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MORDHAU (PC) Review
~Review by tankMage (November 2020)
-A wide variety of medieval/renaissance weapons.
-Players can customize their character with perks, armor, tools, and weapons.
-Players can engage in PvP duels, team combat, and PvE against hordes of AI enemies.
-Nice graphics considering the game’s budget.
-Controls are responsive and highly customizable.
-Varying combat roles; players can fight from afar with bows, ride horses, fight in melee, and even build modest fortifications.
-Some maps are poorly designed.
-Steep learning curve.
-Some game modes, like Battle Royale, were removed.
Your defense has more holes in it than my mother’s swiss cheese!
I don’t review or write guides for many modern games, let alone PvP games like MORDHAU. That said, I had a hankering for some PvP and stumbled upon this title while looking for something like Dark Souls. Now, MORDHAU doesn’t have much in common with Dark Souls, but it’s definitely got a lot of medieval action that pits players against one another.
Of course, a game that is about medieval combat wouldn’t be complete without weapons from the middle ages and MORDHAU has everything from the classic long sword to the menacing maul. Players can even toss throwing axes, fire catapults, lance opponents while mounted on a horse, and mimic Robin Hood with a longbow; the possibilities are endless. Mercenaries (characters controlled by players) are also highly customizable. Everything from weapons and armor to perks as well as your merc’s appearance can be altered. Even better, there are no loot boxes or sleazy cash shop shenanigans to ruin the fun; anything you use to customize your mercenary is bought using in-game currency earned by playing the game. Furthermore, players are given enough money and default mercs at the start of the game to buy whatever they need to be on equal footing with veterans, at least in terms of equipment.
As good as MORDHAU may be, it has a few problems that will hopefully be addressed in later patches. First off, I was kind of annoyed to find out they removed Battle Royale mode. I’m not a big Battle Royale guy, but the idea of fighting in some abandoned medieval town using only what I could find in chests sounded really cool. Apparently, my sentiment wasn’t shared by the devs/player base, because the feature was removed. Then there’s the maps, some of them are really good, while others suck (especially for certain teams), but this subject is a bit complicated, so I’ll explain it later in the review. Finally, there are a few mechanical issues that some players take advantage that are kind of cheap. The main issue is called dragging, which is when the player moves the camera quickly while swinging a weapon in order to alter its speed and make it difficult to parry. It’s hard to fault players for using this and I’m not even really sure it’s a bug, but it can be irritating until you learn how to deal with it.
MORDHAU was made by a company I never heard of (Triternion) and presumably has a small budget, so don’t expect super great graphics, because it’s just a niche game for medieval combat nerds. Taking into account the modest budget, the graphics look pretty good, maybe not up to par with something a AAA dev would make, but good. The animations are fairly smooth and realistic, there’s plenty of detail in the equipment, and the environments are set in cool medieval areas.
Character customization is one of this game’s greatest strengths and it shines not only in the gameplay department, but also visually. It’s possible to select from a variety of skins and parts for many of the weapons that make them look unique while not altering their performance. The same goes for armor and clothes. In fact, there are dozens of pieces of armor as well as clothing. You can even choose from a variety of emblems and select their colors, so players who like to dress to impress have a lot of options.
While I’m generally pleased with the graphics, there are a few issues. The first of which is with team combat. It can often be difficult to tell friend from foe due to the fact that mercs get covered in blood from combat. This may not sound like a big deal, but the two teams are colored red and blue, so it’s easy to mistake friend for foe (and vice versa) in the heat of battle, because everyone is red from all the gore. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lobbed a javelin at someone only to find out he’s a friend or turned my back on a red dude only to get killed because he was actually a blue guy covered in blood. I’ve also been clobbered by allies for the same reason. It’s possible to see another player’s name and whether they’re friend or foe by pointing the reticle at them, but that doesn’t always register when you are trying to parry attacks from two sides, so it would have been nice if Triternion came up with a better way to identify friendlies…and they did, but it’s buried in the options.
Another thing that may upset some players is the fact that (as far as I can tell) you can only have male mercenaries. Personally, I don’t care; I usually play a male character. Aside from Joan of Arc, there weren’t many female soldiers fighting on the frontline back then and she was burned at the stake for witchcraft, so it makes sense that you can’t have female mercs from a realism standpoint. That said, as a critic, I have to take into account things that may bother other players and I know some people want to use female characters, so you’ll probably be disappointed by the character customization if you want to run around as a sword swinging chic in medieval Europe.
