Thursday, 16 August 2012

PC: Mount & Blade Warband

Welcome back, the Ranting Scot here with another indie review. This time we've got a number by Taleworlds. A bit bigger than anything I've reviewed so far, Warband is a sandbox RPG. The second in the series of Mount & Blade games but considered to be the most successful of the three, Warband was released in 2010 making it the oldest of my reviewed games so far.

Warband drops you in the fictional, war-ridden realm of Calradia in search of a new life. You make a character by selecting your father's profession, how you spent your childhood and then what your first profession was. You then get to allocate several points throughout your bog standard RPG attributes like strength, dexterity, intelligence and the rest. You then get skill points which are aimed helping you do everything from firing arrows from a horse more accurately to holding prisoners to building town improvements faster and cheaper. Finally you allocate weapon proficiency points which cover all your standard medieval weapons like one-handed weapons, polearms, bows, throwing weapons and more. Once your character has been made, you choose a starting city which will be the capital of one of the six factions of Calradia. Wherever you choose, you will be ambushed in the town streets by a robber. This is really a rather suiting welcome to the bloodthirsty land of Calradia. There is almost guaranteed to be a war going on somewhere, not to mention the roving bands of bandits and looters that prey on the weak.

Very well equipped fellow at the edge of a village

Now you start to find your way in the world. To begin with you'll want to gather some men from the surrounding villages. They may not look like much but they're cheap and they will improve with time and battle experience. Going after groups of looters is the easiest target at this early stage. So long as you stay on your horse, wiping out a load of these guys single-handed won't be particularly challenging with a bit of practice. The first few levels will come and go pretty quick. You can make a bit of money by selling the equipment you take from the looters and by selling any men you take as prisoners. When you've gotten a hang of slashing, stabbing and clubbing your enemies you can look into other avenues of work. You can go to lords and ask if they have any jobs going. Be careful what you agree to do though, courier work is simple enough but a lord at war may ask you to try and rescue someone from an enemy castle. Early on, you cannot do it. I mean you can try, but you will be slaughtered and you'll end up joining the guy you're trying to rescue. Work can also be found with the leaders of town guilds and village elders. The village elder jobs will tend to be easy enough if you're willing to spend time on it. Leaders of guilds will have tougher jobs but they also tend give greater monetary gain. Of course making villages happy will also improve your results when recruiting men so keep that in mind.

So you have a bit of money behind you, some battle-hardened men at your back and some half decent equipment. Nothing will be set in stone but at this point I tend to decide whether I want to stick to keeping to myself or take up a faction's flag. If you want to stay solo, you will be best continuing doing jobs for various people and taking on tougher bandits such as the hammer wielding mountain bandits or the massed bows of forest bandits. If you would rather something a bit less, wholesome, you could of course take on a few acts of banditry yourself. One of the easiest ways to do this is to lie in wait between a large town and village. Groups of villagers go back and forth with goods and make easy targets but you have to have quick reflexes as groups of villagers move across the map like they're on caffeine. Remember, such an act may upset the local lord somewhat. If you keep building up strength, you may just become powerful enough to take down a poorly defended fort. Your best bet is one that has recently been taken over. If you capture it, you have a base to begin conquering those around you. A self-appointed king is not a popular one especially when the six existing ones have enough trouble between each other as it is. Be ready for an onslaught from just about everyone and pray they're too busy killing each other to try hitting you.

Swadians are the guys to be for heavy cavalry

For those who want to join a faction, ask around the lords of your chosen faction for jobs once you have a bit of a name for yourself. Sooner or later one will ask you if you want a mercenary contract. If you accept you will get money from the faction every payday and though it won't cover the entire cost of your band of troops, it will dramatically reduce what you have to pay them. Not only that but you will be asked to help in campaigns and if you join in on a lord's battle and you win, you can get a share of battlefield salvage well beyond what you could get yourself. You must stick to your contract for several months and if all goes well you can choose to extend it month by month if you wish. If you perform particularly well and help out the faction in it's campaigns you may be able to become a vassal for the faction leader. This makes you a lord and as such you will be given a village of your own. This will earn you a fair bit of money in taxes. The village can undergo various improvements which will improve efficiency, make it easier to defend or even give yourself somewhere to rest. Frankly this path is easier than going solo. Even those that want to go solo may want to start off helping a faction to get them started on the road to conquering Calradia for themselves. With dedication it can be done, becoming the overall leader of Calradia is the primary goal for many players but it takes a lot of time and work.. If you spend time in a faction as a vassal you also gain points towards "right to rule" which basically means the other factions won't be so furious if you start your own nation. At least until you start infringing on their territory, then they may get a bit irate.

