Mount & Blade: Warband Review

Have you ever played a game that seemed like it would be fun, enjoy it for the first hour or two only to realize the game just isn’t for you? Yeah, I think we all have. Mount & Blade: Warband is a deep and rich medieval era role playing strategy game that I really couldn’t get into for very long, though it offers a fairly unique, albeit sloppy experience. It’s not that there isn’t enough content to delve into, it’s that there is too much content and generally feels overwhelming. Naturally, you’re left with hundreds of hours of gameplay to build up an army and expand your favored nation. However, something feels missing from the overall experience, making it all rather mediocre.

The game is fairly simple yet overly complex at the same time. You start out by customizing a character—to great lengths I must add—and thrown into a situation that gives you a quest. Unfortunately, you can’t just go into the game and inherently know what to do. There’s an obscenely large wall of text to read for just about anything and there’s a lot of game mechanics and simulated diplomacy to understand. It does have the courtesy not to shove it's infodumps in your face at once. After you’ve learned how to take care of yourself and complete the initial quest, you're free to do whatever you please with your time. You can look around for more quests, help out a king, overthrow a country, or attack bandits outside of town. Honestly, it’s not that exciting.

I’m not hating on the game, there just isn't much to it. The game lacks a significant objective. There are quests and NPCs, but there is no mainline story or quest to follow, which makes it feel as if there isn’t anything to do. My game consisted of building a small army, buying goods, travelling the map, getting killed, buying more goods, getting looted, rebuilding my army, buying even more goods, and selling them. Aside from that, I did an occasional quest or two every so often, but the difficulty curve is so steep unforgiving, and overwhelming. Fortunately, the game isn’t too hard once you figure out the best ways to go about your adventure, though the number of losses can be absolutely devastating and annoying when they happen.

The game's concept sounds fun though in practice, it is average at best. It’s tedious and lacks direction - ideal traits for anyone who’s played Mount & Blade or looking to spend the next week or five in front of their television. Multiplayer in Mount & Blade: Warband makes life a bit less pathetic and truly extenuates one of the best parts of the game without the need for tedium: combat. The combat system is a bit wonky with the PS4 controller, but it’s still fun and refreshing compared to the single-player campaign. You can battle with up to 32 players in a massive brawl, and while it’s nothing new and amazing, it’s nice to have the option to play something less demanding.

The screenshots included with this review may not appear to be from a game that came out in 2016. I understand if someone were confused to see a game like this released alongside other, more visually appealing medieval adventures like Shadows of Mordor and Dark Souls III. Originally, Warband was a 2010 expansion based on a game released in 2007. Even for the year it was originally released, Mount & Blade doesn’t hold up compared to other games out around the same time. It looks decent if you don't mind the low-res textures and focus instead on the advanced mechanics. And yet, the visuals really could benefit from an upgrade. It is bothersome at times to see your character riding a horse whose head is the shape of cheese wedge. I may be exaggerating a bit, but it’s a point worth talking about as it might be one of the game’s biggest obvious flaws.

I have to be honest, after only a few hours of playing the game, I got bored and lost motivation to keep playing. The game just doesn’t have enough in terms of story-telling or exploration to keep me interested, and while the quests give you a reason to explore, there's very little change in scenery. They’re basically all the same areas in different places and unpolished to boot. It wasn’t all that bad, though, since there were several occasions in which I enjoyed trading goods with the many towns in the game, and I feared for my life every time I went somewhere I thought was dangerous. The latter half might not be the most pleasurable, though. Mount & Blade: Warband is very much like Dungeons & Dragons in multiple ways. For one, the atmosphere matches well, but the most important similarity is the way it takes unprepared players by surprise. It takes hours to make your character and figure out how to play, but the problem is that this game is a bad Dungeon Master. It does leave the potential for a good game, but you still can’t have fun with a bad DM.

Most of my time is dedicated to tearing apart games and movies, then telling you what I think about it. I've been a gamer since birth, practically born with a controller in my hand. I've always spoke my mind, so critique was a natural fit. Twitter: @Jsrf38