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May 17

Player Versus Everyone: Mount and Blade Warband

Mount and Blade WarbandWelcome to the very first installment of Player Vs Everyone! Today we’ll be taking a look into Mount and Blade: Warband. The sequel to the successful, you guessed it, Mount and Blade, by the indie developer TaleWorlds. Bursting into the gaming scene in 2010 this version while improving over the old in numerous areas, added one key feature that many people desperately wanted. Multiplayer! Though to my dismay there’s still no co-op campaign (which has seemingly gone the way of the dodo).

To start this review we’ll be looking into the single player experience. The first thing you’ll notice are the strong RPG elements you’re faced with just after starting. You can pick your history, your motivation, even where you want to start! One cool point of note, the creators of the game have made an effort to warn you that playing a male noble will be one of the easiest starts, but just because of that it shouldn’t discourage you from playing a common woman. People treat you different, so tread carefully as you choose your path. After you’ve made your decisions the game wastes no time in throwing you into a fight, while this may be confusing for someone who doesn’t play games often, anybody with any experience will dive right in an hopefully make short work of his opponent.

 

After a little talking with a nearby witness, you’re set about on a quest of your very own. There are bandits on the lose…hell, one of them just tried to kill you! But you’re not dragonborn, you’re not a powerful wizard or chosen one destined to defeat a great evil. You’re just another guy that grew up in the mean world of Calradia. It would be wise to try and remember that when going up against even a smaller, well armored, band of bandits, as they can quickly leave you in a hump on the ground. Luckily you can’t be killed, but you certainly can go straight back to square one.

 

Mount and Blade RTS modeYou’ll notice that when traveling, the game gains a sort of…RTS like quality. You can track foes, run away from bandits, visit towns or even talk to Kings and nobles in the field. It’s a novel concept that we don’t see used often with first person/third person RPGs. It really gives the world a big feel. Especially when you’re given a quest to take something from one side of the map to the other. There’s a lot of land in between, and believe me, A LOT. It reminds me of my days in Eve Online, flying from one zone to another, and getting up and leaving my chair to go do something for half an hour while I wait. Though I didn’t get stopped by as many bandits in Eve…Oh alright, it’s pretty much the same. But the battles here are much cooler. The meat and beans are when you end up fighting someone, the terrain mimics where you are in on the map. You can even lay siege to castles! While it can be a pain to find the enemies in the field sometimes (waiting on footmen to head towards them early on) the battles are usually fast and furious. And a lot of a lot of fun.

 

Single Player Mount and Blade BattleLet me give you fair warning. This is a game you will start at 6 PM one night. And before you know it, you’re turning your head and the clock is striking 4 AM. TaleWorlds has managed to find that mythical sweet spot where you’re completely impervious to the passage of time around you. In fact the only reason this review wasn’t done sooner is because I got wrapped up in a campaign and multiplayer. It is a seriously fun play, the stats are in depth, there’s tons of customizations, and no two playthroughs are likely to be the same. TaleWorlds has heard the cries of the gamer community and set out to give the people what they want. A fun, immersive, interesting sandbox RPG that can be played over and over.

 

While that all sounds fine and dandy, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. Graphically the game has a look of it’s own, but when compared to the polished mirror finish of many triple A titles it comes in lacking. Many times a player can find themselves confused with no real direction or motivation to go anywhere. Combat can be a bit overwhelming at times and getting up the ladder during sieges with your own men can be frustrating as they end up pushing you off for a long painful fall to the ground. While the game gives you lots of freedom, it might be too much freedom for some people who prefer a more structured beginning, middle, and end. And speaking of ends, this game is one of those that can simply go on forever. You can play and play and play and never truly conquer everything, leading to apathy and eventually the player losing interest. Are any of these gripes worth not getting the game over? Not at all, just minor inconveniences for something so fun.

 

Now I bet you’re asking yourself, “What about that multiplayer he mentioned earlier? I thought this guy was a big fan of multiplayer!” Well calm down and listen up! One of my favorite things about Warband is the multiplayer. So let’s take a quick gander at another feature that makes this game so much fun. Multiplayer in Warband is one of the most pleasant painful experiences you can have in an online game. And by that I mean, you’ll cherish and love every kill, but until you’ve played it long enough to get the hang of combat, you better be prepared to eat dirt so hard that people will mistake you for an earthworm.

 

Team Death Match in WarbandDying comes fast and it comes often. Dying comes when you most expect it, and when you think yourself safest. If you’re afraid of dying over and over and over again, then Warband’s multiplayer is not for you. This is one of those games where you’ll need a match just to warm up, and even then if you don’t get the terrain you want, or the faction you’re best at, or hell, even going up against a faction you’re pretty poor against, prepare to die more times then you will care to remember. There are a lot of tricks you can use to help aide your K:D ratio, but none of them come close to the sheer power of lots of fighting experience. You’ll have to earn your position at the top of these charts. Which is something many games now-a-days are avoiding. You won’t find hurt feelings carebears here. Only the cold steel of a long sword as it plunges into you.

 

I do have more than just warnings for you though, there are some legitimate complaints about the multiplayer. Mount and Blade is more popular in Europe than it is in the US, so we’re left with 6-10 servers to choose from. Sure anybody can start one up, but not many people do, and many of the start-up servers can’t find any players. Further exasperating the issue. Trust me when I tell you to avoid servers with a ping higher than a hundred. While TaleWorlds has done their best to keep latency from effecting the players, you’ll notice being cut in twain by swords that didn’t appear to be even close to you. The lower the ping the server the better. As is true for most games, but in Warband it’s especially important. Another complaint I have is the lack of a “stamina” bar. While there is a way to parry and counter someone just swinging madly, due to latency issues, even on servers with less than a hundred ping, is extremely difficult at best and often times relies solely on luck of the draw. I feel a stamina bar would discourage players from simply spamming attacks away. To the creators credit though, with team damage on, it can be extremely difficult for players to spam attacks when allies are running around them. Sometimes the safest place to be might be in the middle of three or four enemies as they cut themselves to shreds.

 

Warband Multiplayer SiegerOf course I can’t forget to mention another incredible feature, multiplayer matches featuring 40-100 players. That’s right. This is a truly massive multiplayer experience, and nothing quite comes close to the feeling of trudging your way past peppered corpses as arrows rain down from the walls. Or bursting onto the battlements for a short, dirty, devastating fight against dozens of enemies with dozens of allies at your back. The sheer size of it all can be overwhelming, but is a truly one of a kind experience that all gamers should enjoy. The large battle sizes are another reason the lack of servers, and the importance of a good ping. Seeing as how you can have two hundred players on two servers, a claim that many non MMOs can boast. And it feels like there’s no joy equal to riding through an open field littered with the bodies of men and horses, which can quickly grow so immersive you’ll find yourself leaning in and throwing your mouse hand forward with each thrust of the lance.

 

So all in all this is one incredible game, and if you factor in the already low price and the regular Steam sales for five whole dollars you’ll soon be kicking yourself for not buying it sooner. Do yourself a favor and take a trip on over to its page on Steam and buy a copy of Warband. Once you join up, look for me on KoA, The_Killing_Fields, or US_GK_Siege. And I’ll be sure to make your sudden yet inevitable demise painless.

 

Final Verdict: GO BUY THIS GAME!

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