Mordhau’s medieval melee hasn’t been around for long, but the game has already proven itself to be an entertaining thrash through limbs and lords alike. While you might think it would be fairly straightforward to dive into the fray and start hacking your way to success, Mordhau’s systems are built upon a complicated set of physics exchanges that encourage thoughtful skirmishes that are often as much of a battle of psychology as they are a battle of reactions.
When you first step foot onto the muddy battlefield of Mordhau, these systems can often seem daunting, but there’s order in the chaos and once you learn how to read the game correctly, you’ll be hacking and slashing your way to glory in no time. With that said, there’s always room for a helping hand, so we’ve thrown together several tips to help you improve your mastery over Mordhau.
When you first start out in Mordhau things can be overwhelming. There’s a lot going on, and if you’re not paying attention it can be quite easy to lose your bearings, along with your head. While combat can be frantic, there’s an unspoken order to the way most encounters play out, and the best way to get to grips with all of the game’s subtle mechanics is to forgo the matchmaking modes and spend some time in the community-hosted duel servers.
In these mini battle arenas, players are encouraged to square off in impromptu duels with one another until one person falls, and the general attitude and informality of these servers makes it a great place to learn how to get better at the game. Whether you’re just starting out with the basics or trying to master an unfamiliar new weapon, these arenas provide enough structure to safely practise your moves without worrying about catching a stray ballista bolt with the back of your head in the process. Most players in these servers are there to learn and get better, and generally speaking, they always seem to be happy to teach others specific moves or tricks if asked, so it is definitely worthwhile spending some time in a duel server if you want to improve your overall knowledge and skill, which transfers well into the larger scale matchmaking modes.
Mordhau’s combat is heavily focused on physics, and as such the positioning of the camera and your character play a big part in how you act whenever you go to perform an attack. This is especially true when it comes to standard swing attacks, which are context sensitive and determined by where your camera is facing in relation to your target. For example, facing the camera to the bottom right of your target will cause you to perform a diagonally-rising slash starting from that angle. While the concept is easy enough to understand, implementing it during the heat of battle when you’re trying to fend off multiple attackers can be much more difficult, especially when you’re also trying to maneuver your camera into the right position to successfully perform defensive blocks too.
Fortunately, there are a number of key binding options in the game that allow you to specifically map certain strikes to various keys. If you head into the options menu on the keybindings tab you will find a small section that reference a number of “strike” attacks. If you want to make sure your attacks come out at the intended angle, or if you’re just having trouble consistently performing the right kind of attack, try binding the upper and lower versions of the left and right attack. After making this small change, I’ve often found that I can sneak in an attack as most players have a hard time reacting to differently angled attacks, especially since quite it’s quite common to see people focus more on techniques like chambering and feints, so when you start to bring your attacks in from unexpected angles you can catch your enemies unaware.
After spending some time in the game you may start to see people refer to something called “dragging.” This is the term used for when you start a swing attack from a different angle before then dragging your camera towards the target. This might not seem all that important at first, but by doing this with your strikes you can dramatically increase or decrease the acceleration of your attack, causing your opponent to mistime their reaction and leaving them vulnerable.
While the tutorial briefly touches on the art of dragging, it’s not really a technique you can come to grips with without trying it out yourself, as the general success of the move is heavily dependant on the situation. With that said, it’s still something that you should try to master, as dragging your swings can easily be the deciding factor during an encounter, especially if you become deadlocked in an exchange of parries and chambers. What’s more, if you’re using a two-handed weapon like the Zweihander, dragging your weapon can also help you hit multiple people within the same swing, which could turn the tides if you’re getting outnumbered and pressured by a group.
Much like attacking, the art of dodging attacks in Mordhau is also heavily focused on the physics of each attack. Instead of relying on invisible boxes and frames, a weapon physically has to connect with the player model if an attack is going to register, and understanding how to weave and duck your way through a flurry of strikes can be an effective way to avoid taking damage all together. Of course, this isn’t going to be a consistent tool to dodge every single attack thrown your way, but mastering how to move your character could end up being the decisive move that wins you the fight.
Firstly, you need to understand that what your camera sees and what you character does can sometimes be at odds with one another. For example, aim your camera down and you will look down, but in reality your character model is moving most of their upper body to conform with the movement, and will now be bowed over facing towards the floor. The same applies to looking directly up too, where your character will attempt to arc backwards slightly, allowing you to lean your head further backwards, potentially avoiding an otherwise fatal strike to the head if timed properly. These movements can be pivotal when dodging an attack on the fly, so try spending some time learning how to swing the camera sharply when fighting and you’ll soon find dodging certain attacks can become a reality with the flick of your camera.
On top of the camera dodging, players can also equip a 4-cost talent called “Dodge” which modifies the character so that whenever they jump to the side or backwards, the character will instead perform a mini-dash that lets them quickly sidestep a short distance at the cost of stamina. This technique can be great at dealing with enemies that have large weapons, especially items that use thrust attacks a lot like spears, and a great way to overpower slower enemies is the sidestep a strike then use your speed to close the gap between you and unleash a quick flurry of attacks while they are trapped in their recovery phase.
