Mordhau Review — Medieval Melee Antics

In the past couple of years, the theme of medieval melees has gained quite a lot of traction in gaming. To be frank, this niche is definitely too crowded nowadays, with the likes of Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, For Honor, Warhammer: Vermintide 2; the list goes on. So with so many other contenders, can Mordhau provide a unique experience in 2019? Actually, the answer leans towards yes. As you’ll see in detail below, Mordhau manages to be different from its peers or at least more satisfying than most of them. The game provides its players with an interesting combination of weird physics and realistic combat — making for a great multiplayer experience. 

Once you enter the realm of Mordhau, you’ll find one thing for certain — combat is amusing but grisly. Blades routinely sever limbs, and clubs tend to smash heads to a bloody pulp. Arrows can pass through eye sockets like jelly, and being hit by a catapult is like, well, being hit by a catapult. And if you’re a horseback warrior, you can even impale an enemy once you charge at them. 

These moments are just rare enough to be rewarding, and players do have to put in some work and show skill in order to trigger them. However, once they do happen, they’re never boring. And even if a kill isn’t gratuitous, it definitely feels earned every single time. Plus, there is a certain goofiness sprinkled throughout the medieval grit for good measure. Once you behead your grisly opponent, for example, you may choose to celebrate your victory with a fist-pump. Or you can use a comically small hammer to kill an opponent and then mock their corpse by playing your lute. 

The silliness doesn’t end there. Trust us, you haven’t played a medieval melee game where you can trap an enemy on a ladder by building wooden walls around the bottom — and then setting everything ablaze. And this sort of humor is precisely what gives Mordhau its own distinct identity in the midst of similar medieval multiplayer melees. Among all that grimness, a few laughs still prevail. That’s what makes even being on the losing side of a round a joy. Constantly, weird and fun events are happening around you, making the proceedings even more lively. 

As for the multiplayer, it has three different modes you can play: frontline, horde, and battle royale. The last one is absolutely what it seems — 64 players going about a large map, looking for weapons they can use to murder each other until only the victor is left.

The horde mode, on the other hand, has a band of players trying to survive against a horde of AI soldiers that grow more powerful as time goes by. Between each successive round, players can purchase more weapons along with better armor. Essentially, this is a medieval version of the Zombie mode from Call of Duty. But while both of the aforementioned modes are fun, the frontline mode is truly what sets Mordhau apart. 

In that mode, two teams with 32 players each are pitted against each other, in a struggle for dominance over control points scattered across the map. Before each round starts, players select a class. However, the classes don’t have any skill differences but only represent a variety of weapon loadouts. For example, a brigand has a large axe and two smaller throwing axes. And a knight has a huge broadsword that can cut opponents in half — in this game, literally. Obviously, selecting the weapons which suit you the best is crucial to achieving victory on the Mordhau battlefield.

Don’t be startled by a relatively steepish learning curve. Our own first few hours of playing Mordhau weren’t exactly filled with success. We’d attempt going against foes that were better skilled and paying with our lives. But after we stopped jumping between classes and started focusing on a single weapon, things improved immensely. In time, you learn how to time your blows and judge when you should parry or dodge. That’s also an incredibly satisfying feeling: dodging an attack only to decapitate an opponent who misjudged their position. The slow but certain transition from cannon fodder to a truly skilled axeman is exhilarating. Every time you improve, you’ll be able to achieve a different sort of spectacular violence. 

That being said, unfortunately, Mordhau isn’t without its flaws. The progression system, for example, leaves something to be desired. Sure, you earn equipment points and gold as you rank up, and you earn experience from playing more matches. And you use the currencies to buy various kinds of cosmetics as well as different types of armor and weapons. However, the cosmetics themselves don’t mean much, and they’re generally quite dull and unimaginative. 

At the end of the day though, Mordhau is definitely an incredibly fun and exciting multiplayer melee experience. However, as you might’ve gathered from above: the gameplay isn’t that easy to get into right away, so the game does require putting some time and effort into it. But all of that is rewarded with some truly spectacular feats of violence. If you’re willing to spend some time learning, you’ll certainly have a blast. 

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