The game is set during the titular Wars of the Roses in 15th century England, wherein the royal houses of York and Lancaster fought off-and-on for the throne over a span of 30 years. In the game, you play a knight, foot soldier, archer, or even a lowly peasant (all decided by you and the game's extensive customization) fighting for your house in up to 64-player multiplayer matches in various battles of the Wars throughout the English countryside, from sleepy farming villages and wide open hill country to the haphazard, claustrophobic streets of large towns.
The combat system is a more refined, deeper version of Mount and Blade's system with many of the same controls; you ready an attack from one of four different directions with the mouse. Fully-charged attacks cause more damage, swing faster, and pierce armor more effectively. Your opponents can block your attacks with a parry from the same direction or a shield. Being blocked causes your weapon to freeze up for a moment, leaving you vulnerable to a counterattack, discouraging players from swinging randomly and rewarding those that make attacks that are hard to predict. Skilled players will "fake out" their enemies by starting an attack from one direction, cancelling it, and attacking from another. Compared to Mount and Blade, several other details have been added, such as aiming for an opponent's cloth-bound arms and legs rather than his plate-armored chest to cause more damage. Also of note is the aforementioned Call of Duty-style class customization system with weapons, armor, perks and some cosmetic details to make classes that are absolutely your own; with tweaks as deep as blade material, edge grind, pommel type, fighting style, what type of leather to cover your shield, what type of wood to fashion your spear haft from, what type of coif and visor on your helmet and even paint and polish for your armor. Once you have a class fully kitted-out, it's almost a statistic impossibility to run into another player with a class the same as your own.
As of January 2017, the servers have been shut down and the game removed from the steam store.
War of the Roses contains examples of:
- An Axe to Grind: Many different weapons of many different flavors, all with different strengths and weaknesses. Most have higher damage than other comparable weapons, and they have the most effective armor penetration of any slashing-type weapon. Examples range from the simple, effective, one-bit with backspike sidearm Battleaxe; to the extremely short (not always a drawback), extremely fast, extremely high damage Executioner's Axe; all the way up to the 9-foot long Knights Hospitaller halberd.
- Annoying Arrows: Regular arrows don't do much damage unless they hit the head, but bows can quickly be redrawn to fire again. Crossbow bolts, however, will down even the most heavily-armored foe in two shots (or one headshot for all but the most well-helmeted foes), to balance out the crossbow's long reload time.
- Bigger Is Better: Most definitely averted. Read Difficult, but Awesome below for why.
- Blade on a Stick: A variety are available to choose from. They tend to have a wide and powerful swing, but due to the weapons' small heads, you have to be at just the right range - too close, and you'll find yourself ineffectively bumping them with your weapon's shaft while they kill you at their lesiure.
- Breakable Weapons: A weapon can only absorb so much damage through parrying before it breaks, forcing you to switch to another weapon. Some customization options affect just how much damage your weapon can actually take before breaking.
- Choice of Two Weapons: You can equip one primary (two-handed) weapon and one sidearm (one-handed weapon), along with a dagger (which you won't be using very much). due to the wide variety of weapons, there are a lot of possible combinations:
- Bow and Sword, in Accord: It must be a one-handed sword, however. You can also combine bows with one-handed axes and maces, of course, and add a shield if you want.
- The Musketeer: Handgonnes are available, but they suffer from long reload times and absolutely abysmal range. Your sidearm is going to be very important here.
- Multi-Melee Master: Pretty much anyone who isn't using a ranged weapon will have two melee weapons at their disposal.
- Difficult, but Awesome: This can be said for many weapons, but nearly every polearm or spear qualifies. Hafted weapons (read: anything that isn't a sword) will "bind" and cause no damage if an enemy is too close and you hit them with the haft rather than the head. Given that most polearms have at least 5 feet of said haft compared to give or take 1 foot of pointy bits, you absolutely must keep your distance with these or you'll never get any hits in and die ingratiously from being rushed. And enemies will rush you to exploit this weakness. However, pretty much all of these weapons have very high damage when they do hit, and their long reach is a definite plus, especially if you like to stay light on armor to keep mobility high (which will also help you move about and avoid brawlers to keep your distance). Most have a piercing-type head, which will defeat armor well, and their precise stabs and long reach mean you can stab into a thick melee between teammates to contribute damage to a fight where a polearm would otherwise be useless.
- Drop the Hammer: Warhammers are available as both primary weapons and sidearms. They're the realistic variety, having a small head that can easily pierce through armor.
- Emergency Weapon: Every character carries a dagger, which lacks the strength or range of other weapons but may end up being your best bet if your other weapons break through parrying or run out of ammo.
- Eye Scream: one of the execution animations (performed on a downed enemy) involves being stabbed twice in the neck, then in the eye. If you're the victim, this happens from a first person perspective.
- Good Old Fisticuffs: There's nothing forcing you to actually use a weapon if you don't want to. Of course, fists aren't exactly known for being an effective counter to fully-armored knights with a variety of sharp (or blunt) implements, but if it was easy to punch your way through the battleground, where would be the fun in that?
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The fate of anyone that finds themself Instakilled by a charging horseman's lance. Executions with most swords have a bit of this as well, with a single sword plant into the top of the chest.
- Joke Item: Reaching the maxiumum level unlocks a set of Peasant equipment, including the Peasant Polearm (a rake), the Pointed Stick (which acts as a dagger), and ragged clothes and cloth caps to use as "armor".
- Jousting Lance: Mounted soldiers can carry an actual tournament lance, but it doesn't deal very much damage. The London Tournament map contains jousting lists for the use of the tournament lance in its intended purpose. In real combat, you're better off with using the war lance, which is actually designed to kill people, though the tournament lance does have the advantage of a longer reach.
- Large Ham: The original narrator had shades of this, but for King maker they brought in BRIAN BLESSED!
- Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: Shields can be equipped. When raised, they block pretty much every attack from in front of you without having to be aimed in the right direction like a parry, but will break if they take too much damage. When you're not holding your shield, it'll stick to your character's back, where it can still block attacks and generally be an annoyance to archers.
- Off with His Head!: Attacks that deal over 100 damage (normal max health) or very close to it in a single hit will Instakill: ergo 'go directly to the respawn screen, do not become downed but not dead, do not collect a revive.' The most efficient way to do this with melee weapons is aiming at the head or neck with a high damage strike, sending the head bouncing away while its former owner flops to the ground. Executions with the Executioner's and Headsman's Axes will use the axes just as they were designed: with a single, punctual, powerful chop to the neck.
- Slice-and-Dice Swordsmanship: Every melee weapon can be swung from above or sideways, depending on how you move the mouse. Pointed weapons can also be used to stab, while weapons with no point will be swung underhand instead. This leaves it up to the player whether they'll use a weapon as it was intended or not.
- Sword Fight: While fights will often degrade into unorganized melees, impromptu duels can easily occur if two enemies meet each other while away from their teams. Depending on the players' skills, the result can be anywhere from a prolonged series of blocked attacks to a single decisive swing to the head. Duel server also exist for players who are specifically looking for one-on-one fights.