Every time I sit down to write something about Mordhau I always end up playing it under the ruse that I need a better understanding of the combat mechanics. Or maybe I need to try more weapons? No, try different loadouts. Maybe getting to know the maps better? Whatever. I just want to play more of this sword-swinging, spear thrusting, maul mauling, horse shit flinging, rock trowing, pan smacking, medieval first-person brawler goodness.
Lets get this out of the way right now: Mordhau is the best game to come out in 2019, so far. Period. It marks the defining moment when melee combat in videogames stopped being a janky, clunky mess and it actually makes an effort to replicate how IRL weapons work. This spiritual sucessor to Chivalry is here to stay and, given the right support and content updates it will thrive for the next couple of years. It already packs a ton of content and an extremely dedicated community is growing around its deep combat mechanics and unique gameplay. Lets dive into battle!
Learning the ropes in Mordhau is far from being a painless task. Prepare to die, die again and perish some more in your first couple of matches. The player will go through an essential (and hilarious) tutorial where the elements that make up the combat are taught, yet you are left clueless to the underlying mechanics of it.
Attacks are performed by moving your mouse in that direction. You have side swings with different angles, thrusts, under and overhead swings. Parry by facing your opponent attacks. Then your footman is introduced to combos, to parrying into attack, feints and morphs (changing a thrust into a side swing or vice-versa) will follow suit, up next is chambering (meeting your opponent strike with your own) . The secret to master the combat of Mordhau is knowing how all of these flow together during the short-lived, high intensity fights. All those maneuvers deplete your stamina bar, over-strech yourself one more move and you bankrupt that pool, dropping your weapon in the process. A world of hurt follows, with the player unarmed to fend for themselves.
Weapons are actually physical objects in the game world so strikes don’t have and premade hit animations. You can start swinging the from a direction and immediately move your mouse towards that it to have it make contact with your enemy sooner, you will ruin their timing for a parry by catching off guard. You can look away from your opponent for a short while and move your mouse to him to delay your attacks to trick an early parry. Mixing up these moves are key to getting an upper hand. Accels and Drags, oh man. Here we go. Chilvary already had them. These are seen as dividing features within the community, some label it an exploit, others as a mechanic that adds more complexity. I personally love the idea of Accel an Drags and I think it brings a lot to the game, otherwise battles would come down to parrying/stamina contests.
Location of your character body and its movement also matters. This is a hard mechanic to put into words so I decided to show it in the gif above where you see me parrying, swinging to one direction and forcing early contact, and before the end of the fight I crouch an enemy attack and bring my head backwards after failing my own parry. I was able to dodge it and swing from below to cut of his legs.
Loadouts are all up to the player. You have a set number of points and each piece costs an X amount. That way the game keeps its overpowering combinations in check. Thankfully there is no way that a full plate armour knight is going to run around carrying a longbow or a spear. This system allows for a wide array of builds and creativity. Some weapons and combinations are better than others but I’m yet to see a dominating loadout. Add that to the fact that pretty much every weapon packs a different playstyle and players are bound to try and experiment. Yes you may have 6 or 7 swords in-game but I assure you the longsword is very different from the messer, or from the bastard. Spears are useless with side swings and relly solely on thrusts, trading utility for range. The maul is slow and heavy but can one-shot with head hits. Most of the weapons also have an alternative stance. Grab the spear near the tip to perform faster attacks in exchange for reach. Turn the longswords or the polearms the other way to do extra damage to armoured foes by using the pommel. There is a lot to unlock and a lot to learn. Just as a note, you can bring a lute as your main weapon and spend the match shreding away sick licks or throw horse shit and rocks. Your playstyle is trully your own.
Thankfully Mordhau progression system is great. After a battle, a generous heap of gold is awarded and weapons are cheap. As long as the gold is available you can unlock what you wish. The tutorial completion also showers the player is a copious amount of blings. After nearly 70 hours of playtime I’m still unlocking new weapons, armour pieces and nowhere near finished. Trow your worries away if you also fear the existence of shitty, over the top cosmetics or lootboxes, gold is only awarded for playing. I would gladly pay for full fledge expansion packs.
Remember Chivalry’s maps? Big, linear and objective based? Those were great. You had a set of goals you needed to achieve to progress to the next stage while the other team was trying to prevent you from doing so. Mordhaus’ Frontline map are weird in the sense that they also have capture points that you need to snag in a set order but they are wildly open so most fights end up being a big brawl with less skilled teammates swinging wildly, chopping down friend and foe alike. Sometimes swords clash in nice exchanges with really skilled players and those make it all worth. They’re a mixed bag, but most of all, they are extremely fun. So far the game packs in about half a dozen maps, all relatively varied. One can only complain about the design of Crossroads-a wide open map with a crumbling fortress in the middle. The map, mainly cavalry focused, the gameplay cycle devolves into mounted knights mowing footman by the thousands. Unfortunately it is the most played map right now, at least from my experience. The game also packs a battle royale mode (because of course it does) and a horde, AI wackamole. I find neither of those as entertaining as Frontline but hey, I guess if you enjoy those, there you go.
Mordhau is one of those few games I never trully believe it would live up to its expectations, I’m glad that it did. I will see you in the battlefield, Swordsman!