Warband is a stand-alone expansion to the original Mount & Blade role-playing game that released around 8 years ago. It also comes to next generation consoles almost 6 years after it released on PC in 2010, so this isn’t a new game by any means. In fact there are a few things that should be in this game that aren’t, such as the Viking Conquest and Napoleonic Wars expansions. Also there is no modding in the console version of Warband, but that was to be expected. After so many years, does this game still hold up to the test of time?
So as this is the first game on the PS4, it’s a good thing that you don’t need to really play the original game in order to get into this one. Warband takes place in a land called Calradia, and allows you a certain amount of freedom similar to the Elder Scrolls games. However, where it falls short in comparison to the Elder Scrolls is that it looks nowhere near as good. In fact I’d argue that Warband is the equivalent of a late PS2 game in the graphics department. Character and object models are very basic, textures are also very simple. The outer environment looks better, but you won’t be astounded by the graphics in Warband.
Good looks don’t make a game though, and where Warband lacks in the technical department, it tries to make up for in it’s gameplay. There is a lot going on here, and a lot of aspects you need to get used to. The combat system is unique as each weapon can be used in different ways, and can damage the enemy in different ways, depending on the situation in which it is is being used. The damage from your weapon will change depending on which direction you swing from, if you’re moving, where you are going, how close your enemy is, and also takes into account other factors such as being on a horse. For example, if you mount a horse, you may only be able to do thrusting attacks.
There is a lot of depth in the combat, and although maybe a little complex, is very satisfying when you get the hang of it. Whereas the Elder Scrolls games will have you mashing a button over and over again, Mount & Blade makes the situations you are in count. Although that’s not to say that the combat is perfect. The controls on console are very odd, for example the right stick which controls the camera, is also used to control the direction which you attack in, which is not great as it means you can’t see the action you need to. There are also times when an attack doesn’t damage an enemy, when it should, and vice-versa when you completely miss the enemy and he falls over dead. This is more of an issue in Warband’s online mode, but may be related to lag more than the game design itself. The controls feel weren’t designed for console, and it shows.
The single-player campaign in Warband is quite good, but the game itself is quite buggy. The concept behind Mount & Blade: Warband is that it is all about fighting wars and politics, and most of the game can be played whilst mounted on a horse. You can direct your armies and place soldiers in specific positions in order to attack or defend castles. There is an exceptional amount of freedom, and you can choose to align with one of the 6 factions in the game, or if you wish, you can capture a town or city and create your own faction. You can also influence lords and marry ladies in order to increase your political power.
Another thing that is quite cool is the economy system in Warband. It takes some time to learn what and where to buy items, and where to sell the items for a profit. Managing the finances of your army is another part of the game that is quite interesting, because the stronger you get, the more you are attacked and the more money you need to rebuild things and keep your allies. It’s a unique balancing act that I’ve not experienced in any other game, or at least to this extent.
Apart from these aspects though, there isn’t much of a backstory in Mount & Blade: Warband. It’s quite disappointing actually that the developers didn’t think that this game needed something to tie it all together. The faction that you are part of provides you some protection in the initial part of the game, and the rest of the game you have to do menial tasks for the rulers in the area. These can influence the politics of the land. You can recruit followers, and train them up etc. but everything feels like it takes an age to do. In the meantime, the world’s politics continue to move forward and you will continuously hear news of rulers that have died or triumphed. You will also be attacked by raiders and can choose whether to fight back, or not. Word to the wise, if you’re outnumbered, you will most likely die. I
When Warband originally released, the online mode was the main reason it existed. The original game doesn’t have any sort of competitive multiplayer, but Warband introduces this feature. The multiplayer modes are standard fare for what you might see in a shooter, e.g. deathmatch, capture the flag etc. I would have expected some more RPG-style multiplayer, where multiple people work together to take down a large enemy or something, but that is not the case. There are some more unique modes where you have to get to the centre of the enemy’s castle, but the balance of the levels is off as one team tends to have an advantage based on the environment usually.
Mount & Blade: Warband is quite a unique game, and that is what it has got going for it. It’s fun to play because there’s nothing really like it on the PS4, but it is a very niche game. If you’re a fan of Skyrim for example, you won’t necessarily like Warband, but you might. There’s quite a lot of depth in the gameplay aspects that take a while to get into, which is pretty fun to learn, but it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s disappointing that this port doesn’t add anything new, but it’s price point means it might be worth trying for RPG fans, however I can’t say it is for everyone.
This review is based on the PS4 version of the game.
- Replay Value