Mount and Blade: Warband was originally a PC game that released in 2010 and it’s definitely showing its age in 2016. Whilst not inherently a bad game, it’s definitely an aged game that’ll struggle to convince players to continue playing to find the rich experience underneath its issues – but it’s pretty damn good when you get there.
You create a character via an in-depth customisation menu and choose from a variety of options to create your backstory and, due to the time that this game is set, playing as a woman can lead to a more challenging game overall – I found this to be very interesting and overall the dialogue options and text are well-written and add freedom to the game but, sadly, I couldn’t get along with the clunky, outdated gameplay that feels like it wouldn’t be amiss as an early PS3 title. If you are able to see past the controls then what lays ahead is an expansive game with its own lore and the chance to shape your character, but the game will fight against you every step of the way until you get to see what’s available – you deserve the throne of Calradia just for passing the games tutorial stage! However, you’ll have to work for that by building your own army and earning the right to the throne, whilst struggling to earn cash and getting good soldiers to follow you.
There are a lot of gameplay options, particularly in combat, which include horse-riding and battles on them, wielding various melee weapons, using ranged weapons such as a crossbow or javelin, and generally large battles – you can switch between first and third-person views too. The control scheme requires time to learn but this in itself isn’t a problem and it can be a very rewarding experience, but what really grated on me was the horse-riding. The horse would love to get stuck on the environment then I’d have to wait until it felt like moving again before I could continue, and it turned a quicker way to get about into a complete chore – it doesn’t help that your character moves deadly slow in the first place. The world map was thankfully much simpler as your character would just follow your pointer, rather than being manually controlled.
The combat itself is much more intuitive and not quite as buggy, and those with a love for medieval-style games will likely enjoy the variety in combat options that Warband has to offer. I preferred sticking with sword and shield as I found ranged weapons to be a bit temperamental, and I’d stay away from a horse unless I could help it. You can attack opponents with R2 and hitting the analog stick in a certain direction and this goes the same for blocking too – this adds an element of strategy to the game where reaction time is vital unless you find yourself skewed on the end of someone else’s spear. There’s a lot of great ideas that have been implemented, but the budget clearly wasn’t there and much of the game ends up feeling cheap – I’d like to see what TaleWorlds Entertainment could do with more time and money, especially with today’s technology. There’s a game here that wants you to be engrossed by it, but it’s a whole lot of effort!
This game isn’t pretty, although I admit the night skies in the game are pretty breathtaking! The world as a whole can come across as rather barren due to its technical limitations but again, I give benefit of the doubt because this is already quite an old game being ported to PS4 and fans of the series are likely to love it regardless of how it looks but, as someone who struggled to have fun with it gameplay-wise much of the time, I found this to be a hard aspect to ignore. Much of the game’s good points stem from its lore which becomes harder to enjoy when the world itself is visually dull, and despite how large it is, it isn’t quite worth exploring. I wanted to spend more time on customising my character than I did but grew quickly tired of it looking, well, ugly no matter what I did, and the menu wasn’t particularly easy to navigate – menu loading times are exceedingly slow too, taking a good 5-10 seconds to exit a simple pause screen.
The majority of dialogue isn’t spoken and there isn’t much voice-acting in the game past the various grunts and moans from people, and the music is subdued too other than when in battle where horn instruments are used to follow you into battle! It’s clear that like with the story, TaleWorlds have tried to create an encompassing atmosphere that brings you into the world they’ve created and, like mentioned earlier, if you’re able to see past the games many flaws then it’s likely that they succeed in this, but I couldn’t get into the world mostly due to the controls. Audio-wise there’s little to complain about, but it’s held back by the game itself and subtitles that aren’t so easy on the eyes – a text update would have been very much appreciated.
Mount and Blade: Warband is a game that clearly would have fared a lot better back in 2010 and whilst TaleWorlds clearly had big aspirations for this game, they show up only as ideas rather than actions today. Deep Silver have this at a budget price of £15.99 on PSN which is fitting as there’s a lot of content here if you’re willing to find it, but be warned that if you’re buying this on a whim and not as a fan then you may easily be disappointed. Those who are fans of the series, and I understand it’s very popular on PC, will likely enjoy being able to play the series on consoles. I respect Deep Silver for taking a risk on this as it clearly isn’t something that’s guaranteed to do well, but sadly this game just isn’t something I could get into.This is a ‘the more you put in, the more you get out’ type of game and if you can look past how clunky it is by today’s standards, then you might find yourself sinking a lot of hours into this for a low price.