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Mount & Blade: Warband
Score: 80%
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Taleworlds
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 64
Genre: RPG/Action/Online


If at first you don't succeed, try again. Turkish developer Taleworlds has clearly taken this advice to heart. Mount & Blade: Warband is the official standalone expansion to 2008's niche action-RPG. It took me some time, but I grew to appreciate Mount & Blade, despite its underwhelming production values and unfocused structure. The game's immensely satisfying horseback combat and challenging epic-scale battles have me coming back time and time again, even if the other parts of the game aren't so great. This release delivers a boost in audio/visual quality and a seriously fun multiplayer component. Though it doesn't quite address the problems that kept its predecessor from greatness, Warband is a step in the right direction.

Graphics and Sound:

I remember being confounded by Mount & Blade's visuals. Perhaps it was because I wasn't in indie game mode. Still, it doesn't take a keen eye to know that Mount & Blade is not an attractive game. Yes, this is taking into account the relative squalor and civil unrest that plagues the in-game world of Calradia. Mount & Blade: Warband, for the most part, looks the same as its predecessor. However, there are a few welcome additions that make it stand out, if only a bit. These additions may only be a few select video options, but really, almost anything would have been an improvement. Hooray for anti-aliasing and high dynamic range rendering! It's not earthshaking stuff, but at least it's something.

The sound quality has received the most noticeable overhaul. To begin with, the soundtrack has gone from "loops every few minutes" to "diverse and exciting." It's a major difference that may shock Mount & Blade veterans. The voice acting is still pretty much nonexistent, save for the brutish screams of soldiers.

What's New in Calradia?:

Those who played the original Mount & Blade might wonder if this expansion offers a completely different gameplay experience. My answer would be a hesitant "No." That being said, there are some notable changes that add some much needed variety to the sandbox world of Calradia. Save for the new faction (the Sarranid Sultanate), the freeform gameplay remains largely untouched. Here's some great news though: the quality of the dialogue has been increased tenfold. It's not as good as the writing in Mass Effect 2 or Dragon Age: Origins, but it's miles beyond its predecessor's wooden parlance.

Subtle changes allow you to have more influence over Calradian politics. If you know your history and read any fantasy concerning lords and ladies (particularly George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire), you probably know that wars can be won with wedding bands. Well, you can marry in Warband. Make of that what you will.

By far, the most significant addition to the Mount & Blade formula is the new multiplayer component. The selection of modes is on the predictable side; I like the siege battles, but I'm partial to the chaos of the team-based melee. Regardless of what you play, it is exciting; it's as satisfying to help your team push a siege tower up to the enemy fortress as it is to singlehandedly cut down a team of archers. The multiplayer is good fun, but I don't see it propelling the game out of niche status. In particular, some of the siege battle maps have problem areas that affect how the game is balanced.


Mount & Blade: Warband is worth the $29.99 under one of two conditions. One: you really, really love Mount & Blade. Two: you are aching for a quirky and hardcore multiplayer experience. If you don't have the original game, I'd recommend shelling out the extra ten dollars, if only because Warband offers a more complete experience. However, if you don't intend to play online, go for the original and don't bother with this expansion.

Mount & Blade: Warband is a better package than Mount & Blade from several perspectives. It looks cleaner, the strategic depth is more impressive, and the combat... well, if the folks at Taleworlds ever manage to make it any more satisfying than it is, I will be one very impressed gamer. Most importantly, Warband has confirmed an early suspicion of mine -- one that grew in my mind after the first hour I spent with the original Mount & Blade. Give the developers some time and money, and this young franchise will become a force to be reckoned with.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos
Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 98/ME/2000/XP/Vista, Pentium 766 MHz or Compatible Processor, Direct3D 3D accelerator, 700 MB Hard Disk Space, Direct-X Compliant 64 MB Video Card, Keyboard, Mouse, Speakers
  Test System:

AMD Athlon 64X2 Dual-Core Processor 6400+, NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS, SoundMAX Integrated Digital HD Audio, Windows Vista, Sony DVD RW AW-G170A ATA Device, 2x 1GB DDR2 at 400MHz

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