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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Games We Play #1 (Mount & Blade Warband)...

In the interest of full disclosure, we probably design more games than we actually play, and we haven't been doing much of that lately, although we have some ideas in mind.  However, we DO enjoy computer games and probably spend more time with them because they're generally easier and fun to play, especially when you just want to relax at the computer on a cold Nebraska day.  

So in the first of what we suppose will end up being a series, albeit a broken one, here's the first in our survey of computer-type entertainments.  Now Robyn prefers traditional role-playing with customizable characters (Dragon Age, etc.) and is currently rocking Fallout 4 with such ferocious skill that it's scary (I wanna take her to the range and see how she does)...    

But THIS time we're talking about MY favorite: Mount & Blade, or its great stand-alone update: Mount & Blade Warband!   

Oh, and with the holiday weekend coming up, it's probably a good time to tell you we're taking the rest of the month off and probably going to a bi-weekly format.  But enough logistics.  Let's visit storied Calradia, a land torn by incessant warfare and badly in need of unity and a king to make it happen.  Could that be YOU?       

Warband puts you into the action
instead of above it for total immersion...

This underappreciated gem is a role-playing war-game.  You get to design your own character, right down to a very detailed face generator, and explore the open world of Calradia with its various and constantly warring factions.  You can move across the map, visiting cities and recruiting a band of warriors while fighting bandits on the map or undertaking quests for the local Guild Master or village elder, and do so in first or third person.

Oh, and you can be male or female too, ladies!

But you can also visit the arenas and fight for cash or bet on yourself in tournaments, which is awesome fun.  In time, you'll want to sell yourself (and your company) as a mercenary or distinguish yourself and receive an offer of vassalage from one of the many lords, joining one of five factions (kingdoms) and receiving lands and revenue in exchange for your service.  

And it's here that things start to get interesting, because who hasn't dreamed of conquering a kingdom and bring peace or hear your name spoken in awe.  This is definitely the game to do that!

You can customize your character's
appearance and make an original warlord...

You can manage your castles, towns, and/or villages (each is a separate category), working to make your subjects like you because this generates more revenue in the form of taxes.  Much needed revenue, in fact, because you have to pay your warband and whatever garrisons you have in your castles and towns.  Indeed, staying in the black can be tough because good troops DO cost money.

All the while, you'll be fighting enemy armies and laying siege to their fortresses while defending your own.  And all of this is experienced in first/third person instead of the usual, and boring, isometric view of other games.  You can ride into battle on your steed, arrange your forces, and participate in the fight, going at your enemies alongside your troops.  Indeed, one really exciting feature of the game is the ability to issue commands to your various units; stationing archers on the hill, holding cavalry in reserve, and charging with your infantry.  It's serious fun...

Throughout it all, you'll have a chance to gather companions (NPC henchmen complete with unique personalities and a tendency to squabble with each other) and interact with friendly and rival lords both on and off the battlefield, making friends and, frequently, enemies in true role-playing fashion.  Oh, and you can ransom your defeated foes, making a little extra coin in the process!

Walk the towns peacefully 
or battle street-to-street in sieges...

Now, if all of this sounds like role-playing, that's because it definitely is.  Your character (and your companions) will even gain experience and rise in level, assigning points to various combat skills and becoming better combatants.  And the skill system rivals that of many pen-and paper games, which is awesome...

But there's also a strong element of resource management and overarching strategy.  This has been done before, but I really think Mount & Blade succeeds where others fail because of the decidedly personal (role-playing) aspects.  This isn't just some hero fighting for victory.  This is YOU, the player, at work.  

One interesting feature of the game is that characters, and the various lords, cannot be killed.  Instead, your character is taken prisoner, loses their troops (and some money), and eventually escapes to go it alone (at great risk) until they reach a castle or city and builds a new warband to go forth and exact revenge!

Ultimately, your faction may (or may not) win.  But there's always the option of rebelling against your liege and establishing your own kingdom in a rousing final war.  It's your choice, and I've tried both approaches.  Hey, it really is good to be king...

The upcoming Bannerlord sequel
adds much and looks quite promising...
Computer gamers know that sometimes, especially with more linear titles, the replay value is sometimes lacking.  But Mount & Blade is literally a different game every time because you're approach will surely vary from game to game.  It feels like the goals and projects we undertake in real life, which makes it quite addictive!

I really can't say enough good about this little treasure, and recommend it to any like-minded gamers...  
  
Warning: This sweet gem will widow(er) your spouse or significant other, so proceed with caution!  And like many games, there's a Nexus page to download fan-created mods; some, like the Prophesy of Pendor module, amounting to a complete and total overhaul of the original (vanilla) version (each is a NEW game).

Mount & Blade Warband is available on Amazon or Steam, but it's worth noting that there's a sequel: M&B Bannerlord in the works and visible on Steam.  But until that comes out (I'm drooling on my keyboard), you'll definitely want to pick up the CURRENT version to whet your war-gaming appetite.  The graphics are slightly dated, although a few mods improve things considerably, and there isn't any voice acting.  But I think it rises above all that and RULES...     

2 comments:

  1. I probably have more hours invested in this game than any other. I especially like the information design of it; every place, NPC, and such is searchable in the in-game database, complete with hyperlinks, so one can easily check where a certain settlement is, what they know about an NPC, etc.

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    Replies
    1. Absolutely! So easy to navigate. I do hope Bannerlord incorporates some the inventory convenience features present in the better mods, however, because they ARE nice. A small complaint at best...

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