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MORDHAU Review

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It appears that I have been cast back in time with MORDHAU from Triternion; a mediaeval hack and slash game with the emphasis on the hack!

Having been available on PC since 2019, it is finally the turn of the Xbox world to get involved. So, I guess the question that I need to answer is whether or not my body is ready for the rigours of combat…

mordhau review 1
MORDHAU’c combat is brutal

If you are looking for a story, may I suggest you look elsewhere? MORDHAU is a multiplayer affair, with the sole objective focusing on staying alive and making your foes dead. While the manner of their execution may vary, the basic goal remains the same. And honestly, that’s all you really need to worry about. 

MORDHAU gets better as we take to the visuals though. And while you’d expect there to have to be some compromises to the graphics, what is on display is actually pretty good. Yes, there are a fair few cookie cutter enemies, especially in the horde mode where it is common to be charged by ten identical foes, but in the PvP arena it is a lot better. Those arenas themselves are a very good size too, full of detail and new routes to discover. 

Along with that, the sound is pretty bang on too. The whistle of swords and maces, the twangs of bows and the pathetic squelches and whimpers as the enemy inevitably found a way through my guard have all come across as being pretty impressive.

So, what about the actual game then? What are the battles like, I hear you ask? Well to pinch a Clarkson phrase, it is vicious, but in a fun way. A bit like a shark in a funny hat. Life in MORDHAU is nasty, brutish and short, and that’s just in the tutorial! The combat system is quite deep though, and deserves to have a bit more time spent on it. So this is where we will begin. 

mordhau review 2
Let the fight commence

Combat is everywhere in MORDHAU and there is never a moment to sit back and gather your wits. It is literally a case of kill or be killed. There are a large selection of weapons to buy and/or find on the battleground, ranging from branches off trees and frying pans, right up to two handed swords, bows and polearms. Finding a weapon that suits your play style is therefore very important, as it is these and only these (okay, a shield will help too) that will keep you alive. 

There is also a wide range of archetypes to choose from in the character selection page – Knight, Archer, and many more. Or, if you fancy making something truly unique, the character generator in MORDHAU is one of the most detailed I have ever seen. You can take a default face and then tweak the actual bones beneath the skin, allowing you to create pretty much whatever you want. It’s a cinch to find some monsters being made up. 

The customisation doesn’t stop there, as your armour can be tweaked and have individual parts swapped. Even your choice of weapon can be assembled from a collection of parts. I’d go as far to say that if you can’t make it in MORDHAU, then it probably doesn’t exist. All of these tweaks and purchases require you to have earned in-game points, so may not be immediately available, but you do rack them up at a pretty brisk rate. 

So, with the setup of our character sorted, how does the combat system work? Well, that depends on what weapon you are welding to a large degree. Swords and axes are pretty much as you would expect, and have either a slow wide swing attack that comes in horizontal, or can be used to thrust with; faster but less powerful. Or, if you want to be really tricky, you can also change halfway through, a swing becoming a poke, if you will. This is good for throwing off enemies’ block timing. 

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We prefer the slashy slashy stuff

Bows require arrows to use, and must either be drawn in the case of longbows, or cocked in the case of crossbows before you can shoot anyone. Sadly the speed of the characters make the bow a very tricky weapon to wield well, as by the time you’ve got one arrow off and are ready for the next, the enemy is usually smashing your teeth in with a mace! Spears and polearms are harder to use, and while it is possible to build ballistas and shoot them, it’s rare to stay alive long enough. 

Blocking and parrying is another vital skill to learn in MORDHAU, at least if you hope to last longer than five minutes. Or five seconds, in my case! If you only have a weapon, then you can press LT to block and hopefully parry, but the timing has to be bang on. If you get it, then a riposte is very damaging and can get you out of trouble. Once you find a big shield, then running around with it up over your body is a good way of staying alive. 

Issues with MORDHAU? Well, the combat is infuriatingly imprecise, but this is more to do with trying to fight real people, as they never stand still. Swiping into thin air as the enemy runs to the side is all too common. Another issue is that the player base is, by default, cross platform, and running up against a PC player with years of experience and kit behind them usually doesn’t end well. Other than that, MORDHAU is a very accurate representation of what life would be like in a mediaeval battle – fast, frantic, bloody and gruesome. 

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Don’t expect to master MORDHAU in a matter of minutes

Game modes are available in a good supply as well, and while my favourite is the PvE horde mode (just as it was in Gears 2), I get killed just as fast in this game mode to be honest. There are a few PvP modes, such as Frontline, where two teams of 24 face off and have to deplete the other teams score (a bit like Conquest in the Battlefield games).

There is also Invasion, where the same number of players are tasked with attacking or defending a series of objectives. This is a lot like Rush from Battlefield, in that completing an objective opens up a new area to attack and a different objective. Bringing up the rear are a trio of deathmatch games, including team deathmatch and free for all – and I hated every moment of those. But hey, that’s a personal hatred. 

MORDHAU is not a game you can master in a matter of moments. You need to learn the mechanics and systems to have a chance of staying alive; and this will take time. The good news is that there is enough here to keep you playing, but the bad news is that MORDHAU is so brutally unforgiving you may find yourself questioning your sanity as your quest continues. 

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Brutal combat that’ll make you wince
  • Looks good, and many players don’t slow the game down
Cons:
  • PC player base are streets ahead of us console peasants
  • Learning curve is damn near vertical
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to : Triternion
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, PC
  • Release date and price - 12 July 2023 | £31.99
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Brutal combat that’ll make you wince</li> <li>Looks good, and many players don’t slow the game down</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>PC player base are streets ahead of us console peasants</li> <li>Learning curve is damn near vertical</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to : Triternion</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, PC <li>Release date and price - 12 July 2023 | £31.99</li> </ul>MORDHAU Review
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