Mount & Blade: Warband PlayStation 4 Review – Gather The Troops
Overwhelmingly positive is the phrase used to describe Mount & Blade: Warband’s release on Steam but with 6 long years under its belt was it left a little too late to bring to the PlayStation 4? Check out our Mount & Blade: Warband PlayStation 4 review for the lowdown on TaleWorlds war-torn epics debut on console.
Mount & Blade: Warband is the highly anticipated stand-alone expansion pack for the original Mount & Blade launch on PC. Promising to build on the strong foundations put in place by its predecessor Warband boasts an exciting array of new content including a deeper campaign mode, new combat animations, deeper progression in multiplayer and overhauled graphics – although if I’m honest you’ll probably struggle to notice the latter.
Sadly I think that’s where Mount & Blade: Warband is going to struggle. Despite obvious attempts to improve the graphics, it still feels incredibly dated. Even for 6 years ago, the original release on PC, they wouldn’t be considered up to par. I don’t consider graphics to be vital when creating a solid gaming experience but at first glance on the back of a packaged game, I could see many putting it right back on the shelf.
If you’re able to see past the aging graphics, Mount & Blade: Warband is home to a host of exciting features. There’s a solid single-player campaign alongside a fan favorite online multiplayer skirmish mode, although I’ll get into that later.
Launching the campaign prompts players to answer a variety of questions on their characters background and heritage before offering the option to customize the character with familiar sliders and aesthetic options. Outside of influencing starting stats and faction location these choices don’t appear to have much of an impact. It’s a nice touch and adds a little substance to the otherwise lacking personality of the main character, although I would have rathered the option of choosing the stats in a simpler form.
The campaign itself doesn’t stick to the traditional elements of telling a story. There’s a host of characters, many cities and villages, and a huge world map to explore but there is a complete absence of linear story opportunities instead giving the player complete freedom of choice. Many games boast a dynamic story but very few deliver it on the same level as Mount & Blade: Warband. Whether you choose to rise to power alone, through marriage or through the endorsement of various Lords and Kings, the characters you meet and the outcome of each potential scenario is nearly endless in possibilities and really creates a thoroughly entertaining and varied experience throughout the campaign.
The lack of tunneling the player in any specific direction is one of the games most impressive assets but it also presents its own list of problems. Outside of some text dialogue in various help menu’s there’s very little in regards to tutoring or aiding in the understanding of the complex mechanics involved in the political elements of the campaign mode. And these mechanics are introduced thick and fast.
Beginning as a single commander you’re tasked with building an army through recruiting trainees at various villages and towns, hiring stronger units at taverns or meeting other commander type units that can also level skills and weapon strengths in the same way as the main character. As your army size increases, you’ll need to find a regular supply of gold and supplies to pay and keep your army fed and in shape – failing to deliver on either element causes drops in morale that can literally see your troops abandon your side amidst a huge battle.
I probably restarted the campaign a dozen or so times before I felt confident that my starting tactics worked – which was quite easy to figure out after my 10th attempt at building an army and becoming a prisoner of my enemies. Even on the lower difficulty settings the game is very cut-throat. Automatic saving at very regular intervals and a single save slot remove the option of restarting before making important decisions or engaging in questionable battles, although any other method would have made many of the games exciting elements mute and pointless.
If you can persevere through the seemingly needless difficulties of building your army and managing supplies very early on you’ll find a wealth of opportunities unfold. There’s a good variety of quests available that include various elements such as delivering letters between allies, rescuing Lords captured by the enemies of your faction, slaughtering camps of bandits, pillaging villages, very MMO-esque stuff that features familiar objectives each time but focusing on different characters and locations.
Completing these tasks develops reputation with individuals and factions, which in turn opens further opportunities down the road. This is another element that would have benefited from more information mechanics and a proper tutorial. You could quite easily spend 50 hours just building a vast army with advanced equipment completely unaware that you can become a Lord of your own lands, construct various businesses
If you’re approaching Mount & Blade: Warband as a new player to the series you may find the open-world and lack tutorials to be a little overwhelming but if you can managed to get past that initial hump, the campaign offers many hours of enjoyment.
Mount & Blade: Warband also features a full online multiplayer mode but much like the single-player campaign, the combat elements lacks excitement due to the complete absence of an atmosphere. The audio is probably one of the games most disappointing elements and although I could see past that during the campaign as the combat wasn’t my focus the entire time, in a skirmish only online mode it really became apparent.
The franchise is loved by many for it’s online multiplayer and it does offer some interesting features. Player progression through the earning of gold and purchasing of new equipment and different modes such as laying siege to a castle all offer a bit of variety but when there’s 30 people scrapping in a small area and the only thing you hear is the occassional shout and odd tinker of swords, it loses its flavor fast.