If I take a minute to ponder about my growing baldness, my very vocal wife or the large number of keys on my chain, I could be inclined to believe that I’m growing old. Especially because I started to be annoyed by pretty much everything, just like your average moody neighbor, particularly when it comes to games.
I am no longer impressed by shiny graphics because I look more into gameplay than graphics, and terrifying monsters don’t scare me enough, no matter how well-designed they are, unless they have some wicked moves as well, while the storyline of most “modern” games seems to me like it’s taken a cue from Pokémon.
So if I’ve come to enjoy myself like a child slashing unknown people over the Internet, I wouldn’t blame directly the vitamins that my wife slipped into my coffee: the game has to be good!
Warband is the sequel to the acclaimed indie title Mount & Blade, which unleashes the realistic hack & slash onto the vast plains of multiplayer, which is exactly what its predecessor was missing.
I do admit that I was somewhat weary of how the game dynamic will be implemented in multiplayer, but the producers laid my worries to rest with a title that is decently-balanced, class-wise. There are no bad choices to be made, and it’s all up to you how you play the archer, infantryman or the rider.
That’s because the RPG part has been completely removed for online play, so you can no longer invest attribute points into skills and the like, since all the character use, from what I could tell, a “balanced” template. The skills can be setup by each server, however I’ve yet to come across a server that abuses this option.
As such, if you are an archer you should find cover by the buildings or on the hills if the map has such obstacles, while the infantry tends to wear heavy armor and wield long-range weapons. The combat takes place in the same dynamic and intense environment, with few to no “cheating” options, such as health potions or “I win” spells.
There is no rock-paper-scissors system to speak of, as archers don’t necessarily fear the cavalry, which in turn shouldn’t fear the spearman, but you have to be are aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each class. The riders are naturally faster than the pedestrians, yet they should not feel secure in their saddle, for a well-timed blow from an axe-wielder may easily send them to the ground, nose first.
Two kingdoms will face each other on each map, although combatants from the same kingdom may duke it out if the server allows it. Also, depending on your number of kills or the objectives fulfilled (for team-based modes) you can earn gold coins that you can then spend on advanced equipment.
Almost all types of horses, weapons and armor are available to the players, and the interesting thing is that they’re kingdom-restricted. This means that if you fight for Rhodoks, you can’t purchase bows for instance, only crossbows, while the Nords don’t have any 2-handed swords for sale, instead choosing to use 2-handed axes (which between you and me, are just as useful).
The game dynamic is ever-present when it comes to equipment. The shield resting on your back will protect you from various types of backstabs, while the heavy armor, with its increased protection, will hinder your movement as well, so you will have to choose between defense and mobility.
For those who cannot afford more than the basic equipment, there is the possibility to loot the weapons and shields of the fallen, with a tricky interface here that will have you lose a couple of seconds to do so, which in the heat of the battle could mean the difference between life and death.
There are some who argue that a kingdom has better gear than the other, which could prove to be an overall imbalance, but I have not witnesses such thing. Mainly because it is less important what you are wearing, but how you make use of it.
The game modes include Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, a free-style combat arena where slaughter never fails to appear and it’s mostly everyone for himself. However, if you are playing Battle, Siege or Capture the Flag you will realize that team coordination is very important, as the brave souls who charge the enemy head-on do not have a very long life-expectancy. I was impressed by the varied tools of war available to the players, particularly in the Siege mod, with ladders that can be raised and lowered, assault towers and breakable doors.
There is also a Duel mode available but this isn’t exactly in the official offer, being more of a Deathmatch server with specific fighting conditions imposed by the owner, which is usually a clan. Even so, it is one of the best options if you would like to hone your skills and practice new tactics and moves, and not rarely I was most impressed by the agility of some of the more experienced players.