Mount & Blade: Warband – PC
Developer: TaleWorlds Entertainment
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Release Date: March 30th, 2010
Nerd Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Within the year 2016, Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord will be released to the public. This highly anticipated game will be the latest entry in the Mount & Blade series, which includes Mount & Blade, Mount & Blade: Warband, and Mount and Blade: With Fire and Sword. Bannerlord will serve as a sequel to Mount & Blade: Warband, which was the second and most beloved entry to the series. From the looks of things, Bannerlord will be an improvement on the series in every way. Needless to say, people are pretty stoked. With this release looming ever closer, let’s take one last look at at Bannerlord‘s predecessor, Mount & Blade: Warband, to see where we are and where we would like to go with this franchise.
Mount & Blade: Warband is an adventure–RPG game based in a fictionalized world reminiscent of Medieval Europe. Taking control of a lonely mercenary, the player is thrust into Mount & Blade‘s harsh world. Traversing a large map through top-down navigation, the player can visit towns and cities to recruit other mercenaries to join their company. The map is filled with bandits and a handful of competing factions that offer the player opportunities for combat and forming alliances. By cleverly manipulating the game’s economy and their own reputation within this world, the player’s goal is to gain control of towns and cities to ultimately become king (or queen) supreme of all the land. There is no one way to accomplish this, and the player is left to their own devices right from the start, which makes the story of Mount & Blade: Warband extremely dynamic and open-ended.
The combat in Mount & Blade: Warband is fairly good. Every character can attack and block from multiple directions, making for a fight system with a good amount of depth. The sheer variety of usable weapons and weapon options also add to the depth. This game accommodates many different battle styles, but the dominant and most rewarding build is the knight on horseback with lance and half-hand sword. Anything other than a sword will always be less than optimal, and there is absolutely no reason not to own a horse. Arrows and crossbow bolts simply don’t do as much damage as they should, but they still have their uses.
The maximum number of warriors in a single battlefield can vary between 150 and 400, depending on your settings. This makes for some rather large fights reminiscent of the Dynasty Warriors series. All in all, the battles in Mount & Blade: Warband comes as close to the feeling of an all-out Medieval brawl as any game ever has. The bliss I experienced from throwing myself into the middle of a chaotic rumble of shouting warriors in this game is simply unparalleled. It’s a shame that the development team couldn’t have figured out how to fit even more soldiers on a map, but this is probably due to PC limitations at the time, since too many enemies can affect the frame rate and processing speed. There’s also a quick-battle feature, where the player can customize their own battles. This is a good feature and I’m glad it’s in there, but it lacks a few options that would make it more customizeable.
As any good adventure-RPG should, Mount & Blade: Warband has a good amount of side quests. There are no main quests besides the quest to become king (or queen), but the side quests in this game are pretty fun. From fighting in tournaments to killing bandits and even herding cattle, the quests are varied and appropriate, offering many opportunities for the player to gain experience and make money. The best part about these quests is that the player is obligated to do no quest in particular, and is free to choose whatever quests best suit their play style. Since the quests are procedurally generated and randomized, they can get a little stale, but by the time they do the player should be rich enough that they don’t need them.
Mount & Blade: Warband has a pretty well-implemented set of economic and social systems. The economy feels involved and dynamic with changing prices for varying goods, and the reputation and allegiance systems make for an interesting social structure that governs how receptive other characters are to the player. These are all good systems to have in an adventure game, since they help the world feel a little less tailored toward the player, with the economy and characters playing by their own rules, not necessarily there to serve the player’s every need. All of these systems show promise, but they’re still not very fleshed-out. It will be interesting to see how the development team improves on these systems in the future.
Of course, Mount & Blade: Warband is not a perfect game. The top-down nature of the map makes it feel somewhat sparse, and for some reason the game really likes making the player waste their time running around through empty cities for no discernible reason. Interacting with NPCs can be like pulling teeth. The game can also be buggy. For instance, I had a playthrough where an error in the game’s coding caused my breweries and oil presses to simply stop producing money, crippling me financially. Due to these factors, Mount & Blade: Warband can start to feel pretty stale and unnecessarily time consuming. The overall time frame itself means that this game will take a very long time to complete. By the time I was able to start a viable faction of my own, the tedium of laying siege to the same castle and capturing the same prisoners over and over simply wasn’t interesting any more. This is the same reason I have trouble completing a single round of any game from the Civilization series. There are players out there who are into this sort of extended gameplay. I’m simply not one of them.
One of the newer components of Mount & Blade: Warband upon its release was its online capabilities. And it’s tough. It’s pretty interesting waging Medieval war against other people online, but I don’t find that the combat mechanics in place translate particularly well to this format.
The graphics in Mount & Blade: Warband are good, but not great. Since this is a PC game, the graphics are highly customizeable, which is a nice touch. The in-fight audio and voice acting can sound bizarre at times, but there are no outstanding issues. The soundtrack is perhaps the star player here, featuring several long Medieval instrumentals that never get old.
Finally, it’s time to talk about Mount & Blade: Warband‘s shining moment: Mods. There are tons of really good and detailed mods made by the community that can help the player tailor their experience to their preferences. From a Game of Thrones mod to a feudal Japan mod with samurai factions, this game has nearly everything. Some mods focus on online play, such as mods that allow for horde-type matches and cooperative play. The best online mod, by far, is the Napoleonic Wars mod made by the developers, themselves.
Napoleonic Wars is so fun and fleshed out, it feels like a game all its own. With muskets, bayonets, cannons, and cavalry, Napoleonic Wars offers wonderful gameplay where players can join together and recreate the experience of 18th century warfare. The best thing that can be said about this mod is its attention to detail and realism. Reloading a musket takes roughly 15 seconds and charging enemies is often more effective than shooting them. This dynamic creates a very unique pacing that rewards strong teamwork and careful strategy. Most shooters and combat games these days focus on fast pacing, which is why Napoleonic Wars stands out as a strong example of how things can be done differently, with no loss in depth or fun. Of course, there is a steep learning curve for a lot of the actions and attacks in this mod, but it still stands as one of the most memorable online experiences I’ve ever had.
Overall, Mount & Blade: Warband is an excellent game that goes a long way toward creating the feeling of fighting in large scale Medieval battles. Its attention to detail is largely to thank for this, resulting in a good amount of depth and open-ended gameplay. It has its issues, of course, such as glitches and other factors that can leave some players bored or disinterested. The possibility for mods in this game opens up a whole new area of gameplay, helping players tailor the experience of Mount & Blade: Warband to their own liking. The online mod Napoleonic Wars is an extremely notable example, which could stand alone as its own game. The development team at TaleWorlds Entertainment were able to accomplish a lot with this game, and I’m confident that they’ll only be able to improve on these aspects with the release of Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord.
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