by Ingvi Snædal
reviewed on PC
The gameplay is, for lack of a better word, addictive. It takes a long time to get into it and the majority of quests are pointless, time consuming and at times plain boring but once you've earned your stripes and gotten a few men to follow you, the real fun begins. Facing off a group of 28 Sea Raiders with your 34 strong team of men is a thrilling experience and will leave you begging for more. No matter how long it takes to travel between places or regain your strength after a defeat, you'll always be itching for another fight, and more fights you shall have! There is no shortage of enemies to be slain in the land of Calradia and with the game being an open and live world, no two play-throughs will ever be the same.
There is a golden time in the game that occurs right after it's started being really fun and lasts until you pledge allegiance to a certain king. In that period you'll discover a sense of pure freedom. You'll have reached a level of proficiency where you'll undoubtedly be a force to be reckoned with on the field of battle. You'll also have amassed quite a sizeable force of followers and thus, smaller bandit groups will leave you alone giving you the choice of whether you want to engage them or not. In this period, you're free to go where you want and do what you want. Once you've allied yourself to a nation, however, you'll have more money but you'll be obligated to answer the call if a lord needs your help in his campaign and you'll also find it very difficult to traverse through enemy territory without collecting quite a few angry enemy noblemen on your tail. As you can imagine, at this point, that aforementioned feeling of freedom has been replaced by the burden of duty.
Undoubtedly the most anticipated addition to the game is the option of playing in multiplayer mode. The multiplayer modes feature 64 player battles with 32 players in each team. Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Conquest, Battle, and Siege are among those on hand for those blood-thirsty enough to give them a try. But the big question is: Is this the magic bullet Mount&Blade needs to bring in a bigger crowd? In the recent past we've seen some triple-A titles add multiplayer to games that didn't really need them and the fans didn't respond as well to them as the developers had hoped. But after giving it a try, I can safely say that that is not the case with Mount&Blade: Warband.
The multiplayer is fast paced, realistic and at times very chaotic. You'll be standing on one side of the battlefield one moment thinking to yourself: “I'm going to kill those bastards charging towards me!” and in an instant that train of thought will change to more of a: “Who are these guys fighting around me? Where am I? Who's on my team? Well, Better Safe then Sorry! Oops...” In the middle of the fight you'll have trouble seeing who's with you and who's against you and all you have to go by is a small insignia hovering over the heads of those on your team. The insignia is so vague that it'll sometimes blend in with the background and you'll inadvertently start beating your team mates, but to me that only adds to the sense of realism. Not everyone had their native flag tattooed on their foreheads when they went to battle in those days so there must have been a fair amount of team killing when adrenaline-filled barbarians got together for a friendly game of catch-the-flying-axe. The weapons and armour you have with you in the fight can be purchased at the start of the match and changed before each respawn. You'll have to have the dough, thou, and you get some by killing enemies, very similar to Counter Strike's equipment purchases. The multiplayer is very enjoyable, highly addictive and will definitely bring in a big crowd.
Like I've stated before, the game has had its graphics over-hauled but still leaves much to be desired when it comes to its looks. The diplomacy system in the single-player campaign has also been revised and seems to make a lot more sense now. Additions to the single-player game include a new and bigger map and a new faction. You can also become King, marry into money (or for love) and get Lords to be your vassals. Other than that, the single-player doesn't seem to have changed that much. The quests that you receive are mostly pointless and boring, and climbing up the social ladder will take a long time. But this game focuses on realism. It's not trying to be a thrilling joyride of medieval fantasy fun, it's trying to give its players as real of a depiction of medieval life as possible, and it succeeds very well in doing so. That is what sets this game in a completely different league then games like Heroes of Might and Magic V and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. It's much more of a medieval combat simulator than a fantasy role-playing game, at least in the sense that we've become familiar with.
The Character generation, customisation and skill trees are excellent and the game's combat engine is top-notch and definitely has me hooked! If you, dear reader, like action packed, realistic and brutal combat and don't mind riding a bit to get to it, I highly recommend this game to you. With the added multiplayer mode, you definitely won't regret it.
Fantastic, adrenaline pumping, sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat, combat.
A tsunami of bugs.