by Ingvi Snædal
reviewed on PC
When the game starts, it throws you straight into the deep end of the pool with a dumbbell strapped around your waist. You are given a brief tutorial about how to move, fight, ride a horse and destroy objects, but when you get to the actual game, you'll have no idea how to raise an army, how to set up a trade route, or how to command your soldiers during a battle (reading the manual helps). Not to mention the fact that you start alone and bandits, looters, and brigands normally travel in groups of five to fifteen. Some players will have to start the game a few times before even having a chance to amass a small company of men without being robbed and kidnapped before getting to the mercenary camp.
This time around, you will not be able to hire men straight from the villages. There are five mercenary camps on the map, each supplying troops of a certain nationality. When you have a bit of extra cash on you, you can upgrade the equipment by buying it from the mercenary captain. The problem is that if you upgrade the equipment, those soldiers will become more expensive. This means that you'll have to be careful not to splurge on the best armour and weapons as soon as you have a few extra coins, because you may end up in a situation where you can't afford to hire soldiers, as you yourself have made them too expensive. This system does, however, mean that you can customise the equipment of your soldiers to fit the level you are on.
The addition of guns and grenades means that you'll have to be much more tactical in the command of your soldiers. Letting the cavalry charge mindlessly towards the enemy is sure to result in their total annihilation once they get in range of the enemy musketeers, and the remaining stragglers will be picked off by the pikemen and halberdiers. Rambo tactics will not work, and when faced with a larger army, you might want to think twice before engaging them in battle. This added level of thought-provoking strategy may act as a deterrent on the more casual gaming crowd, but for those of us pining for an intellectual challenge in an era dominated by mindless shooters, this game comes as a drop of fresh water to a pretty muddy pool.
Another neat little addition to this game is a trade system. When playing Warband, you would have to ride between places carrying the goods yourself, but in With Fire and Sword, you can simply arrange a trade caravan with the mayor of a city and he will send it to the city of your choice, leaving you free to roam through the lands looking for trouble while the caravan does the tedious map-travel bit for you. The addition of an auto-follow option, aptly named “accompany”, is a welcomed one, as it makes following a nobleman into war much less tedious than constantly clicking on the ground was in Warband.
The multiplayer aspect has always been a nice little distraction in Mount&Blade. While most of the time will be spent on the single player campaign, it is nice to be able to exit that part and go for some good old mindless multiplayer mayhem. A new feature in this game is the Commander mode. This is a team deathmatch mode where every player gets a small team of men to command. The player chooses if he wants to be cavalry, infantry or marksman, and then sets out to wreak havoc on the opposing team. Seeing as these servers allow for up to 64 players, each with a squad of soldiers under his command, the action can get very hectic, but it's a blast to play.
A Welcoming Bunch
Mount&Blade has made a name for itself as an easily moddable, community driven game, and it is therefore no wonder that it has such a strong following. The original saw mods ranging from the Wild West to Star Wars, and everything in between, and with all that user generated content, players who invest in a Mount&Blade game are sure to get much more bang for their buck when the modders have had time to get their creative little hands dirty.
This series will always have a special place in my heart, for the simple fact that it brings gaming back to its roots. It is an open world RPG with countless options presented to the player. You choose how you play this game, and with this game being virtually bug-free (compared to the state Warband was in upon release) and the addition of the new multiplayer mode, I could easily see myself playing nothing else for the next few months.
TaleWorlds might want to hire an editor to go over a few of the grammatical errors in the dialogue though.
Thought-provoking tactical firearm combat, same glorious combat system.
Very difficult beginning.