Mordhau is a medieval multiplayer fighter named after a German sword technique from the Renaissance era in which knights hold their weapons by the blade and try to bash their opponents heads in using the pommel. Like its namesake, Mordhau is slow, awkward, and bloody, but for some reason, I want to keep playing.
To develop the game, Slovenian game studio Triternion created a Kickstarter campaign in 2017 that raised $298,608. They wanted to combine organic, free-flowing combat with the arcade-fueled chaos of 64-player skirmishes. It features all sorts of weapons, a handful of different maps and game modes, and even horses you can mount to gallop into enemy ranks or, more likely, the barricade wall. Though Mordhau only released yesterday on PC, it’s already generated a lot of buzz on Steam and Twitch, and rightly so. Despite the small budget, somewhat janky physics, and a host of server crashes and launch-day bugs, there is something irresistibly fun about running around clashing swords with dozens of other people while the death toll piles up in a frantic heap.
You spend most of your time in Mordhau swinging weapons. If your cursor, which also controls your first-person field of view, is near the horizon, you’ll chop at your enemies in that direction. If it’s above or below you’ll do corresponding hacks from those directions. To parry, you press the right mouse button. To stab, you scroll with the mouse wheel. What’s special about Mordhau is the way it lets you string these moves together into slow but methodical patterns of attack.
You can, for example, begin swinging your sword, than cancel that attack to bait out a parry from your opponent before stabbing them in the face. Or you can begin with a swing and switch to a stab. And instead of using parry to block attacks, you can counterswing at the last moment to deflect your opponent’s weapon and immediately go into a strike of your own. On top of all that, you can grab your sword by the opposite end and begin the attack anew with a whole other set of animation timings to be cognizant of. It feels heavy and substantial, and while it’s straightforward on paper, it’s easy to make a complete mess of it and get your head lopped off in a few seconds during the heat of battle.
Mordhau’s battles currently include an objective-based tug-of-war, a player-vs-AI horde mode, and a battle royale deathmatch. In the tug-of-war mode you can respawn as a variety of different classes. There are knights wearing heavy armor, lancers good for taking out enemy horses, and even engineers that can lay down barricades and help repair objectives. There are also archers, which are fabulous when you need a break from tense duels and want to try and take out enemies from afar. The drop-off in arrows after you fire them is steep, and aiming for too long will lead your character to grow tired and end up firing way off target before being penalized with a long reload animation. Plus, really good players can parry incoming arrows. Even so, some of the most fun I’ve had playing Mordhau so far revolved around me hiding behind trees trying to hit enemies in the back as they were locked in battle with my teammates. When one of them spotted me and hacked right through my short knife as I tried to parry, it felt like the circle of medieval combat had been fulfilled.
The battle royale mode is more intense. Instead of respawning with your preferred loadouts intact, you start with nothing and have to scavenge for better gear or steal it off the corpses of your opponents. Punching in Mordhau follows the same principles as other weapons, so melees early on still feel strategic and dramatic, unlike the flailing contest of battle royale shooters like Apex Legends. From there, you can pick up rocks, hammers, and meat cleavers, all the way up to sturdier and more lethal weapons like the two-handed zweihander. I’ve never lasted long, but the soundness of the game’s underlying combat makes me feel like I can take survival into my own hands by better mastering different tactics.
That said, Mordhau is far from a smooth, seamless experience. I’ve had dropped matches and a handful of deaths where someone killed me from several steps away because I was lagging. I’ve also struggled to level up my character thanks to an experience-point glitch that the studio is currently working on resolving. Mordhau feels somewhat similar to the early days of PUBG in that regard, although it’s impossible to tell if it will continue to grow and improve or simply be another flash in the Steam pan. If you’ve ever wanted to play a medieval game where you can take of the pommel of your sword off and throw it at someone while they’re running away, Mordhau already has you covered.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a fun game with excellent combat and an infamous difficulty curve, so it stands to reason that there’s lots of content about it online. There are a whole bunch of guides and showcase videos that do great work to explain which tools and techs are useful. There are playthroughs and reaction videos and lore explainers and conspiracy theories and Dark Souls comparisons and lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Those are all great, but here is a video answering an incredibly important question I had: What happens if you blow a magic whistle that makes animals go nuts in the middle of a group of samurai warrior monkeys?
