While the issue with Mount and Blade Warband keys has yet to be resolved, I can still play Warband up to a cap of level 7, which is a pretty nice chunk of gametime for the purpose of grabbing some idea of how the game plays.
For those who’ve purchased it but have yet to play it, Mount and Blade Warband is an open-ended sandbox RPG with multiplayer elements and a rather extensive modding community, allowing it to potentially become one of the most daunting, yet most rewarding, RPG experiences I”ve ever had the pleasure of purchasing.
Why can I say such a thing after five or so hours of play? Simple really. The game feels like Darkfall minus the consequences of dying, depending on how you set up your saving mechanism.
The game starts by having you pick your lineage through some simple word choices made through lore. For instance, coming from certain heritages affects your starting skills, and further choices down specific paths affect your starting item loadouts, as well as skill and attribute point placement. The game then allows you to allocate statistics to let you further specialize or spread out skills as you will, and moves on to a a rather excessive slider-based face creation system.
The game then basically asks you to choose one of six starting areas to begin your adventure, and offers some introductory quests to get you acclimated to using AI controlled soldiers along with your own fighting skills. The quests given in-game are essentially identical throughout the different lands, but all the initial people you meet, soldiers you recruit, and nobility you hobnob with differ depending on your starting choice, which can significantly help or hinder you in your quest.
As for what that quest is, exactly… that’s all up to you. What starts off as a general quest for survival can become the tale of a young adventurer seeking to wed into love or nobility by rising through a nation’s ranks. It could be the travails of a bumbling merchant, who never quite makes it in time to sell his goods at a profit. It could be the chronicle of a man who would be king of all the lands of Calradia, and all the deeds he has done to get there. In a nutshell, it isn’t the destination to an endgame that matters in Mount and Blade Warband: it’s the journey and the subsequent after-action report you’ll write on your blog or in your mind that becomes important.
To get to that point where a tale can be told of your adventures, however, you’ll need to either shoot enemies well, or learn how to kill people with a sword rather efficiently. To that end, Mount and Blade and Darkfall have some awesome similarities. Fighting happens in real time, with mouse movement and clicks determining the way your blades travel to strike your opponent. Combat can be brutal and visceral, but never overly gory (and in fact, gore can be turned off entirely), and the AI isn’t dumb that it’ll pass an opportunity to ambush your lone butt as you race to the enemy with your horse, but without your army. Skirmishes can get quite daunting though, as I’ve not yet figured out if friendly fire is enabled, so I always pull back and let my army do my work while I flank enemies with my spear from behind.
Now, given everything I’ve said, it’s actually an action RPG that is pretty awesome in and of itself. If you add the mods available for the game to the mix, you might find that your time spent playing the game will exponentially increase to make up for the conversions people have made to the game. While the Steam sale for the game is over and done with for now, picking up Mount and Blade Warband still feels like a sound decision to make if you’re looking for action RPG fun. Just let Steam refresh their batch of keys for the game though. Cheers.