Warband, What Is It Good For?
If you can overlook some of these annoyingly-still-present flaws though then there’s a few new things that Warband
brings to the table – though the emphasis is mostly on the ‘few’, rather than the ‘new’.
In singleplayer, the main expansions come at the higher end of the game and are focused on lengthening the playtime through new missions, rather than expanding the skill tree or supplying new abilities. There’s a whole new area for players to explore, but it’s all pretty untailored and impersonal, lacking in the character required to make you actually love the kingdom you're in.
The kingdom though is what the singleplayer game is now all about, with the logical aim for all new adventurers being to become ruler of the realm, put the new faction under your leadership and turn the lords into your subjects and vassals. Getting there can take a long, long time, but the fact that it’s even possible is going to be a major draw for long-term fans, while providing an incentive for newcomers to prefer Warband
over the first game.
Just happened to be there, eh? How convenient!
While the singleplayer side of Mount & Blade
has had a few extras bolted on to help bulk things out, the majority of new stuff has been attached to the multiplayer side of things – an odd move considering the stumbling pace of Mount & Blade
For those not in the know, Mount & Blade
’s combat system is heavily influenced by game physics and has been designed more with ‘simulation’ in mind than ‘action’. Proper duels can be a laborious process, but tend to be incredibly tense and rewarding because the tiniest advantage can make the difference. Larger battles encourage you to keep eyes in the back of your head because there’s always a sneaky archer on a far off hill.
Keeping the physics and flow of Mount & Blade
in mind is especially important for horseback battles, where you’ll usually only get one chance to take a sweep at an enemy before having to circle around – miss and he’ll stick an arrow in your back. It balances out simply because an attack done at speed hits with more force, creating more damage. Javelins thrown from the back of a charging horse are usually a sure kill.
This core of Warband
is mostly unaltered from the first game though and the additions instead come in the form of new modes, with Siege being by far the most popular of all of them. It’s exactly what it sounds like, with one team manning the parapet and portcullis while the other desperately tries to raise the ladders and hold the courtyard – and it’s absolutely brilliant.
Where's my shotgun?!
True, it’s painfully slow. Just making the jog across the field to the castle wall is a drawn out and perilous ordeal – but there’s a real feeling of sincerity that helps balance that tedium out, odd though that sounds. There’s something about a medieval assault that makes you feel like a youngster again, with a cardboard shield on one arm and a stick for a sword. Experienced players can easily dominate, racking up money for each kill and buying better armour and weapons as they go, but underneath it all everyone is playing in the same way and by the same rules. The best horseman in the match can still be your victim if you stick with it and the fact that life is so cheap makes the community unbelievably welcoming.
It’s this feeling of honesty and fairness that makes the game so enjoyable; shining through all the UI flaws and problems is the nagging sensation that Mount & Blade
is what PC gaming is really all about. Big, player-led adventures that balance out their problems with a bizarre, rough-edged charisma. It’s brilliant, even if it is slightly broken.
Of course, that also breeds a few problems. Does Warband
represent good value for money for those that already own the original? Probably not, unless you’re a stalwart of the multiplayer, frankly. Are we disappointed that Warband
didn’t get some of the fixes it so desperately needed and are we annoyed at some of the incredibly basic oversights in it’s design? Yes to both and, yes, in many ways these ruin the game.
But, is Warband
a fun and addictive title that we think we’ll probably be playing for a long time to come regardless of these issues? Yes – a hundred times yes.