Because it can be overwhelming to parse all the video content out there, I decided to share some of the best Sekiro videos I’ve found. These videos do the work not only of explaining the game but also of giving you a feel for the experience of playing it: what people love, what’s causing all the rage around it, the stuff you might not get just from watching a playthrough. How far can you push the combat? What do all the story-related breadcrumbs make up? If you stay on YouTube long enough, you basically start to find answers to questions you didn’t even realize you had about what’s really possible in the game. Here are some of those questions and answers in some of the best Sekiro videos you can find online. Spoilers ahead.
The most obvious draw of Sekiro is the combat, and there are great videos showing the system’s more interesting wrinkles. The game is a gauntlet of stealth action and fast-paced, in-your-face swordfighting. On a first playthrough, while players are still getting into the rhythm, it’s highly likely they’ll rely on stealth to avoid direct confrontations. That often involves making your way through stretches of enemy encampment, but it’s particularly fun when there’s a midboss. Here’s an example of how the game plays with that stealth action applied to miniboss Juzou the Drunkard. You can take out some of his lackeys and then lure him away to take him out.
Bonus: There’s a samurai waiting to bust Juzou’s shit up standing in the shadows near the fight. You can hear him dramatically and badassily shouting, “Hear me! My name is Nogami Gensai!” in the above video. He’s a big help if you manage the situation well, but if any enemies get too close, or if you talk to him, he’ll ignore whatever you have planned and run into the middle of everything waving his sword and announcing himself. That is both less than ideal and hilarious, as you can see at the 0:50 mark of this video.
The actual combat can be tricky to master, which quickly caused players to find ways to cheese bosses. But when it comes together the right way with aggressive attacking and parrying, the combat in Sekiro looks like anything you might see in the best-choreographed action films. Below is a compilation of every major boss fight in the game—spoilers, obviously. What’s special here is that the player uses an aggressive mix of sword attacks and shinobi prosthetics that makes crystal clear the idea that you have to overwhelm your opponents to succeed, rather than, say, running in circles and poking at them. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It looks pretty freaking cool, and if you’re playing, there are some useful and creative strategies.
By the same YouTuber, here’s a pretty hilarious followup video, also a showcase of boss fights, that is at once a demonstration of several game mods and an absolute cheese-fest when it comes to the fights. Titled “The FILTHIEST and Most STYLISH Boss Guide,” the player goes through and deliberately uses the absolute cheapest strategies he can think of while wearing, for example, Genichiro’s outfit during the Genichiro fight and an Akatsuki robe while fighting fellow ninja Owl. It’s pretty hilarious, given the mods and the way he fought in the previous video.
Then there are speedruns, which feature techniques like swimming through the air and luring a boss into riding his horse off of a cliff. As players continue to break the game and find newer, better strategies, watching the runs get faster and faster is a blast. The current Any% world record for beating the game with the quicker-to-achieve bad ending is less than 25 minutes—and there are even quicker ones that just haven’t been verified as of this writing, like this one.
Of course, actually learning the intricacies of Sekiro is a notoriously rough process. But for spectators with a strong sense of schadenfreude, it’s a source of endless amusement. Most gamers aren’t too thrilled the first time they get surprise divebombed by a ninja on the roof of Ashina Castle, for example.
And that’s to say nothing of their reaction when they finally beat the Guardian Ape for the first time, celebrating next to its “dead” body when suddenly…
A hilarious detail is that, like I had when I did this, they’d exhausted their healing resources thinking they were done. I feel for them!
As players run around trying not to die and probably failing, there are bits of lore scattered all over the place, and piecing them together is an absolute joy. If you’re curious about the main story, it’s definitely worth checking out a video of the game’s cutscenes. This one doesn’t intersperse gameplay for added context like some do, but the story is straightforward enough that it gives a solid sense of what happens without veering way too long.
Because the game is largely open to you past a certain point, the order you find these supplementary story elements in can shift, making the story feel a little like a puzzle.
One of the most satisfying examples is the lore around the mysterious Fountainhead Palace, an otherworldly endgame location and the source of the immortality everyone is squabbling over.
There are a bunch of lore videos around the Palace that are good for the armchair conspiracist or your standard egghead. Here’s one explaining the lore behind its inhabitants, who sometimes interact peaceably with the mortal world but also, apparently, lure unsuspecting humans to their death or a lifetime of servitude. It’s wildly messed up and totally on-brand for the dark themes of the game.
What makes this particularly interesting are hints dropped by the time you get there. Long before you get to the Fountainhead Palace where the nobles dwell, you fight this odd fellow, a noble himself. He’s the first one you’ll actually see, and the game doesn’t go far to explain why you’re fighting a weird, glowy, tentacled blue dude in an illusionary forest who doesn’t really defend himself very well.
