can be it can always be immensely frustrating. As a new player, prepare to die. A lot. You will likely curse and scream at your monitor when the naked man with a rapier stabs at you to death. You will try and utilize every skill the instructor taught you only to be run down by charging cavalry. Yet, when the combat works it feels deeply satisfying. Pulling an ax out of your own arm and throwing it back at your attacker is gleeful.

Combat

Mordhau promotes a “240” combat system. The position of the mouse when making an attack determines the angle of that attack. The RMB will parry and the F key will kick. A properly timed RMB will parry. A properly timed RMB followed by an attack will riposte. A mirrored attack will chamber your opponent. Most attacks can be morphed into different attacks (stabs to slashes, slashes to kicks) The default button for a feint is Q. Many weapons have an alternate grip that is triggered by pressing R. You can accelerate your attacks by moving your attacks in the direction of the swing or drag your attacks by looking the other way.

If this sounds overwhelming to you, you are not alone. But the complexity of the system helps with its replayability. Mordhau is the kind of game that the first 100 hours of play time is the real tutorial.

Graphics and Sound

Mordhau handles the enormity of its task surprisingly well. The game runs smoothly with very little tear or lag even on lower end PC’s, (my 1050ti ran on a solid 60 fps on medium settings.) It is as pretty as an Unreal 4 engine can be. It helps tremendously that the art design is very consistent. Nothing feels out of place and the maps have a pleasant degree of uniformity to them.

Recent patches have already resolved some of the at-launch sound issues but if there was a single low point for Mordhau it is in sound design. The offering is mediocre at best and is likely directly related to the small develop team. However, it is a small complaint in an otherwise solid game. The developers have already shown a commitment to increasingly the quality and consistency of their sound design.

Performance

The only performance issue I have run into has been in server stability. I often load into maps where I am a “ghost” to the other players. I can see them, swing at them, stand on control points etc, without anything happening. This can be exceedingly frustrating when the load times tend to be on the longer side. I can imagine this will be resolved as the game continues to grow. Its success has come as a surprise to everyone, including the development team and it is likely they are playing catch up right now.

Additionally, in a game like Mordhau, individual ping plays a big part of battlefield success. If your ping gets above 80 you will begin to feel a significant disadvantage in dueling scenarios. The server list helps with this as you can be more discerning with what games you connect to.


Summary

Simply put, Mordhau is the best offering of its kind right now. It brings the best parts of the genre into a single inexpensive package. With a devoted development team and a strong road map for the future (mod tools incoming!) Mordhau will retain a healthy dedicated player base for a long time to come.

Review By: Nick Mathes


Comments:
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2019-11-12 16:57:45... - Paula

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