Mordhau, from developer Triternion, feels like a multiplayer game ripped straight from my preteen years of youth. The game has a large focus on feel and making sure the fighting is both gritty and realistic, but fun. The design and overall presentation is sleek with moments that can appear so ridiculous, like a man who has his leg chopped off but continues to hop around on the other, swinging his sword in a frenzy. There are literally zero micro-transactions (as much as AAA publishers like to tout this nowadays, yet may still contain the smallest hint of it). It feels like a game from another time when things were simpler. When games felt less bogged down in so much bull and just knew to achieve a goal: Be fun.
Servicing this notion is the fact that the concept for Mordhau is simple. You play as a mercenary in a medieval world fighting in a large scale battle where you are either defending a keep/castle or attempting to siege it. This is so simple in fact, that I can’t believe a AAA developer hasn’t done it already. Why? Because publishers are too worried about how they would monetize such a game rather than simply letting it be. To finish a fight and see that as you level up you have more ways of earning new armor to customize your classes (or create your own as you please) is refreshing and freeing.
What’s less freeing is the game’s combat system. The combat is daunting, and while the tutorial is helpful, there is little it can do to prepare you for trying to duel on an open field of players. That said, I constantly find myself coming back to the game like an itching addiction. It’s an incredibly complex game, but every kill on the battlefield feels so rewarding that you can’t help but feel excited every time.
Any readers of my previous reviews will know I favor games with strong storytelling, and yet this game has nothing even close to a campaign. Instead, it shares something with the battle royale genre: the players make their stories, remembering crazy moments as they happen and recounting them to others. I’ve had people running to attack the back of a teammate only for me to throw my dagger into their back and kill them. I’ve had a horseman rushing to spear me through, only to see them fly off the horse from a ballista attack. There are so many possibilities, and so many different weapons, abilities, and armor.
As much as the main serving of the game is the most exciting part, there is also a horde mode and a battle royale mode. Yes, a genre that invokes groans with every mention is included. That said, it feels tertiary to the main event, and even more so, it is scaled down in such a way that it feels fun. Even with the inclusion, the devs know what the bread and butter of the game is, and that is the Frontline mode.
If people ever dreamed of being part of a sprawling medieval battle with swordsman, archers, horsemen, men running around in their underwear throwing firebombs, farmers with pitchforks, and a guy playing the Doom theme on a lute as he follows you around, then boy is this game ever for you. The insanity of it all is fantastic, and the package is clear. The game knows exactly what it is and what it wants to be.
Mordhau feels like a game I keep picking back up even when I feel like I’m no good, because each time I feel myself getting a little better. Even more though, it feels like something a lot of games nowadays seem to be missing. It feels exciting, and more importantly, fun.