The controls for this game are fine for the most part. I didn’t like the way some of the buttons were mapped and the default camera speed was a little faster than I prefer, but all of that can be changed in the options, so I have no complaints to that end. However, the weapon swing speeds feel really sluggish. I haven’t swung a halberd or a maul, but I’ve used various swords and can confirm that they swing too slowly in this game. It’s likely Triternion slowed things down a bit for two reasons. The first is to allow players to react; someone with a dagger and heater shield would have a ridiculous advantage over a zweihander in terms of speed, so it’s only fair that attacks telegraph a bit. Secondly, this is an online game and lag is inevitable. I’ve seen players rubberband and, trust me, it’s a pain in the ass when the guy you were about to impale with your poleaxe is suddenly ten paces to the left. Taking ping into account, this game would probably be a nightmare to play for people with bad internet or on busy servers if the swing speeds were faster.
Music and Sound
Well, there’s music, but it’s the boring crap you hear in modern games, so I’m not even going to bother talking about it. If you want to listen to music while playing MORDHAU, make a playlist of songs you like and play that. In fact, I would recommend turning the sound off altogether if not for the fact that being able to hear the guy trying to sneak up on you with a battle ax is pretty helpful. Secondly, MORDHAU has a ton of emotes (both auditory and visual) that players tend to spam constantly. At first it’s amusing, but hours of hearing “Your defense has more holes in it than my mother’s swiss cheese”, “Oh, ‘ello.”, and the classic “Rrrrrrrrrrruuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhh” will make your ears bleed.
I forget exactly how I learned about this game, but it is apparently part of a genre that includes games like War of the Roses and Mount and Blade, despite the fact that I saw it mentioned as similar to Dark Souls somewhere. Consequently, there’s a bit of history behind MORDHAU and my experience was that of an utter noob, not only to the game, but to the genre as well. Keep this in mind, because this means I can’t really compare this title to anything else with it being all I know from the genre. As a complete noob, I got splattered…a lot. But I had a blast and slowly got better with practice, advice from players, and various guides. It says something for a game when someone can start as a complete neophyte, fail horribly, and still get hooked on it. In this case, it’s the gameplay that kept me coming back for more.
There’s a lot of game modes, but they all boil down to hitting other players with sharp or blunt objects. However, there’s quite a bit of nuance to this seemingly simple concept. Every weapon has its own swing speed, damage, and reach. Many weapons have an alt mode that allows players to throw the weapon or, in the case of the long sword, bash enemies with the hilt. If you’re on a horse and have a long weapon like a spear or evening star, you can “couch” it and use it to run enemies through. Then there’s the various armor types that affect your movement speed and the number of hits a body part can take before you die. Of course, you shouldn’t just swing your weapon around like a maniac (though some players do, to surprising effect) which is where fients, parries, thrusts, slashes, and morph attacks come in, since you’ll need to use strategy to get around the defenses of a strong opponent.
Combat is pretty complex thanks to the moveset available to players and you can make just about any loadout you want. There are even tools like fire bombs and medical bags. As a result, MORDHAU has something for everyone. If you want to wear heavy armor and beat people over the head with a mace on the front lines, you can do that. If you want to stay in the back and spam arrows at the advancing enemy, you can do that too. You can even grab a hammer and tool box that allow you to make things like barriers and mounted crossbows.
There’s also a PvP mode for just about anyone. Ranked 1v1 and 3v3 duels are available for players looking for a more structured experience where your skills are tested (and honed) against opponents in a more controlled environment. There’s also a free-for-all deathmatch where dozens of players fight each other all at once. Then there’s the team battles: frontlines and invasion. Both have a team of defenders and attackers trying to complete various objectives like taking enemy bases. Invasion differs a bit from frontlines in that a time limit is placed on each goal for the attackers and they must fulfill their objectives before time is up in order to win. There’s even a PvE mode called Horde where a group of players must fight off waves of AI controlled enemies that become increasingly difficult with each wave.
Overall, the various game modes are really fun. You’ll have to use a combination of skill, strategy, and reflexes to defeat your enemies, which makes the experience feel fairly balanced. Completing battles will award you with experience and gold depending on your performance. These rewards can be used to unlock more gear and armor skins, though players are given enough money as well as premade fighters to ensure they can compete fairly (in terms of equipment) with veterans. If you like PvP games, you’ll probably be happy with this one.