You only find out much later, through another sidequest, that there’s an entire village of humans trying to turn themselves into these nobles… and succeeding.
Then there are the alcohol conversations. Speaking with characters Emma, Isshin, or the Sculptor over drinks provides the player with extra history about the cast of the game. The cast is already incredibly charming—at one point, Isshin gives you sake, which you can immediately regift to him. He’ll make fun of you for it and then proceed to take it to the head. Here’s one of those sets of conversations, in which a drunken Isshin reveals important historical context for the game but also that your dad, a terrifying and physically gigantic ninja, was a lightweight and would get drunk from one sip of sake. It adds so much to an intentionally bare-bones narrative.
Another neat story touch involves the seedy merchant Anayama, who mentions that he met you in the past. In a “memory” of that past, you can actually run into him… and also kill him. If you do, he’s no longer there in the future to sell you stuff.
Since it’s at first unclear to the player whether they’re in a memory or actually traveled back in time, it can actually serve as the first hint that going into the past can have a real impact on the story, and in fact, one of the endings requires you to retrieve an item from the past and bring it into the future. This, too, is totally missable (and in fact kind of stupid to do).
In all, Sekiro’s world is full of a lot of things worth making videos about and is likely to keep generating great stuff to watch on YouTube and elsewhere. There’s so much that goes beyond the standard hack-and-slash sneaky ninja magic, and it’s worth your while to dig even deeper into it. The boss strategies are disparate and compelling, the lore is satisfying and feels worth your time to find, and you’re given lots of great ways to blow off some steam as you struggle and die and rage quit and start again. I’ve shown a batch of videos I think are worth watching. There’s so much of Sekiro to see if you haven’t played or even if you have—so go ahead, spoil yourself.
Final Fantasy VII was the first game in the series to have guns. They added to the game’s modern and mature mystique at the time. Prior to that, the series’ weaponry was purely medieval, primarily focused around swords. But what if you could have a sword that was also a gun? Final Fantasy VIII answered by delivering unto players the gunblade, a device that has appeared in almost every Final Fantasy since.
Experts disagree on the precise number of gunblades that have appeared in the series since Final Fantasy VIII came out in 1999. Some don’t have names. Others are duplicates of existing models with a swapped color palette. Then there’s the age-old question of what satisfies the blade requirement. Something attached to a hilt? Any piece of sharp metal that can also shoot bullets? There are no perfect answers, but in my quest to be as thorough as possible, the only gunblades excluded from this ranking are the ones the Manikins wield in the Dissidia games.
By my count, then, there are 35 different gunblades that have appeared in the series so far. My extremely scientific ranking process includes criteria like how cool the gunblades look, the gun-to-blade ratio, and their practical stabby shooty ability. Here they are, ranked from worst to best.
35. Shear Trigger (Final Fantasy VIII)
Squall’s second weapon. The bullets do more damage, but the hilt looks like ass. No thank you.
34. Flame Saber (Final Fantasy VIII)
Someone thought a sword that looked like it was on fire would be cool. The logic was sound, but this gunblade was not. Points for color, but minus a bajillion more for using the same hilt as the Shear Trigger.
33. Cutting Trigger (Final Fantasy VIII)
Keeps the hairy red blade but ditches the Shear Trigger’s hilt for one that looks like an actual gun.
32. through 29. Razor Carbine, Edged Carbine, Lifesaber, Peacemaker (Final Fantasy XIII)
Despite coming out a decade after Final Fantasy VIII, many of Final Fantasy XIII’s gunblades look about as lethal as bent rebar. For some reason these four all look like barber’s tools. If Final Fantasy XIII had job classes and one of those classes was barber, the game might have been a lot better. Even so, these four gunblades still wouldn’t have been cool.
28 and 27. Hauteclaire, Durandal (Final Fantasy XIII)
If you’ve ever wondered what a can opener that could also spray bullets would look like, look no further.
26 and 25. Lionheart, Ultima Weapon (Final Fantasy XIII)
Although these both look the same as the Hauteclaire and Durandal, they have better abilities.
24. Omega Weapon (Final Fantasy XIII)
The best weapon in Final Fantasy XIII with a max strength of 508. Not 506 or even 507 but 508 big juicy units of monster-destroying power. Even with the cool name and boss stats, the fact that it looks like a pretzel made out of one of Maleficent’s horns holds it back.
23. Punishment (Final Fantasy VIII)
“Two is always better than one” is an old gunblade-smith saying, and Punishment gets that.
22. Twin Lance (Final Fantasy VIII)
The Twin Lance edges out its more powerful sibling Punishment because of better flavor text: “The Twin Lance is a gunblade forged with two blades. The two blades work synergistically to inflict severe damage.”
