Mount & Blade
is one of my favorite indie games ever and is truly unique as a sandbox action RPG with real-time, large-scale battles. The first one was great, but standalone expansion Warband
added so much more, including a fantastic, albeit laggy, multiplayer mode. Thereís actually some misconceptions about this latest release, With Fire & Sword
, which I fell victim to, myself -- it is not
a sequel or expansion created by TaleWorlds, the developer behind the first two games. Theyíve officially entered JoWood and Painkiller
territory by drafting an ambitious modder and mildly polishing his work for commercial release. However, it hasnít changed much from its original form as a mod from the first Mount & Blade
back in 2009. It was ported to the updated Warband
engine (for better graphics) and translated to English, then sold as a brand new game to unsuspecting westerners. Needless to say, itís very rough around the edges, but I admit that Iíve still enjoyed playing it.
The biggest new feature in With Fire & Sword
is definitely the addition of firearms. With its 14-century setting, gunpowder-based weaponry like muskets, matchlock pistols, and even rudimentary grenades make their way onto battlefields previously populated by swords, shields, bows, arrows, and the like. The result is a new and deadly dynamic for combat, as itís entirely possible to fell and be felled by a single bullet. New strategies emerge as you try to work around that fact, especially if youíre a melee character that must close in before engaging the enemy. Explosives are extremely expensive and difficult to master, but are powerful enough to wipe out scores of soldiers or even blow holes in castle walls. The latter is one aspect of the wider array of options available for laying siege to cities and fortresses, which are even more numerous in the landscape.
Thatís not the extent of new stuff included in With Fire & Sword
, and I havenít even touched on the basic gameplay thatís been around since the original! Whether you choose to be an independent mercenary or a vassal of one of the five warring factions, you can have a hand in the conquering, destruction, or creation of empires. This is not a game of diplomacy; you must prove your worth on the battlefield and turn the tide of war from the front lines and forge your reputation as a fearsome commander. Soon all will know your name and the story of how you rose to power, so you have to make sure it is one you can be proud of. Fans of Mount & Blade
and newcomers alike ought to be interested in learning more about this latest iteration of the series, so donít dilly-dally, turn the page and read on!