While I’ve praised MORDHAU a lot, I have to point out its quirks. One of the worst things about this game is the fact that the attack animations and netcode have some…kinks. For starters, players have figured out how to alter the swing speed of their weapons by swinging the camera around in a certain manner. In short, if you swing the camera in the direction your weapon is moving, you can speed up its movement. Move the camera counter to your weapon’s trajectory and it will slow it down. These techniques, known as dragging and accel, are often used in combat to bug out the game a bit to get through the opponent’s defenses. Honestly, it’s not a serious issue once you learn to deal with these tricks by chambering attacks or changing the timing of your parries, but it can be frustrating for new players who are trying to figure out what the hell is going on. I also thought it was just me sucking at the game, but I’ve seen streamers far more skilled than myself encounter this issue.
It seems that there are hit detection issues with this game as well. I’m not sure if this is a latency problem or something to do with the netcode (maybe both?) but I’ve played as an archer and have watched arrows just fly through targets on occasion, doing no damage at all. This seems to be exclusively a ranged issue, because my melee guys never had this problem unless ping was really bad and there was a lot of rubberbanding going on.
I also have to say Horde mode sucks in its current form. The concept of having to fight off lots of enemies with a handful of teammates is cool, but the execution leaves something to be desired. First of all, you can’t bring your loadout into a standard Horde game (maybe this can be done on a custom server) so you’re going to have to buy weapons scattered around the map with money you are given for completing waves. This is fine, but it would have been nice to have an alternate Horde mode that allows players to use their loadouts, since every Horde match starts with players scampering around buying basic gear and it gets stale after a few matches. Another issue with Horde mode is that it quickly degrades into players merely kiting bands of enemies and firing arrows into them. This is likely because there are often too few players in Horde matches to mount a proper defense, but it doesn’t change the fact that Horde gets boring really fast. Making a mistake and dying forces the player to wait until the next wave to respawn, which makes horde even more tedious, though you’re not going to die very often once you realize you can kite the vast majority of enemies aside from the final boss.
MORDHAU’s maps could also use some work. For the most part, they’re some of the best maps I’ve seen in a PvP game, but a few of them could be reworked, because in some of the maps, the attacker or defender has a clear advantage. For example, there’s a castle town map in frontline (I think it’s called Fietoria) where the red team almost always wins due to the structure of the town. Red (AKA the Iron Company) is often able to take key defensive points very quickly, because they spawn near them, while blue has to squeeze through various chokepoints that often leave them at a disadvantage. To be fair, I’ve seen matches where blue was able to take those same defensive points and stomp red, but when two teams of comparable skill clash, red always seems to win.
This game has a really…unique player base. Sometimes I feel like I’m not playing a game at all and am actually participating in some kind of interactive meme. You’ll see players with the dwarf perk (which makes you quite small) running around throwing frying pans at people. Some people just stand around playing the lute, because they’re bards. I’ve even walked into a house and saw three players on my team and an enemy just standing around laughing. When one of them saw me, he just said “hello” and went back to laughing.
There’s also a lot of good old fashioned trash talk in chat, which is quite entertaining if you ask me, but if you’re the sensitive type, you may want to ignore chat. Despite all the trash talk and aberrant behavior, the community is actually quite friendly. After playing the game for a few hours and realizing I sucked, I started asking questions about how to not suck. There were a few veterans who happily gave me pointers and I did get a bit better at the game. Sure, this is an anecdote and others may not have the same experiences, but it does say something for the player base, which I hope remains eccentric.
MORDHAU is one of those titles that give me hope for the future, since it’s a modern game that lacks all of the things I dislike about modern games. There are no cash shops, no overpowered DLC items, and none of the slimey PR tactics employed by major developers appear in this game. It’s just good old fashioned PvP with a medieval twist. Hats off to Triternion for doing something AAA devs couldn’t: you made a game that’s free of bullshit. My only regret is that I couldn’t play it more.
It goes without saying that MORDHAU is not for everyone. It’s definitely a niche title since it’s 99% PvP and has players beating each other with weapons that have been obsolete for centuries, but you’ll like this title if you like that sort of thing.
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