This is but a taste of what the game has to offer. I haven't even touched on sieges, raiding villages for valuable goods, hiring companions who can serve on the battlefield and later may even become your vassals. The choice and freedom of the game is truly staggering and I wish more games would follow the lead of this one when they claim to be sandbox. For those looking for an instant battle, there is a custom game mode where you select a faction, a pre-made character, how many troops you want to be on each side and how the numbers of troops should be allocated between archers, cavalry and infantry. Then it's a single click and you're into the game in seconds. These battles can be a straight up fight or can be a siege with you being the attacker or defender. The game also has multiplayer and is capable of hosting games with 200 players. The usual game modes are catered for here. Each player chooses between two factions and then picks a customisable class of either cavalry, archer or infantry like the troops in a custom battle. As the game progresses the player will gain gold based on their performance which can be distributed on their equipment. This gold is per round only meaning no player joins a game in full plate armour and mounted on a war horse, they have to earn it every game.

Just this year a DLC was released for Warband called Napoleonic Wars. As you can guess this gives the game an early 19th century setting but unlike the base game is multiplayer only. This was created by Flying Squirrel Entertainment based on their mod Mount & Musket. This brings me perfectly onto the modding community of Warband. In short, it is big. There are mods of all sorts on the go and in development. WW1, American wars for independence, the Roman empire are all covered by mods and much much more. The fact that Taleworlds picked up on the popularity of Mount & Musket and allowed the developers to turn it into a full DLC shows how in tune with the community Taleworlds are and this can only be a good thing. Napoleonic Wars has many regiments (other games would call it clans or guilds) where players get a rank, position and can take part in training sessions as well as organised events such as linebattles and a zombie game mode. Add in artillery and over 200 new unique units and you have a pretty amazing addition to the already fun multiplayer experience.

Multiplayer linebattle on Napoleonic Wars ends in a charge between Prussian line infantry and French grenadiers

The main gripe people hold against Warband are the graphics. Particularly on the world map, it's not exactly Crysis. It should, however, be remembered that this game is now two years old and, though popular, is an indie game. What you should also bear in mind is that once you get into a battle and are up to your waist in dead castle defenders, the odds are you're not looking into how detailed your bloodied claymore is. One tip I would give to anyone playing this game is, make a character and really stick to it for a while. I know myself I am guilty of making a character, getting so far, then coming up with an idea for another character. Doing this, I never get properly immersed in the game as I end up starting again. This can cause the game to seem repetitive. Resist the urge!

 To sum up, Warband offers you the chance to make a life in a medieval realm filled with war and politics. It may not be what you would describe as eye candy but gameplay more than makes up for this. A strong modding community and DLC offers more variation for an already deep game. If you like the sound of Warband have a look at the Taleworlds site where you can get information on weapons and the factions. You'll also find a trial download for Warband there. If you do decide to get the game, I would recommend keeping an eye out for steam sales where you can pick up all three games in the series very cheap. If you're feeling impatient however you can pick up the game now for £14.99 on Steam and Napoleonic Wars is currently £7.99. All three games as well as Napoleonic wars can be purchased for £29.99. The games can also be purchased directly from the Taleworlds site for a bit more but this would also mean you are directly supporting the devs as well as the creation of Mount & Blade 2.

Thanks for reading guys as always hit me up with your feedback in the comments or on Twitter at @birnyb . Until next time you castle conquering, peasant bullier's enjoy your gaming!

1 comment:

  1. Might have to try this game, looks interesting.

    Nice review