Mount & Blade: Warband Hands-On Preview

Written by Mark Mackay

February 25, 2010 | 08:32

Tags: #blade #mount #mount-and-blade #preview #taleworlds #warband

Companies: #paradox-interactive

Heavy Metal Warband

The Mount & Blade: Warband expansion is coming about due to popular demand from Mount & Blade fans that want to pit their duelling skills against the medieval masses.

Taleworlds has also taken the opportunity to add in a number of adjustments to the game, such as additional weapons and armour.

That’s not to downplay the more detailed textures and other enhancements though. The new scenario editor looks to be especially excellent, allowing you to the change the weather conditions, causing the AI to act accordingly. The latter function in particular means more dynamic gameplay and greater replayability. It’s worth noting though that, while the graphics have been improved, Mount & Blade still isn’t much of a looker even with the Warband enhancements.

What Warband will really bring to the table is an array of multiplayer matches. There are Team Deathmatches, Capture the Flag modes and Hold the Fort, which is our personal favourite.

Mount & Blade: Warband Hands-On Preview Heavy Metal Warband
Attack of the clones

Each of these modes functions pretty much as you’d expect. At the beginning of each round you select a fictional Kingdom, which provides three classes, and select your kit. Everyone starts with a set quantity of gold to buy gear and how you divvy out the cash is up to you. If you’re a horseman, then you might want to get chainmail for your steed and if you're going to be using a bow then maybe you want barbed arrows for optimum damage.

The choice of equipment is extensive - perhaps a little too much so. There’s a lot of choice and when you spend over your allotted gold, the total goes red and you have to reselect kit. It would have been nice to just have an error message saying 'you don't have enough cash for that item’. The interface in general is still a bit cumbersome in fact and it’s a shame that Warband’s multiplayer UI is fiddly enough to prevent quick and dirty games; you always have to tweak your gear because your equipment is so important due to the realistic physics the combat is built upon.

If you gear up with horse armour and a heavy lance then you’ll naturally be unstoppable when you charge. At the same time though, you’ll take longer to reach that speed and your spear arm is going to take longer to draw and thrust. When you sight a target on the battlefield, you're going to need to get in position nice and early if you want to successfully nail your target. The same is true for heavy swords, maces and shield. Combat is all about timing. Because of this, a well-timed swing of an axe or pole-arm from an infantryman will cut a charging horse if the rider isn’t careful – so selecting the right tools is critical.

Mount & Blade: Warband Hands-On Preview Heavy Metal Warband
Charge!

It's quite tricky at first too. You click the mouse once to draw back a weapon and release the mouse button to swing. A subtle mouse movement just as you prepare for an attack determines which direction the weapon swings in. The same mechanic is used for blocking various directions of attacks, except with the right mouse button. The result is a combat system that works brilliantly and requires a great deal of skill to stomp around a battlefield chopping down foes. For this reason, getting kills is enormously gratifying.

While the 3D models in Mount & Blade: Warband might not be the most detailed out there the new textures do a lot to improve the look of the game. The interface isn't the most polished either as the extensive equipment repertoire can be a little annoying, but these minor issues will vanish from your mind as soon you get into battle.

The combat system is simply exquisite and lends itself equally to drawn out duels or massive skirmishes. Warband is fast-paced when it needs to be and is guaranteed to leave you wanting more – at least, if our time with the game is anything to go by anyway. This is a title we’ll be watching very closely.

Mount and Blade is scheduled for a mid-March release on PC, but in the mean time you can let us know your thoughts in the forums or check out our review of the original game.
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