In a bid for the growing number of warfare-centric multiplayer games with massive numbers of combatants taking to the field all at once to impale one another, Warhaven hopes make a name for itself with large maps, an impressive roster of warriors, and objective matches that have armies scrambling to overrun one another in an elaborate game of tug-of-war. I recently spent several hours with the team at Nexon and some of my fellow IGN sweaty tryhards as we tried desperately to maim one another while slinging as much trash talk as humanly possible. The result was a few entertaining hours that were complete pandemonium from beginning to end.
While combat may be slightly reminiscent of fellow third-person melee warfare game For Honor, Warhaven’s biggest departure is in its decidedly more chaotic style. Instead of smaller engagements with only a few players slowly and methodically dueling against one another, Warhaven 16-vs.-16 multiplayer throws an avalanche of opponents into a jumbled pile of swords, shields, and cannonballs that’s almost always pure mayhem. While fighting one-on-one can certainly be a strategic dance of blocking, slashing, and well-timed abilities, more often than not any hope at a fair fight is immediately dashed when either you or your opponent shows up in full force to ruthlessly butcher anyone in sight while sheer numbers throw any hope of fighting back right out the window.
In the occasional instances where both teams show up at a single point in full force, the often one-sided push and pull is replaced by a disorderly slaughterfest that’s sure to be the highlight of any match. Even when the odds feel fair though, the haphazard swings from your characters weapons and decidedly floaty movement makes for an imprecise experience that sometimes doesn’t feel great, even though that untidiness usually leads to hilarity. It’s especially funny to see players spontaneously transform into ultra-powerful heroes once they’ve accrued enough murder karma, then roll over an entire team as a horse-mounted character or a magical samurai with a cowboy hat. It’s ridiculous, over-the-top, and at times feels completely unbalanced, but there’s a certain kind of joy in that utter anarchy that makes each match amusing in how it appeals to my inner agent of chaos.
It’s not that Warhaven lacks strategy, though – in fact, there’s plenty of opportunities for teams to communicate with one another around objectives in order to win the game. For example, a few maps feature a cannon that’s absolutely essential to victory, as whoever has control of it can rain down deadly hellfire over vast swathes of the map, leaving little hope for the enemy to control the objective without dealing with you first. That race to control the all-powerful artillery was definitely a good time, especially when I was the one firing the cannon at the soon-to-be-dead sorry excuse for a soldier who opposed me. But just like everything else in Warhaven, the battle over the cannon is in no way immune to the utter tumult of warfare, and it seemed like, even whilst communicating with my team as much as possible, we still regularly found ourselves steamrolled by overwhelming numbers leading to repeated turnovers. It honestly felt like, in a lot of cases, the match’s outcome came down to a coin toss based on the random and messy flow of battle, even when that sloppy homicide fiesta was generally a lot of fun.
The silly good times are definitely extended by Warhaven’s interesting roster of playable characters, which range from standard sword-wielding soldiers to lightning-fast assassins with a sneaky set of moves to healers with little in the way of attacks at all. Most of them feel good to play too, like the shield-bearer who can plow his way through an army of enemies like Frank West in Dead Rising, or the crazy dude with a warhammer who turns the enemy into mashed potatoes like the rabid monster that he is. From what I can tell in the handful of hours I had with it though, not all are winners, like the spearman whose attacks feel like they’re way harder to land hits with than they should be and which left me almost immediately flattened by the enemy every time I played as him.
So far Warhaven seems to be shaping up into a bizarrely disheveled war simulator that manages to pack a whole lot of entertaining moments in each chaotic match. I hope to spend more time blowing up my foes with a giant cannon when it is launched free-to-play later this year.