"Mount and Blade: Warband" Review
Mount and Blade Warband Trailer - Paradoxplaza
Pros and Cons
- Strong third person action based play
- Combat is fluid and a skillful player can parry and counterattack, becoming a force on the battlefield in his own right
- Mid-game and late-game politics become important when acquiring and maintaining power, and ignoring how any NPC feels about a player might lead towards ramifications
- Not all fights are winnable, so sometimes it can be time consuming to find the right battles - this is particularly problematic in the early game
- AI of your lordly allies isn't terribly helpful until you're a Marshal or a King, within battles and in positioning forces on the map
- Though present, the diplomacy system takes a LONG time and a LOT of focus to get people on your side for late game goodness, and I -feel- like it could have been done better
You begin play an upstart warrior in the divided land of Caldaria, where fortune and opportunity awaits around every corner. As you sharpen your teeth and fatten your purse on bandits and their ilk, you and your compatriots in war will acquire better skills in equipment necessary to take on bigger challenges. Though you will lose many men in your struggles, with perseverance Caldaria will know your name. Ample opportunity exists to become a lord upholding the banner of any of the would be kings, and one day, with enough backers and strength, you might wrest control of Caldaria for yourself as a would-be king.
This is to by no means suggest your progression will be a linear affair. The player has control of the direction he takes in the game, and may remain a mercenary or a lord for as long as he chooses, though the ultimate aim of the game is for the player to one day reign as king. How the player will accomplish such is uncertain, but do not doubt it will lie in no small part on his ability to command on the battlefield.
The Nitty Gritty - Combat
I have to say, combat itself is pretty exhilarating in Mount and Blade. Most conflicts take place in open areas where you make use of a mount (though you don't have to focus on mounted combat during character progression, or even use a horse should you choose) and charge mercilessly into your foes, swinging your sword like a crazed mad man singing the praises of some forgotten war god as your former foes pile up around you.
For combat, you'll attack by left mouse clicking and block by right mouse clicking. In automatic blocking mode (the default setting) your block will correlate to whatever the incoming attack of you're faced opponent is. He might change his strike so changing your block may be necessary. After a block, there is a small moment where you can counterattack against most opponents (though opponents who are using a fast weapon might be able to hit you before you can hit them). Weapons have qualities like speed, reach, and even striking forms, so some consideration to weapon choice become necessary.
Of course, you'll eventually want to be in the business of taking land in order to reap the benefits of TAXING your peasants and better outfitting yourself and your troops. As such, you'll be attacking castles and cities, providing you with exciting siege battles where you and your troops storm the walls up ramps while being peppered with arrows.
While your character's skills determine how you'll be exceeding in combat, there is some room to mix it up. You can pick up your enemies (or fallen allies) weapons mid-combat. If you are holding the walls in some epic siege and run out of ammo, that archer who just got shot in the face next you has a bow and some arrows you can make use of. This is useful as it allows you more choices for what weapons to take into combat from the outset. A character who has focused entirely on archery can take a bow and three stacks of arrows, then pick up a sword when/if he runs out of missiles.
Your allies will help to keep some of the pressure off of you in combat. You can command them with several hard coded commands, and can command your archers, infantry, and cavalry separately. This is useful though the system is not as developed as it could be. More often than not if you play like me, you'll focus on setting your infantry and archers on top of a hill to minimize the effectiveness of enemy cavalry and maximize your archers utility, and generally keep your cavalry with you in order to harass the enemy advance (though it can be more helpful to dismount the cavalry and keep them with the infantry at times). Even so, the opportunity for being quite tactical is there assuming you've focused more on amassing a large force via Charisma and Leadership instead of enhancing your own ability as a combatant.
The differing factions have different units available to them. You can mix up your own force to a certain extent - but advancing and becoming a Lord will require you to make some enemies in order to defend your King and country. As such, hirelings who hail from that faction natively that you are at war with may find working with you too distasteful to bare and leave your service. Eventually, you'll be forced to favor one factions troops over another. Fortunately, each has unique advantages you can exploit! Swadians enjoy the heaviest armor in the game and are quite survivable. Khegerts, conversely, are a horse people who make use of swift mounts and bows and are difficult to defeat in the open field. Nords have very little/weak calvary units but are unparalleled fighters - it is difficult to take land from them in sieges.
