Mount & Blade: Warband has been around on PC for years with thousands of players running through the realm of Calradia, trying to unite its warring factions and become emperor in their own way. And there are plenty of paths to take in what is one of the hardest games based in a medieval setting. Now Mount & Blade: Warband has made its way to consoles after years of waiting.
You’ll start the game making your character, their background affecting how people will react to you. A poor peasant woman character is a tougher path to take than a noble of a small house, due to her social standing being at the bottom of the ladder in the medieval era. It is possible to play in that role though and create an army that is something to be feared, but first you need to get through the beginning.
Mount & Blade: Warband won’t hold your hand. There’s a short tutorial to get used to the different weapon types and fighting, but after that you’re on your own. In Calradia there are six kingdoms all vying for power, with wars between them being almost constant. Your free to travel through each of these and interact with the different lords and counts that rule various territories, taking on tasks from them to help build your reputation.
You can’t do this alone though and will have to recruit people to follow you, and you do this by visiting villages and taverns. In villages you’ll get a number of basic recruits depending on your finances, while taverns allow you to hire mercenaries with different skills as well as named characters that can offer specific skills. Word of advice is don’t get attached to your recruits early on.
When starting out it is best trying to fight groups of looters and bandits, but some these groups may have skilled fighters or just be a larger group. Even if you outnumber a group your soldiers may lack experience and fall, leaving you with no recruits. If this happens you are taken prisoner but you will escape after a while to try and build your warband again.
The early toughness of the game may be off-putting to some players because it will be littered with a lot of failure, either from running into an enemy group when you can’t really afford to fight or picking a fight with the wrong faction. However as you slowly gain more experience and improve your character these battles against bandits become an easy source of income, by taking their goods and selling them to merchants. Of course, you could raid caravans or farmers, though that will mean that you will be hated by some of the factions. Other ways to gain income include trading goods by discovering which towns will pay above market rate for certain commodities.
You can also take jobs from the counts and as your renown grows you’ll be given more opportunities to earn money, like hunting down criminals or join military campaigns. This is a big step though in terms of difficulty as battlefields can have hundreds of NPCs, and no battle is a sure thing. Before getting to this stage you need to be aware on how to control your warband.
Your warband’s morale is key to how they will perform along with their health. In battles you will lose some members to death while others get wounded. The wounded ones will recover over time but they won’t be available to fight. As they gain experience you can upgrade their ranks from recruits into more specialist soldier types be it infantry, cavalry, or archers. Then when you have that group you need to be able to issue orders in battle.
During battle you can bark orders to either all your soldiers or a select group, setting formation orders, their movement, who should charge, and who should keep range. These are best issued early on because when a battle starts and the sides meet it becomes chaos. At this point you can try and give orders but you’ll have enemy soldiers bearing down on you from all sides. Since orders are issued by pressing right on the D-Pad and navigating through menus, it is a bit cumbersoe.
The fighting itself can be done in third or first person. The way you fight is dependant on what kind of soldier you are comfortable playing as. For example my comfort zone is sword and shield but some may find being a bowman, a two handed weapon wielder, or a cavalry member works best. The right shoulder buttons affect the characters right hand while the left buttons do the alternate. There are options to change how a character plays but the standard is moving the analog sticks in the direction you want to strike or block, though these can be changed so blocking is automatic.
This can be be a bit of a tough system to get to grips with early on, so it is recommended trying your luck in the arenas in the big towns. Here you’ll compete against other NPCs in what essentially is a brawl with various weapons. It is a good way to practice, earn experience, and money to help get better gear. As you level up, these arena challenges will become easier making earning money a breeze.
If you’re looking for a different challenge there is multiplayer which will allow up to 32 players in a match. The match types include team deathmatch, siege, and conquest. In this mode you’ll create a separate character to your campaign one, choose your banner, and then join a game. In these games you’ll have a limited amount of currency at the beginning to purchase equipment with, and you can earn more by killing enemies, and capturing areas. There’s a server list so you can see which will be ideal for you based on things like match type or ping.
If graphics are your thing then you’ll have to deal with the fact that Mount & Blade: Warband looks like a well polished PS2 game. This is because the game itself was made to run on as many PCs as possible to allow for a wide player base. You get used to the graphics pretty quickly and while they do look dated it doesn’t really matter too much. The rest of Warband runs well with no noticeable bugs or errors being thrown up.
Mount & Blade: Warband is a tough game, but at the same time you’ll lose hours to it just through trying to rise through the ranks in Calradia. At the beginning so many lords will look down on you that you want to prove them wrong. It is a game where you will face multiple setbacks, but with each a lesson is learnt. The tasks may seem menial at first, but when you get in your first proper big battle with all the chaos of swords clashing, archers firing arrows, and cavalry charging the game just comes together. Mount & Blade: Warband is one of the hardest games I’ve played and that just makes it so very satisfying when you succeed.
Version tested: PS4