The game is an Action RPG, Strategy/ Medieval Simulation hybrid and on the surface feels bland and outdated but underneath hides an absolute shining gem of a game.
Normally this is the section of the review with a game like this where I tell you my first few hours of the game were mixed, but that simply would not be true. In the first hour or two within Mount and Blade it was no secret that I hated it, but there was something niggling in the back of my mind… something that kept me coming back to the game hours after I had written it off.
So I booted up my PS4 once again, opening my mind to the strange text based “choose your own adventure” style of storytelling and found a narrative filled to the brim with interesting sub plots and storylines. I pushed through reading the pages of text to find myself englufed in the game.
The colour palette of greens and browns did nothing to inspire me, however given the feel and theme of Mount and Blade, these colours were perfectly apt for the situation. I started off as a Nord commoner in a Nord village and thus began my epic adventure to act out the life of “Balthazar: The commoner who would be king”.
This is where the true charm of Mount and Blade really began to take off, I was thrown into this insanely massive open world in which I felt overwhelmed, which is exactly what was intended by developers Taleworlds. You are supposed to feel like one medieval villager that has been thrown into this vast world and begin to truly choose your own adventure.
The swordplay really takes some getting used to, the right analogue stick is used to quickly decide which direction you want to swing your weapon (Axe, Sword, Javelins and loads more!) and at the same time move the camera. This is incredibly jarring at first but you quickly become used to it and ultimately it does not affect the gameplay in the later stages of the game.
Thus, the adventure of Balthazar truly began:
There are endless possibilities in how you can live out your adventure in Mount and Blade, you can choose to become a merchant traveller and buy up silk and meat from certain areas and sell in other areas, increasing your wealth and renown this way. Or, (as I did), you can choose to become a mercenary headhunter that carries out odd jobs for the various lords situated throughout the world and hunt down and kill bandits to loot them and sell their weapons and armour to merchants (which you do not equip) and roam around the land recruiting other lowly commoners (And the odd “Hero character” when you can afford it!) to train them up alongside you and begin your fight for the throne.
This is where I had insane amounts of fun with the game, I pretty much ignored what 75% of the characters were saying to me (unless they had tasks) and created my own story for my character and his band of lovable rogues (that pillaged and robbed when it suited them but killed enough bandits to not get hunted).
As you would expect from a 2011 port of a PC game, graphically Mount and Blade: Warband is nothing special. The overworld map is a 2D birds eye menu while the combat and town maps are something reminiscent of Morrowind or MAYBE Oblivion on a good day. I had a few bugs where the text that informs me of the goings on in the world overlayed some other text I was reading to create a jargled mess but this wasn’t anything to truly moan about.
I REALLY enjoyed the battles in Mount and Blade, you begin on either sides of the field and run towards your enemy in full scale 50V50 warfare (or 50v15 if you play like myself and like the advantage) whilst strategically managing when to block and attack. More than once I was overly cocky and stormed in as the only horse mounted soldier only to get bombarded by 15 Sea Raiders who were not afraid to cut me down in seconds.
Once I had achieved what I thought were enough levels, money and renown I went along to one of the large towns where I was delighted to learn there was a tournament on, in which I could take part. So, betting the maximum amount of money on myself 3 times I made it to the final round of the tournament, where I was struck down by a rogue javelin and lost 300 Denar (Mount and Blades in game currency).
Back into the world I went, juggling food for my troops and taking down (or not) all those who opposed me. I had way more fun with Mount and Blade than I initially gave it credit for.
While let down by a few graphical issues and text bugs, Mount and Blade: Warband is the perfect mix of LARPING and not having to be outside and is worth way more than I gave it credit for. Perhaps a little too late for modern console gamers, I highly recommend that you pick it up if you enjoy medieval settings and open action RPG warfare.
A little slow to start but a pretty great game.
PS4 version played. Review disc provided by Koch Media.