A Long-standing Love Affair
The Mount&Blade games are some of the most difficult games for me to review. The problem being that I actually have to stop playing them in order to start writing. TaleWorlds have managed to create such a realistic medieval simulator that history geeks like me abandon even the tiny specks of social lives we had in order to get one more fight in. Its naturalistic combat system, detailed and complex political system, and vast open world combine to make a thoroughly immersive gameplay experience.
I reviewed Mount&Blade: Warband a few months ago and, seeing as this game has the same engine with a few tweaks here and there, most of my praises and concerns hold true in Mount&Blade: With Fire and Sword. If you don't know what the Mount&Blade games are all about, I invite you to read the Warband review as I will be assuming that you have, or are at least familiar with the series, for this review.
The Power of Imagination
The graphics of these games have long been the target of ridicule by some reviewers, but I have always been of the opinion that it is not important how many polygons a model has, or how many pixels you can display. What is important is how you make use of the engine and what kind of world you manage to create with it. Aesthetically, the visual design of these games is targeted towards realism in costume design, weapon design, and setting. When playing Mount&Blade, that is what you want to see.
The shoddy facial features, the robotic animations, and funny looking flora on the battlefield really don't matter when your pistol punches a hole in the forehead of a musketeer who is frantically trying to reload his weapon. Of course, there's nothing in the game indicating that the musketeer is in a frantic state, or that there is a hole in his forehead, but that's my point: There doesn't need to be as you will be so immersed in the realistic feel of this game that your imagination fills in the blanks that the game's graphics engine leaves open. The musketeer will, however, curse at you in Polish as he draws his final breath.
The Familiar becomes Unfamiliar
Despite being a stand-alone game, Mount&Blade: With Fire and Sword comes at a measly 14.95 euros. This is because it is basically Warband with a few additions and a new setting. Set in 17th century Europe, the land of Calradia, which fans of the series have come to know and love, has been replaced with a map of Eastern Europe, spanning from the Russian city of Cherkessk in the east, to the western Swedish city of Königsberg (modern day Russian city of Kaliningrad), and from the southern Black Sea to the northern Gulf of Finland.
This is where five great historical nations battled it out for dominion of the land. The Kingdom of Sweden, the Polish Republic, the Muskovite Tsardom, the Crimean Khanate and the Cossack Hetmanate all waged war with one another, and with the newly acquired technological wonders of pistols, muskets, and grenades, did so in the most costly manner. As a nameless wanderer, you get to choose with which faction to align yourself, if any, and how far up the social ladder you want to climb.
Thought-provoking tactical firearm combat, same glorious combat system.
Very difficult beginning.