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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mount and.... Musket?

Hello all, and welcome to the first post of Good Ol' Games. In this first little tidbit, we'll be talking about a few points of a new game that came out recently and has met mixed reviews: Mount and Blade: With Fire and Sword. This is the third installment of a successful line of historical and realistic fantasy role playing war games. Although both predecessors were groundbreaking for such a small company, the third time is not always the charm.

To those new to the series, Mount And Blade (hereby referred to as M&B) is a game made by TaleWorlds. The original M&B which released a few years ago was an amazing success. A single-player only game where one could be anything in a fantasy world known as Calradia - within boundaries of the game of course. No farming, but being a merchant was a possibility. The goal of this game was, although not strictly, to join one of the five factions and take over the divided nation. One could rebel and start their own "faction" but no support was made given.

The gameplay is where it really broke bounds - the combat was a highly realistic sword and shield (and two-handers, archery, throwing, and crossbow) styled battle. Use of physics and real world medieval facts supported the combat throughout. Speed and momentum made a huge difference, so utilizing the horseback combat made available only made sure you hit harder - and were far harder to hit. On foot, you have to use your mouse movements and footwork to strike where you need to, and parry or block. In the case of shields, the right mouse button blocked anything to the front of you until the shield broke.

The second installment was M&B: Warband. This was essentially the same game, but with a few added features. One could make their own kingdom and rule Calradia that way - which changed the focus to rule Calradia, and not support a ruler. A few economic adjustments were made as well, such as investing in industries in the various cities for weekly income to support your armies that can reach upwards of 300 men.

And for the third installment, With Fire and Sword (WFAS) we see an odd new improvement. Story plays a large part in the game, wherein the first two games there was virtually no story. There have been quests, but most of it is helping someone do something for some monetary reward. This and the introduction of firearms without the use of modifications are the only new additions. Sadly, they strip away much of what made Warband a far more entertaining game than the first M&B.

As the story is now focused on a historical viewpoint, one cannot start their own kingdom. There are several economical balance problems, such as caravans bringing up several hundred thousand per run. Combat is the same, although firearms and the far weaker armor make survival that much harder. You can only dodge so many people aiming a gun at you before one bullet hits.

This is not much of an issue on the developers part, such as choosing to remove what made Warband so great, but the way the game was made. It was built as an expansion to the original M&B, not Warband, so it could not support Warband's improvements. The lack of modding support thus far makes it hard to improve the base game like mods have done so much for the other games.

A brief introduction for now, but I view the Mount and Blade series as an incredibly fun set of games. They are remarkably cheap, and come with Steam support. M&B is about 3 bucks, Warband is roughly 7, and WFAS costs 15. In bang-for-your-buck, each of these games is well worth the buy. For the time being though, I would buy Warband and wait for WFAS to be improved. Hopefully Taleworlds will be able to, in the fourth game, incorporate the best of Warband and WFAS. Perhaps we will see even more improvements as well.