You'll begin play being attacked by a single bandit in a major city. After slaying him, a merchant approaches you. You can help him or not (it is a relatively short quest train where you gather five men, hunt down the bandits, rescue his brother, and then rid the town of the bandits), and whether or not you do you'll find yourself out in the big bad world on your lonesome for awhile.
You'll make your initial profits attacking looters and maybe small groups of bandits whilst gathering recruits from the neighboring villages. Your recruits will, unfortunately, die as often as they survive combat, but the survivors will become veterans who will slaughter the average bandit and are able to occasionally kill tougher adversaries. By far the cheapest way to acquire new weapons and armor is taking it off the corpses who don't need it anymore, though you are not guaranteed to recover what your opponents have (this is based on your looting skill). You can sell the excess for profit.
You can take quests from the local lords which vary quite a bit (deliver my letter, hunt down this murderer, gather my taxes, etc.). Occasionally one will ask you to be a mercenary captain in the employ of his king. I suggest you take up this offer - you'll receive compensation based on the size of your force (making payday a bit easier to endure) at the cost of making your lords enemies your own. You'll also be able to raid enemy towns and take the proceeds which leads to massive profits.
Eventually, you will receive an invitation from a king or he will accept when you offer your sword in vassalage, making you a lord. You will be given a village that you can profit from taxing if it is not raided. You can acquire more lands for your own taxation as your prestige and kings lands grow from war. You might one day become the King's Marshal, effectively commanding his forces in war.
The late game ramps the difficulty up. There are claimants you can support and effectively start a kingdom from the ground up, but you may as well try to become king yourself. You'll be forced to use your diplomacy in either case to bring rival lords under your banner, and at first, the world will be your enemy. Yet what is won worth having without risk?
There's a couple of side pursuits you can take for profit. There are trade goods whose value varies from city to city, combat arenas you can fight in, even the occasional tournament where you can bet on yourself for great profits should you win. As a lord you can pursue marriage with one of the ladies of the land, granting you new allies from her family's house. Seeking out the heroes of the land to come under your banner can be a great boon to use, as they do not perish in even overwhelming combats and can develop skills that allow you to focus your own progression in other areas.
Mount and Blade: Warband Trailer - TheUltraAngel
The big selling point of Warband (which is supposed to be a stand alone mod from the original Mount and Blade for whatever reason) is that it features a multiplayer mode. You face off against human opponents in real time, choosing a class (infantry, cavalry, or archery), and gaining money for better equipment by killing enemies more than they kill you.
This boils down to the vast majority of players being cavalry or archers. There is room for infantry to succeed however, its quite easy to shut down horse riders with a spear thrust as they barrel down on top of you, assured of their prowess.
The blocking system is changed from automatic to manual, which means that blocking is so difficult as to be some sort of obscure art form only dueling masters can do with any proficiency. While this seems attractive at first, the focus of melee combat shifts in multiplayer to longer weapons, positioning, and weapons that simply crush through blocks most of the time like sledgehammers and the like.
I found it an underwhelming experience, although there are a lot of maps and people out there who really enjoy it. In my mind it just didn't justify the new release when it was all said and done. Still, it does add to the value of Warband as a game if you're new to the scene, just don't bother shelling out for it if you're the owner of the original game.
Mount and Blade Warband Rating
A strong game with a lot to offer in the thrill of combat, slaughtering your enemies wantonly on your quest to glory. Should you prove your martial might and diplomatic wit far beyond that of any of your rivals, you will one day be crowned King of Caldaria. You can sink a lot of hours of play into the single player experience, though admittedly, some of them might seem a little slow at times when you're playing strategically. It is a well developed title though the end game experience is one of the more recent patches to the game - after patching on a Custom Battle game mode and the multiplayer experience, the developer went on to push stand alone mods instead of polishing the final political, kingmaker experience of the game (though they did offer a fair bit of multiplayer patching which was to be the main selling point of warband). When it is all said and down, Warband is a solid title worthy of your gaming dollars.