Fight or Kite: Hands-on with Nexon’s Warhaven – medieval arena mayhem with a touch of magic

    
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Fast-paced action? Check. Melee focused combat? Excellent. Third-person perspective with a solid amount of room for skillful play? Sign me right up ’cause this one’s got my name on it. Well, not actually, but it sure does have a lot of the back-of-the-box features I’m looking for in my games.

Nexon’s Warhaven is a 16v16 arena fighter somewhere in the same vein as Chivalry. The fights are on a smaller scale, and the camera is pulled back, but if we’re painting with wide enough strokes, you can put them in on the same canvas. You may not be able to really tell from the screenshots here, but Warhaven really looks stunning. But does the rest of the game hold up as well in its current global beta test phase? Let’s find out together in this week’s Fight or Kite.

Combat and gameplay is reminiscent of other games in this genre

I mentioned above that Warhaven is similar to the Chivalry games, but by pulling the camera out of your face and placing it over your shoulder, it gives you gameplay that feels similar to For Honor. Of course, that’s not the only similarity between the games. They are all arena PvP games, basically. Players choose from a set of predominantly melee classes based mostly on European medieval soldiers. I know there are dozens of other games that also fill this niche, but I’ve spent the most amount of game time in For Honor with a bit in the Chivalry 2 beta many moons ago, so my comparisons will lean pretty heavily on those two.

Now, while the combat is similar, it is also strikingly different when you get into the details. In Warhaven, your attacks are vastly different based on the class you’re playing, but it basically boils down to a normal strike, a block, a few unique skills, and transforming into an elite warrior briefly. The transformation is basically this game’s ultimate ability.

When you attack, precision is important. If your crosshair is on your enemy’s head, you’ll get some bonus damage, but if it isn’t on the opponent at all – even if it looks like the blade should make contact because of how wide the swings can be – it won’t do any damage at all. This gives the combat an awkward feeling. You want to yell sometimes when your attack doesn’t connect but it looks like it should have. At the same time, I like games that encourage some precision in their combat, so I don’t want to knock it too hard.

This is kind of a stark contrast to Chivalry 2: There, if your weapon makes a connection with an opponent – oftentimes through sheer luck as was the case when I played – it’ll deal some damage. I think there was an old expression from Chivalry: “spin to win.” Essentially, it just refers to a trick where players click to attack and then spin their mouse wildly to hit all the opponents around them. Sure, the blade hit everyone, so it should do damage. Yet when you’re trying to fight strategically and focused and someone just jumps in and spins out some DPS and kills you, that doesn’t feel good. Plus… it looks ridiculous.

I don’t want the precision to be confused with the rock/paper/scissors method of combat that For Honor uses. In For Honor, players really need to learn combos and play extremely twitchy. You have to be ready to block from any direction while unloading your counter attack. Warhaven just doesn’t take its combat that seriously, so I’d say it falls somewhere between those two extremes.

I didn’t say before, but the combat is also fast – as in, if you jump into the thick of things and you get popped a few times, you’ll be dead in a second. However, the individual attacks in the game are slow as molasses. If you’re engaged in a one-on-one, you can play it right and smart, but each swing can feel like an eternity. It takes only a few hits to land to kill someone, so the fight doesn’t last too long, but we aren’t pulling any Jedi tricks here.

Each class plays very uniquely, including the addition of a healer

That’s right, Warhaven includes a healer – something that I haven’t seen in another one of these old-school soldier emulators. It kind of reminds me of a healer from Overwatch. It’s not really my preferred playstyle, but it is cool to see one included one here.

This is one of the ways that Warhaven separates itself from the other previously mentioned games: We actually have a bit of magic mixed into Warhaven. It’s not over the top, and it doesn’t really distract from the standard melee combat, but instead it’s a nice addition. (I think For Honor is tipping in that direction with some of the combos characters use, but overall it plays it straight.)

There are six classes in Warhaven, each one filling a different playstyle. I mentioned the healer, but there’s also a tank, an archer, a spear fighter, and a brute that uses a warhammer. Regardless of your typical combat affinity, you should be able to find one that plays to your preference here. The class names are super generic except for the healer. The Smoke, as it’s called, is named such because of its use of… smoke… to heal? Everyone knows that classic fantasy healer class tossing smoke out to heal allies. What? Usually smoke is used to blind and damage, you say? I know, it seems funny, but based on the art and the weapon, I think the idea stems from the censer you’ve been swinging and the smoke that rises from it during some religious events.

There are also four Immortals. These are basically superpowered classes with ultimate abilities. All players get the opportunity to pop into one of these during a fight once you’ve fought enough. They’re way overpowered, but that’s kind of the point. Each one is able to completely decimate enemies. There’s a witch for ranged DPS, a melee warrior, an inquisitor for support, and a horse with a rider that can rush through and impale foes like a shish kabob.

Combat modes are actually refreshing change from standard Conquest games

For once, we have a nice change of pace from the typical three-point capture mode that basically all games tend to lean on. In Warhaven, we have three different modes: Skirmish, Onslaught, and Arms Race.

The interesting part is that each of these modes has its roots in Conquest-style point capture. However, Warhaven has taken that basic formula and modified it. Skirmish is the most similar to conquest. There are three points to capture, but only the central point will actually earn your team victory points. One of the others offers access to a cannon that obliterates foes, and the third grants a rally point enabling your team to spawn very close to the central point scoring location.

Onslaught takes place on a long battle field with two central contested points. As teams claim these two points, they begin to push the enemy back and can then claim the opponents spawn points. Each team has three linear points that lead towards the center. As you get pushed back, you lose ground until you are spawning at your base; lose the base means you lose the match.

Last up is the Arms Race. This one is similar to the escort mission in Overwatch but also reminds me of escorting dolyaks in Guild Wars 2’s WvW. Each team has three points that once claimed will be able to spawn a war machine. The goal is to get all three of your war machines to your enemy’s keep so that you can knock down all three targets. Throughout the course of the match, however, enemies can stop you from building the war machine or even slow it down once it begins to move towards their keep.

So overall, you’re still fighting over point control in a lot of situations, but there’s also a lot more going on too. I approve.

Customizations and monetization for your approval

In a lot of Fight or Kite columns, my opinion of the game comes crashing down by the end thanks to bad or overly aggressive monetization schemes. Gundam Evolution, for example, was an absolutely offensive version and definitely over the top. Warhaven is still in beta, so Nexon hasn’t pushed too much out there yet.

There’s a modest three to five costumes available for the classes. Each class’s weapons can also be changed to look fancy as well. There’s also a World Pass, which is just a battle pass, but I can’t tell if it includes a paid version too. Usually these games will have two battle passes, one that is skimpy and sad for free and the other with all the good stuff. The presentation of the World Pass is a rather cool take on the idea; instead of a simple linear bar, you scroll through to see where the loot is, and it’s presented as an old scroll map that you are uncovering as you progress.

Overall, I was rather impressed with Nexon’s new take on this genre. The matches probably take around 10 to 15 minutes, which is typical for this sort of game. It never felt like the fights were dragging on, though, which is usually one of my main complaints about matches like that. I don’t know how I’ll feel about it after a few weeks, but as of now I can say I enjoyed all my game time.

Every other week, Massively OP’s Sam Kash delivers Fight or Kite, our trip through the state of PvP across the MMORPG industry. Whether he’s sitting in a queue or rolling with the zerg, Sam’s all about the adrenaline rush of a good battle. Because when you boil it down, the whole reason we PvP (other than to pwn noobs) is to have fun fighting a new and unpredictable enemy!
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