You’re running through the mud, longsword in hand as you move in a roundabout path to your target; nearly halfway there, you spot a knight approaching you, making a stab with his zweihander. His superior reach almost catches you off guard, but you turn and deflect in time.
The knight’s zweihander is dangerous, but makes it difficult for him to punish minor mistakes. He swings from the left, you riposte, only to be riposted yourself- he slashes horizontally and turns his body as he swings to attempt to cause you to fumble your parry. Realizing the intention, you crouch and lean back, dodging the blade completely, rising up with a guaranteed stab towards his face-
Suddenly, your perspective is sent spiraling. As your head rests on the ground, you see the boots of a man running past, with a high pitched voice yelling “Oh, heh, terribly sorry!”; quickly followed by a halfnaked man with a lute, playing Megalovania.
Such is life in Mordhau, a multiplayer hack-and-slash title developed by Triternion, and officially released on PC on April 29, 2019, at the price of $29.99.
This is a game for which the appeal is centered heavily around skill-based combat. Where as many first person melee games have preset attacks and a set method of deflecting such attacks with a simple button press, Mordhau employs a unique system utilizing real time, pixel perfect weapon collision. This, with a focus on intensive melee combat, makes for a gameplay experience that is not easy to summarize.
The real time weapon collision is facilitated by the 240 procedurally animated angles, controlled by moving your mouse in the direction you’d like to swing. It is all rather precise, and allows for chambering and riposting. If it looks like it should hit, then it will. The weapon collision applies to blocking as well.
There are many different weapons, both ranged and melee. Almost all melee weapons have a form of alternative usage. There are other less direct items as well, such as the toolbox to build ballistas and spikes, throwable firebombs, rocks, among other things. Also a lute, which can play Midi music files, though this requires some experimentation to sound recognizable.
To make usage of any of these systems, you’re likely gonna be playing frontline, or be on a 1v1 duel server. Frontline is a 64 player battle, a mode focused on completing or holding objectives. Frontline is unranked, but Ranked Duels just arrived, and more Ranked modes are coming as well. These modes and their maps, while continually being updated, are not particularly well balanced; though the gameplay is the main appeal, and I believe more than makes up for it.
Of course, in a multiplayer game, you must communicate. For this, the game does not have voice chat. Instead, it relies on a charming system of variable voice lines and gestures. There is also a text chat, but this is unmoderated. The majority of players are quite pleasant or don’t engage in chat, and I’m sure it can be imagined how unpleasant people will behave in an unmoderated text chat; thankfully, Vote To Kick and muting are available. That said, it can be quite toxic, and there are players who will try to bait reactions from others with offensive language and otherwise being incredibly rude. If you cannot ignore this when it is happening in text chat, I suggest turning chat off, but I don’t want it to detract from a decision to buy the game, especially when its alternative communication method is so effective, engaging, and fun to use. There is also a chat filter of some kind to censor offensive language, but I did not get the chance to test it before writing, so I do not know the extent of its effectiveness.
The game gives you a set number of points to make a class that can never change. At first this may seem tough to swallow, but over time you’ll see what it does for the balance of the game in the long run. You have to use the points for anything that isn’t solely cosmetic; you can use it for weapons, equipment, armor, and perks. You don’t have enough points to get maximum heavy armor with big weapons and perks, but you can forgo one to focus on the others, or mix for a balance to your liking. There are options that are also entirely cosmetic, as well as customizations to your appearance and voice. Much of the options are initially locked, either behind player level(not the same as Rank) or behind a purchase with gold, which is entirely earned in-game. The most expensive items are just cosmetic; weaponry is quite cheap by comparison. It is a system highly effective in encouraging customization and experimentation.
In short, Mordhau is an experience likely to leave a lasting impression on anyone who plays it, one way or another. It has impressive skill-based combat, a strong but small collection of modes in which to play with others, and a robust customization and user interaction system. It makes up for what it currently lacks in mode variety with a sizable community and many different styles of play to master. If you have the money to spare, I highly suggest it when you have the chance, especially if it goes on sale below it’s $29.99 price point.