Mount & Blade: Warband Review (PS4)
I have a fascination with running off the beaten track and forging my own adventure when given the chance. While I am not a huge fan of Bethesda’s Elder Scroll series, honestly, finding the combat pretty clunky and the writing a bit banal. Nevertheless I have an admiration for the scale and sheer amount of activities to do if you have the patience to eke them out. Mount & Blade: Warband takes that scale and ambition and ports it to a harsher, more reality based setting. With no dragons or magic in sight.
Mount & Blade: Warband can be summed up in one word, daunting. This is less a medieval RPG and more a simulation of making a name for yourself in a medieval land of Calradia. Home to six different factions with varying relationships between each other. You start off with a quest of helping a town with a bandit problem. To complete this mission you must recruit five soldiers to fight for you from neighbouring towns and slay the bandits. These five soldiers become the foundation of your burgeoning army. Your interactions with each town within the kingdom is through a menu where you can maybe visit the local tavern, take a walk around the courtyard or enter the arena.
Although you can go anywhere in the land, navigating between towns is done though a world map and time only passes as you character icon moves between towns.
Upon completing this first mission you are left to your own devices and are free to head in any direction you want. My first attempt was going to neighbouring towns and seeing what missions were on offer. That idea soon came a cropper when my motley crew and I was attacked by a large group of bandits. This ended with me captured and dragged around the world until I found a chance to escape. Beaten and broke, I attempted to make a name for myself by competing in a tournament to raise my renown (and get some much-needed money). As I improved my skills in battle and finally clawed a victory, my renown increased and I was granted a dinner with the local loyalty and caught the eye of a lovely dame.
The fantastic thing about this experience, is that this rag to slightly more rags tale is one that I forged for myself. I have no doubts that I am woefully bad at this game. My inability to raise a formidable army or keep up with the politics of the various factions is not hampering my enjoyment of the game as there is so much to do, in which you can delve in any manner you choose. Do you want to become a merchant and build up trade? Do you want to join in the complex political alliances and forge a name for yourself with fealty to a faction? Maybe you want to serve the King? Or aim to become the King yourself! All of these scenarios are very possible if you have the fortitude and patience to learn Mount & Blade: Warband’s systems.
Now make no mistake, while there is a lot of content to explore. It is important to remind you that this is a port of a PC game that came out in 2010. Graphically, this game will not amaze anyone.
Mount & Blade: Warband‘s combat system, like everything else about it, is inelegant with surprising depth. You use the analogue sticks to choose the direction to swing your weapon in or block an incoming attack. You really do get a sense of weight to the battles. Knowing that an errant blow could put you out of action really adds a sense of tension to battles as you try to predict where your enemies next strike will come from.
It also helps that all of the weapons actually do feel like they play differently, so when you play with a two-handed sword you can really imagine the heft as you bring it down on an opponent. When you swing a mace you imagine the blunt impact even if the stiff animation of the characters does not portray it as well. I am not as enamoured with the horse mounted combat as I felt the mouse like controls mapped to the stick made it slightly difficult to aim with weapons and ride into battle at the same time. Although there is something to be said about going in to battle on horseback with a large troupe of soldiers against a horde of bandits or a rival army. The A.I can also be very wonky in certain settings. In the aforementioned tournaments, I often had teammates and opponents kind of pile up in a corner of the arena, making it easier for me to pick them off!
6 sieges out of 10