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Bev Chen
18 Sep, 2010

Mount and Blade: Warband Review

PC Review | Saddle up for this fun ride.
One thing is certain about the video games nowadays: there is no shortage of games that use medieval settings. However, most of them, especially in terms of mainstream and popular titles, use some sort of fantasy element. More than likely, the element in question is a magic system, featuring spells that protect the player and wreck havoc at the press of a button.

Mount & Blade: Warband is not one of these games. In fact, it takes away anything fantastical and replaces it with a realistic, Middle-Ages setting. As a newer version of 2008’s action role-playing game, Warband features, amongst other things, enhanced AI, re-balanced combat, improved graphics, a new nation and a multiplayer mode. So do these improvements result in a better version of the game? The short answer is yes. The long answer? Read on...

Warband, like a great number of sandbox games, allows you to customise their avatar’s appearance and backstory before thrusting them into the wild world of Calradia. But while the very first mission may cause you to think that there is a deeply-rooted story mode, the game really is as free-roaming as it gets. Time does not stand still for you; wars will begin and end, towns will grow and prosper, even without your influence. That’s not to say that nothing you do will have an impact on the game world. Want to win a lady’s heart? Sure. Want to raze a village for no reason at all? Absolutely. Want to establish a trade business and spend your time carting goods from one end of the map to the other? The game tailors to that too.

Hmm, what shall I get up to today?

Hmm, what shall I get up to today?
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Adventuring aside, the thing you will be doing the most of is battle. Of course, it would be unfair for Warband to expect you to defeat your enemies all on your own. Starting out, you will only be able to hire a few low-level recruits, but as time goes by you will be able to afford greater numbers of more powerful troops. Additionally, there are NPCs scattered throughout the land, each with their own personalities and talents, who can join you on your quest.

Warband boasts a combat system that is intuitive and simple, yet tricky to master. It takes far more skill to defeat your enemies than just blindly swinging/firing your weapon. Successfully damaging enemies requires many things to be taken into account: the weapon you are using, the speed you are approaching the enemy at and of course, location. How much damage you do with a weapon depends on how proficient you are with it. Approaching an enemy at a high speed will cause more damage than if you ride towards them at a slow trot. Obviously, an arrow fired a metre away from the enemy is going to have a higher rate of finding its mark than if you fire it from the other side of the castle.

But what do we mean by ‘intuitive’? As you can tell by now, Warband’s combat relies on far more than rapid clicking. After a few battles, you will begin to notice that your character will attack depending on the angle you move the mouse at. So for example, if you move your mouse inwards towards you, your character’s animation will match that. Upon releasing the mouse button, your character will slice outwards with his/her sword. It makes perfect sense and feels very natural. Different weapons work in different ways, but being a primarily melee-based game, the complexities of the system are demonstrated best using melee weapons.

CHARGE!

CHARGE!
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Fans of strategy games may be pleased to note that Warband gives you control of your army’s tactics and movement. Actually, it is the illusion of control. The reality is that commanding troops doesn’t make much of a difference as they end up attacking your enemies quite aggressively anyway. This can get annoying, especially if you are at the front of your attack party since you will quickly find yourself being trapped in from all sides by friend and foe alike. Other than that, combat is exhilarating and satisfying, especially in the face of impossible odds.

The other major gameplay element of Warband is diplomacy, which mostly comes in handy when you pledge allegiance to a faction and have to deal with their ruler and his vassals. You will find that getting others to like you results in many perks, such as castles and support in your many endeavours, devious or not. There are also many sneaky ways to make your way up the ranks, such as spreading malicious rumours and helping claimants usurp the throne. Unfortunately, diplomacy still isn’t as complex as it potentially could be; sometimes the game will only give you two options when really, it feels as though there should be more. It would be nice to be able to threaten or coerce others, but it is still fun to jerk chains around and read some of the insults those against you can throw.

One of the major complaints of the original Mount & Blade was that you could not seize control of a nation, nor could you start your own faction. No matter how powerful you got, you were essentially stuck with your ragtag squad, riding aimlessly around the land. Warband changes this for the better. While the game still does not allow you to usurp leaders, you are now able to form your own faction and allocate vassals to serve you, which opens up a whole new world of opportunities.

But all I ever did was soil your good name...

But all I ever did was soil your good name...
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If the limitless possibilities of Warband’s single-player campaign isn’t going to suck all your time already, the game also features a multiplayer mode, a logical extension of the excellent combat system. Featuring modes typical of multiplayer action games such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag, amongst others, Warband supports up to 64 players slicing and piercing their way to victory at once. Players can also customise their equipment to increase statistics such as attack, defence and speed (on horseback). Games mostly run well and are lag-free and well-balanced.

Graphically, Warband has been given a notable makeover, although the visuals still pale in comparison to anything released in the last couple of years. Character models are still quite blocky but the environments themselves are pleasing, with a fair bit of eye candy present if you take the time to stop and look around. Sound-wise however, the game hasn’t changed a bit. The audio in Mount & Blade was sufficient and the same still rings true for Warband. Musical tracks range from being calm and soothing for the overworld map, to being invigorating and triumphant for battle segments. Sound effects convey what they are supposed to well, and although some of the battle cries may get annoying after a while, they complement rather than distract from the game’s chaotic atmosphere.

All its flaws aside, developer TalesWorld has proven that they can learn from mistakes and build on them to create a solid, open-world experience and a great multiplayer mode to boot. And most importantly, they demonstrate that they know what makes a game fun.
The Score
Although there is still room for improvement, Warband’s excellent combat system, respectable multiplayer and a lifespan that will prove to be a total timesink means that the game is well worth the USD$29.99 price tag on Steam. Fans of the action RPG genre and medieval games in general would do well to pick this one up. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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3 Comments
3 years ago
cool more hack n slash icon_smile.gif
3 years ago
Nice stuff, Good to know it enhances certain short comings of the first game.

Great professional review.
3 years ago
Never heard of the game before but the review definitely has me interested.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  30/03/2010 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Paradox Interactive
Genre:
  Action
Year Made:
  2010
Players:
  64
System Requirements:
Operating system: Windows 2000/ME/XP/Vista/Windows 7
Processor: 2.1Ghz or higher
Memory: 1 GB
Hard disk space: 900 MB
Video: Graphics card (128 MB+)
Sound: Direct X-compatible sound card
DirectX®: Directx 9c
3-button mouse, keyboard and speakers
Internet Connection required for multiplayer and Online Activation

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