Game: Mount & Blade: Warband
Publisher: Paradox Interactive, 2010
Version Reviewed: Patch 1.153
Mount & Blade: Warband is an unique medieval fighting game presented primarily in third person. Warband has impressively combined major RTS elements with immersive third person fighting gameplay, allowing the player to not only command their own army, but fight alongside it as well.
Single player features a real time ‘click-to-move’ overworld where you traverse the lands with your warband party, fighting enemy parties, visiting castles and villages for trading or recruitment and waging war on the enemy faction’s settlements. The actual fighting is done in a similar style to the Total War games, only you get to participate in the battle yourself. Once you engaged in a fight, you play as your personal character in the field of battle alongside your entire warband to fight the enemy, at this point you can give specific commands to your soldiers as you charge in (usually on a somewhat-valiant steed) and roll some heads for yourself.
Single player Warband is basically a large sandbox RPG. You don’t have any real objective or direction when you start the game, but you will generally work your way into becoming a mercenary for one of the 5 factions and help them destroy the enemy and take their castles in the name of your King. Eventually you will work your way up the ranks, swearing an oath to the King and making friends and enemies with the other vassals in your kingdom.
This is when you can start to influence the actions of the kingdom. You can work together with other lords to accuse others of treason or marry into one of the many nobles of the realm which provides different benefits to male and female player characters.
Sick of capturing castles for your King only to have them bestowed upon another vassal? Well you can start your own faction! Provided you are strong enough and you can support a war effort on your own, you are free to capture castles in your own name and take over Calradia for yourself! With a little convincing, those Lords you spent all that time sucking up to might even decide to renounce their oath to their King and join you…
Multiplayer Warband has a rather competitive community, most servers run Battle mode which is round based combat, once you die you spectate until one team wins. Since there are 4 directions to block and attack when fighting with melee weapons, the game is quite hard to master, becoming a pro in multiplayer takes a lot of practice. You can’t just hack and slash and hope for the best, you need to pay attention to what your opponent/s are doing and act accordingly.
There is also huge potential for modding, there are already loads of popular total conversion mods for Warband including 13th Century Europe mods, Musket era mods, Cowboy era mods and some fantasy style mods.
Controls and player movement are very clunky, but they work exactly like they should. The game provides skill-based multiplayer and a fun single player that will give you hours upon hours of play before you get bored (I’ve played 700~ hours of Warband and have yet to ‘finish’ a single player game as my own faction). Moreover, there aren’t many games like this out there. Sure there are medieval RPGs and RTSs, but none that combine both into a fun little package that offers such freedom, not to mention the modding potential.
The game universe goes far deeper than the average player might consider. The Kings and Lords and Ladies of the realm all have a relationship with one another and an attitude towards war which determines who they will pledge their allegiance too, who they will quarrel with and how they will act. Even the minor act of raiding and burning a village can have huge impacts in the game in many ways, the village will hate you (obviously), the Lord reigning over it will dislike you, the city it belongs to will suffer in terms of economy and produce less income, this could cause even more backlash to the player who may one day own these fiefs their selves. With all these variables things can become a little buggy at times, but it mostly works.
There is a very intricate system at play here and the developers have really tried to capture the political and economical systems that went on in medieval Europe on a grand scale.
While the graphics are a small upgrade from the original Mount & Blade, they still aren’t exactly up to scratch with the high standards of 2010.
The sounds of battle (weapons, war cries and death) are moderately satisfying, but there are barely any voices in the game. However there is a nice soundtrack to both the battles and while traversing across the land.
There are many people out there who would find a game like this totally boring, with no given objective to complete it can be easy to get bored.
Then there are people like me who come across a game like this and see the potential for adventure in a huge medieval sandbox where you can command an army, fight with your army and ultimately coordinate a war on a large scale. And for others it’s all about the multiplayer.
Whether you are a fan of competitive medieval combat games, or a fan of medieval RPGs and large battles, this is definitely one to try.
I give Mount and Blade: Warband 8/10