Mount & Blade: Warband is an expansion pack to the original Mount & Blade that adds many improvements, such as better graphics, new quests and of course multiplayer - which is the biggest new feature. The multiplayer supports up to 265 players in various game modes, from simple deathmatch to more complex siege mode, and the very expandable mods which anyone can make and it’s very enjoyable. The singleplayer mode doesn’t feel as finished as the multiplayer, it still has some bugs and unfinished features. It also doesn’t have enough new content which is why it resembles the original Mount & Blade too much. So if you are still reading this I’m going to tell you the pro’s and con’s of this unique game.
As the title suggests, the original Mount & Blade focused heavily on mounted combat. The expansion instead, is more about the infantry combat, especially for the multiplayer audience, and I promise you, there is nothing more satisfying than the dreadfully wicked “squish” followed by a grievous cry as your sword cuts through the flesh of an enemy. Listen here though, this game is no Call of Duty. This style of gameplay has something totally unique but you still get the griefing as always. Me and some mates have played on many recognizable multiplayer modes, including CTF, Deathmatch, and Team Deathmatch, but Warband’s unique era and setting make them feel fresh as it pits players against each other in a struggle to take control of castles.
Warband is sort of a mix of Counter Strike and Age of Chivalry. Kill for gold, spend the gold on better equipment, and repeat. The most unique thing i would say would have to be the attack system. Different swings have different strengths, smashing and parrying is also possible with practice. It becomes one of those “easy to learn, hard to master” combat systems that fuels games for years on end. Each faction possesses unique weapons, and while it occasionally produces balance issues, the built-in voting system helps fix those problems as players notice them. My favourite would have to be, the two-handed maces (which made an excellent crunch with each hit), and mounted archery. Different assortments of armour make each multiplayer match a reason to fight harder as you strive for the best equipment, but be warned, your speed considerably decreases as your weight increases, making for a shining target. Full plate, chainmail and leather are all viable options. Combine them cleverly with the right weapons and you will be a killing machine. You could go for a Teutonic Knight approach and cover yourself in fancy armour, grab a tower shield, and wield a swift-striking handaxe to fell enemies as if they were trees or, the other end of the spectrum is equally entertaining, where equipping no armour and a massive two-hander makes you fast on your feet and deadly.
But that’s enough of me saying how good the whole thing is!
It can be buggy. While this isn’t so much of a problem since Taleworlds have been so good at patching bugs for the game, it did release with quite a few problems. On launch day the game had a few game breaking issues. Even when i bought this game a few weeks later I myself bumped into a problem that would literally stop the game from moving forward in any fashion. I was lucky it wasn’t near to one of the game’s automatic save points or I’d have had to start from scratch.
The combat system is really unique as I’ve said, allowing players to opt for automatically targeted blocks and attacks, or designate them by using mouse movement and keyboard movement. An enemy charges at you, vicious axe held overhead, and swings downward with brutal force – no matter for you though, because you adapt to this maneuver and block upward, stopping his attack and stunning him briefly. It’s fast-paced, versatile, and morbidly thrilling to hear the sound of your opponent being ripped apart. At least until someone runs a spear through your back and out of your chest. (Which can be very annoying!) You must also determine the size of your enemy’s weapon this affects the choice to either slice upwards or even across and take him out in one.
The graphics are nothing special, but this is not a brand new game and it’s not the graphics you should be jusdging Mount & Blade: Warband on, the gameplay mechanics should be the focus, and it’s clearely a unique, interesting and enjoyable game. The visuals are greatly improved from the first game, introducing HDR and some cool lighting effects, but still nothing worth gawking at. The music is pretty much the same to be honest. Unfortunately there are only a few different tracks available, and the same fanfare loop gets old fast. It is no doubt that individual servers will be modded with custom sounds and other fun add-ins. If Taleworlds added a clan support system to the multiplayer experience, they would have the elixir for success.
But enough about the fanatic multiplayer! Let me tell you about the campaign.
The singleplayer campaign is just as great as the original. The campaign map has changed a little bit; there are now six factions, players have an expanded ability to lead their own kingdom, marry for political gain, and even force other kings into vassalage. Influence from the Total War series can be seen all over the campaign. You can build up an army of thousands, rule a kingdom, a rebel army, or command a band of brigands that thrives on pillaging small villages and caravans. Quests are somewhat unimaginative and dull, but they get the point across. The roleplay element has been revitalized with the inclusion of Warband, adding more options for companions and personality conflict than expected for a war game. It’s addictive and tough to quit, just like the Multiplayer.
Mount & Blade Warband has amazing potential as an incredibly strong multiplayer combat title and is already showing itself to be one of the best singleplayer experiences you’ll have on a PC. It’s varied, replayable, challenging, rewarding and best of all it’s incredibly fun to play. If you can get over a few minor hiccups and immerse yourself despite the poor graphics, there’s a good chance that you won’t be playing anything else for quite some time, also you can pick it up for around £2-3 now, so its a bargain!
MLG Rating: 8/10
Platform: PC Release Date: 01/04/2010
Disclosure: Community member James Chilvers bought a copy of Mount & Blade: Warband and reviewed it on a PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.