Review | Mount & Blade: Warband
A day at the tracks…
Format: PC | Genre: RPG | Publisher: Paradox | Developer: TaleWorlds | Release Date: 30/03/10 | RRP: £24.95
Greg Giddens fulfils his dream of raising and leading an army to conquer the known world in MOUNT & BLADE: WARBAND.
The Mount & Blade series is one of the more unique on the current market, but for those who remember the golden days of yore on the Commodore 64 and Amiga, the premise may sound familiar. Mount & Blade: Warband is austere – raise an army and take what you want – but there’s hidden depth under this simple veneer in the form of a genuinely impressive scale of freedom.
You can shape your character from anything between street urchin to nobleman, and then rise up to the ultimate goal of king – and it’s tremendously enjoyable. The ability to work your way to the very top is one of the few new additions that Warband brings to the Mount & Blade singleplayer experience. Additional tweaks have been made to the visuals and the world map layout, but the rest of the changes tend to be behind the scenes – although one thing in particular that has been improved, and makes a great deal of difference, is the zoom mechanic on the world map, which can now be manipulated to any magnification rather than the two zoom levels of the original. Other than that, it’s familiar Mount & Blade: there’s still no sweeping narrative to get caught up in or any evil villains to conquer. Instead, Warband allows you to live in this medieval world and effectively create your own adventure within its splendour.
Littered with small settlements and cities, the land of Calradia offers a bounty of quests to take up between your own introspective agenda. You’re free to trade goods between settlements for profit, gain influence with lords and ladies to dabble in politics, or take a more violent approach by fighting in small and grand battles for coin, fame, and land. The choice is entirely up to you, but the latter is certainly the strongest aspect.
Combat remains Mount & Blade’s definitive feature, with unique horse-mounted combat and realistic melee. It’s an ‘easy to learn, hard to master’ system, but one that’s so enjoyable and addictive that mastery will come more quickly than you might expect. Attacking and blocking are performed by the left and right mouse buttons respectively, although additional movement is required with the mouse to perform directional strikes and blocks. This can prove to be initially awkward, with the mouse also controlling the camera’s position. Fortunately the options menu allows a great deal of customisation in all departments, so remapping attack direction to the keyboard and checking auto-block alleviates many of the problems. After a little tampering with the controls, what’s left is a solid combat system which proves to be great fun.
It’s further elevated by the exceptional mounted aspect, which uses the same controls as melee but is further affected by riding speed and accuracy. Galloping across a battlefield with a lance or sword in hand before burying it in your victims is remarkably satisfying and rewarding, especially if you manage an accurate strike at full speed.
The combat system is impressive, to say the least, and there’s a real sense of skill required to get the most out of it, but it’s simple enough for players to jump straight in. With combat making up the majority of the experience, it was important the system was accessible, and it absolutely is.
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