Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Mordhau, the multiplayer hack and slash experience from indie developer Triternion, has hit Steam and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
The main aspect of the game is it’s melee combat system, which is comparable to Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, with a few notable changes and additions. Players can swing from various directions, and can combo attacks together by timing them correctly mid swing. You can also use stabbing attacks, which are key to utilising weapons like spears, and are important to use to avoid hitting teammates or when you are fighting in close quarters, where a swing may collide with terrain. Parrying a blow requires correct timing, and for you to match the direction of your opponent’s incoming attack. Doing this will allow you to perform a quick counter attack, in addition to preventing you from being harmed. As the parry window is only brief, you can get around your opponent’s defenses by performing a feint, which cancels your attack, causing your enemy to waste their parry and leave themselves exposed. A more advanced technique is chambering, which involves attacking to match the swing of your enemy’s attack just before it connects, which will act as both a parry and a counterattack. The amount of techniques available may initially seem daunting, but most players will be effective in combat just by getting acquainted with the correct timing of parrying and learning the speed and reach of their weapons. Not every player you will encounter in Mordhau will be a combat expert, so don’t worry about having to master the trickier techniques in order to feel like you can contribute to your team. The tutorial also does a good job of explaining the combat and game mechanics, and injects some humour into the learning process (including a reference to a particular siege engine related meme).
Mordhau has a variety of gamemode types. Team Deathmatch and Deathmatch are pretty self explanatory. Skirmish is a round based variant of Team Deathmatch, where players don’t respawn until the next round, and the last team standing wins the round. Horde is an interesting mode that pits 6 players (as standard) against waves of increasingly tougher enemies, where the players earn points to purchase new armour and gear. Horde can be fun, but games often resort to exploiting the AI when things get tough, jumping into areas the enemies can’t reach, and continually running away whilst using a bow, rather than taking the enemy on toe to toe. Whilst Horde modes have worked well in many previous FPS titles, it just feels like the mode does not transfer well to the style of game that Mordhau is trying to portray. Frontline is the objective based mode, where each team is vying for control of points on the map, which then shift the respawn points and move the action across the map. A slight gripe is that Frontline is the only team vs team mode with objectives, but it feels more like Team Deathmatch with control points added, rather than a truly objective based mode. Plus matches normally end with tickets running out on one side rather than a final push to the end of the map. There’s also a Battle Royale mode. I know it’s now a bit of a trope to include this mode in a new title, but this one feels notably different considering Mordhau is a totally different prospect to most Battle Royale titles. Games are up to 64 players, though so far most of mine have been around 30-35. The map isn’t too large, so you don’t have to spend ages running around, and games only last around 10 minutes. It’s a nice variation to occasionally jump into, and a good way to get an understanding of weapons you may not otherwise try (plus it’s fun watching a man run at you with a great helm, bare chest and two handed hammer).
Character customisation is solid, and thankfully it does not take too much grinding to get ahold of the gear you want to try. There are some preset loadouts that anyone can use to try different playstyles, and you can create custom loadouts as well. Each custom class has 16 points to spend on their loadout. For armour, there are slots for head, torso and legs, and 3 levels of armour to choose from, being heavy, medium, and light. Heavier armour costs more points, and will slow your character down more, but provides better protection. Initially, you will only have access to the basic armour designs, but they still count as their respective armour type, and provide the same protection as a design you may not unlock until a higher level. If you want to go full heavy armour from the start, you can. Your initial weapon options are also slightly limited, but they are also easy to unlock with a few games. You can also spend points to get perks that provide small buffs, such as the Brawler perk, which increases fist damage. Armour and weapon designs are unlocked by levels and gold, the in-game currency (which is the only in game currency, so don’t worry about having to fork out more money). Cosmetic armour options are available for other body parts, such as waist, arms, hands etc., but these don’t provide any additional protection. It’s nice that armour is not restricted by level and that weapons are easy to unlock. The wide array of customisation options here is impressive.
The game did have some technical issues on launch. The biggest problem was the difficulty in connecting to the servers, mainly due to the large influx of players, which also caused the matchmaking to not work properly. There was also a problem where player’s gold and progress was not being saved properly. The developers acknowledged these issues and responded quickly, despite the small size of their team. The server browser now seems to function well, with the servers themselves being generally lag free. The gold and progression issue was fixed, and layers were also promised compensation for their lost gold and experience. There is still an occasional issue of joining a server, waiting for it to load and then being kicked out because it turned out the server was full. Loading times in general can be quite long, both on starting up the game and waiting to join a server. I also had an issue of having to endure a few seconds of freezing after joining a game whilst some textures still needed to load. Despite these issues, once you actually get going things seem to run smoothly. My PC did not meet all the recommended requirements, but despite this most of the graphics options defaulted to ultra, and the game did not have any major drops in framerate, even on a 64 player server.
Despite a slightly rocky start with it’s server issues, Mordhau has a lot going for it. The combat feels fluid, and you can spend your time mastering the techniques to dominate one on one fights, or jump into the controlled chaos of a large Team Deathmatch game with some rocks and a frying pan and have some fun with it. It could use a more objective based game mode, as well as a specialised duel mode for those who enjoy less chaotic combat, but otherwise the game is well worth the price tag.