Movement is an important aspect to Mordhau, and fancy footwork can make even the toughest situation easier if you know how to position yourself. One of the biggest mistakes less experienced players make is that they try to stay within close proximity to their enemy, allowing them to strike without closing the distance. While this can sometimes work if you’re wielding something quick like a Rapier, being close to your opponent means you’ll have less time to observe their actions and react, and you’ll need to be a lot more precise with your parrying and chambering if you don’t want to get hit.
During a fight, you’re much better off keeping a safe distance between you and your opponent, but doing so isn’t always straightforward as each weapon type has a different reach, so knowing what kind of weapon you’re up against and how far it stretches is a great help when skirmishing. The best way to find this out is to play defensively for the first few strikes, maintaining a fair distance while allowing your opponent to push forward with their own strikes. Once you’ve gauged how far a normal attack can stretch, you can start to retaliate with your own offensive strikes. A good tactic is to let your opponent charge in with a strike, and if they miss then close the distance and throw your own attack while they are recovering.
Perhaps the most polarizing preset class in Mordhau, the Engineer isn’t always considered to be an asset to the team, and it’s obvious why when most of the time the class is only used by people who want to run around with the lute playing terrible renditions of pop-culture references. While the class itself is often considered to be nothing more than a walking meme, the Engineer’s true purpose is to provide defensive support at key locations, and when played well, a good Engineer can direct the flow of battle to their advantage.
To be a good Engineer your main focus should be to set up and control the places where most of your team is gathered. In Frontline, this usually means whatever point is currently being contested, so your primary goal should be to reach that area and get to work building your various structures. The Engineer can build three different points: The wall, which acts as a small, personal barrier preventing people from passing through; the spiked barricade, which is a more lethal version of the wall that trades height and cover for sharp edges that enemies can hurt themselves on; and finally, the Crossbow turret, which has unlimited ammo and can be set up almost anywhere. As an Engineer your job is to start using the walls and spiked barricades to set up blockades and choke points for attacking forces, channeling them towards areas where your own forces have more advantageous positioning. By forcing your attackers through narrow choke points, you also make it easier for archers to land their hits, and fire bombs can do much more damage in confined spaces, too.
Engineers also have the ability to set up and repair certain structures that can be found at specific objective spots. These can differ depending on the map, but making sure these are not only built but constantly repaired can be a great boon to your team as they often provide defensive structures like raised platforms and larger spiked barricades that can block off entire sections of the battlefield, giving you more control where the fight happens.
If you’re playing either Frontline or Horde mode, you’ll spend most of your time rubbing shoulders with a number of allies throughout the match. With so many people scattered across the battlefield, things can get a little confusing, and if you don’t work alongside your fellow teammates, it will likely spell defeat for your faction when the final bell rings. To help prevent this, there are a couple of things you can do to make sure you’re working with your team instead of against them. For starters, make sure you enable the allied markers during the match, which by default is set to the H key under the command “Toggle UI Markers.” Doing this will greatly improve your overall awareness as you can see exactly where your team is gathering, allowing you to group up more effectively instead of heading off alone and getting outnumbered by the enemy.
When it comes to actually fighting as a team, it’s important to realize when you’re helping, and when you’re just getting in the way. Since friendly-fire is enabled, it’s quite a common mistake to watch as a team mate rushes into a fight to help out their ally, only to swing wildly and execute their friend instead of landing the fatal blow on their enemy. To prevent this, try to keep a good eye on where your allies are when fights break out, making sure that if you’re positioned behind an ally and want to chip in with an attack, that you’re doing so with a more accurate attack like a thrust. In some situations, it might be worth trying to avoid fighting from the same angle all together and see if you can flank the enemy from the side or behind, as this could apply some pressure and overwhelm them from all angles in the process.
When you’re squaring off against an opponent in Mordhau, there are a number of techniques and telegraphs to watch out for as you try to avoid losing your head. Whether it’s a morph, a chamber, or a feint being thrown out, keeping tabs on the movement of your opponent can be especially tricky. Skillful players will often make use of these tactics to try to fake you out and mis-time your defensive action, but you’re not entirely defenseless when it comes to countering your opponent’s mind games as each character has a tell that you can use to pinpoint whether an attack is real or not.
Often referred to as the “Attack Grunt,” listening out for this audible signpost can help you weed out the fake strikes from the real deal. The reason this works is because each attack has three phases—the windup, the release, and the recovery—and once an attack is fully committed to, the release phase starts which then causes the grunt sound to play on the attacking character. It’s a subtle audio, and it’s not always easy to focus in on this cue when you’re fighting in the thick of it, but learning to react whenever the grunt sounds can be a great way to help deal with more tricky opponents that try to play mind games with you.
Andy Moore is a gaming freelancer based in the UK. When he’s not writing, he can be found staring blankly out of the nearest window, or spending way too much time on Twitter.