21 through 18. Gladius, Helter-Skelter, Organyx, Apocalypse (Final Fantasy XIII)
It’s sad but true that the weaker you go in the Final Fantasy XIII gunblade arsenal, the better they get. All of these switchblade-inspired firearms will serve you decently in a West Side tory brawl and also probably get you thrown on the TSA’s “no fly list” for life if airport security catches you with one in your carry on.
17 through 14. Blazefire Saber, Flamberge, Axis Blade, Enkindler (Final Fantasy XIII)
Simple, elegant, and each complete with a paint scheme that won’t make you want to shoot/cut your eyes out, this Blazefire-inspired line is the best Final Fantasy XIII has to offer.
13. Bradamante (Final Fantasy XIV)
This one will probably get me in trouble, either because Nael van Darnus’ gunblade is technically a gunhalberd or because it only made it to 19 on the list. Where do the bullets even come out? Who knows, and who cares—it’s a giant sharp pole with a trigger.
12. Weiss’ Gunblade (Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII)
The most minimalist of them all, Weiss’ gunblade is one of the most functional looking and lightweight. It reverses the traditional design dating back to Final Fantasy VIII and sticks the barrel on the top rather than the bottom.
11. Cid nan Garlond’s Gunblade (Final Fantasy XIV)
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the first Cid to wield a gunblade has one of the cooler ones. It feels straight out of the Gears of War universe with its gear-like teeth on the hilt. Unfortunately, no one has yet invented a gunblade where the sword part is also a chainsaw.
10. Heirsbane (Final Fantasy XIV)
Gunblades are way cooler than guns with bayonets because the gunblade formula, at its best, really tries to fuse the two things together. The gunblades the Garlean Empire uses, which Gaius van Baelsar also has and gave a fancy name to, are a perfect example of that distinction. Instead of putting something sharp on a gun, they make the entire gun sharp. Genius.
9. Ras Algethi (Final Fantasy XII)
Perhaps the most subtle iteration of the concept, Balthier’s Ras Algethi is never used as a sword, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most beautiful gun-centric incarnations of the gunblade.
8. Genesis Copy’s Gunblade (Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII)
This gunblade, like its owner, was never given a name. Unlike its owner, though, it’s totally unique and awesome, like someone took the idea for a sawed-off shotgun, reversed it, turned it into a machine gun, and then turned it into a sword. Some people say Square Enix ran out of ideas when it started pumping out Final Fantasy VII spinoffs, and those people are probably right. This gunblade still rocks.
7. Lion Heart (Final Fantasy VIII)
While I’m not wild about replacing cold, hard steel with ephemeral glowy shit, the Lion Heart has one of the most hype gunblade names and is so powerful the hilt has like, two and a half cross-guards.
6. Hyperion (Final Fantasy VIII)
Seifer’s gunblade is the red light saber of gunblades and has probably been outlawed in 47 states. Enough said.
5. Thancred’s Gunblade From The Shadowbringer Expansion Trailer (Final Fantasy XIV)
This thing is like when you go to the sandwich Kiosk at a Wherever-You-Buy-Your-sandwiches and although you’d probably be best with just a standard turkey sub you instead drag your hand across the condiment screen until you’ve ordered so many extra fixings the computer cuts you off, except if the sandwich were a gunblade.
4. Overture (Final Fantasy XIII-2)
Who would have thought Lightning’s coolest gunblade wouldn’t actually appear in a properly numbered Final Fantasy but rather the two spinoffs almost nobody played? The Overture is one of the coolest-looking swords in the entire series, and the fact that it’s also a gunblade makes it that much better.
3. Godslayer (Final Fantasy XIII)
There’s one gunblade that’s never been discovered. A placeholder discovered in the game files for Final Fantasy XIII references a weapon called the Godslayer with power enough to match its namesake. It was probably just for testing, but also, what if it wasn’t? Some of the best gunblades are the ones we have yet to discover.
2. Revolver (Final Fantasy VIII)
Nothing beats a classic. Well, almost nothing. The mindfuck of putting a sword on the end of a gun was never better executed than with the series’ first gunblade. Sharp, wildly unbalanced, and without any way for the ammunition to actually exit, the Revolver transcends time, space, and our comprehension of them.
1. Gilgamesh’s Revolver (Final Fantasy XII)
Gilgamesh’s Revolver looks identical to Squall’s, except it replaces the etching of the lion on the side with a painted decal of a chocobo, which instantly makes it better.