An Uncut Gem
Mount & Blade: Warband is janky, dated and nearly incomplete. Despite these glaring setbacks, the game is still an incredible open-world adventure in which players have full control over the medieval world that surrounds them. As a hybrid of third-person action adventure games and RTS games, Warband much like its predecessor: Mount & Blade, is a game which puts you in control of a main player-controlled character who can recruit armies, conquer castles and cities, fight random battles, complete quests and all manner of medieval-era activities.
As an open-world game, Warband has very little in the way of direct storytelling as you essentially create the entire story of the game by way of your achievements. You are placed in a vast world filled with different factions as a single man (or woman). The game provides very little instruction beyond a combat tutorial which is definitely a downside as the game is very complicated and features a huge learning curve. That being said, your journey begins however you want as you can explore the world recruiting peasants to join your army, or you can search for fellow hero characters in taverns, or you can even randomly traverse the environment searching for looters. The game is totally open and provides a huge amount of options as to what you can actually do. Marriage, war campaigns, spying, vassalage and even prison breaks are all viable courses of action.
Aside from the headlining single-player, the game is an evolution of Mount & Blade that features multiplayer for the first time in the franchise. This is a welcome addition as it brings the game’s amazingly technical combat into battles with similarly skilled opponents. Fighting a human combatant is vastly different from fighting the AI because of the nature of Mount & Blade’s combat system. When melded with a variety of multiplayer modes (deathmatch, team deathmatch, siege, battle and duel), the game really shines. Multiplayer isn’t unique in any significant way, although the combat itself makes it worthwhile and fun.
Despite Warband’s awesome premise and actual gameplay, the game falls short on the technical side with general instability, lackluster graphics, and insufficient instructional material. Crashes are fairly common and the game has no problem freezing up at inopportune moments. The game’s graphics are a similar affair as they look dated at best with repeated models for the various characters and unit types, drab colors as well as basic castle, tavern and village designs which are also repeated and reused. Although the technical problems can be forgiven, the main problem with Mount & Blade: Warband is that the game almost immediately drops you into the game without any introduction to how it works. Although you’ll be taught how to handle yourself in battle, no real goal or purpose is presented to you at any point in the game and you’ll never be introduced to the game’s finer mechanics such as vassalage or becoming a king.
Taleworlds has created a surprisingly fun game that makes up for its severe lack of polish with a strong basic combat system along with a totally open world. If you can look past some basic graphics and the occasional instability, you’ll find a game that is ripe with content and provides a huge amount of gameplay that is unlike any other experience currently available. Spend the time to understand the game’s nuances and you’ll find a slightly tarnished, but still enjoyable treasure.