Last day of Hardcore Casual

Dear Reader,

This is no longer an MMO blog, it’s now just a blog about Mount and Blade: Warband. I hope you understand, but lets face it, you are likely too busy playing M&B:W to read blogs. If I were home, I’d be playing too.

Thanks,

Syn

The above is said in jest, but just barely, and what kind of cruel world keeps a game like M&B:W away from me for so long? How has no one (that I read) blogged about this and declared it the second coming of everything awesome? I blame you all for this injustice; you collectively have failed as a blogging community.

Steam sale struck again, and because I remember seeing mentions that M&B:W had kind of a cool combat system, I picked it up. I believe that happened on Thursday. Three days later, I have just over 30 hours played. I’d like to have more, but the human body is weak. My mind has been playing it during the physical downtime however. Actually, as I write this I’m still mentally playing it. I just came up with a brilliant strategy to secure some land. Oh yes…

As frequent readers here can attest to, I’m kind of a big sandbox guy. I like ‘making’ the fun rather than having it handed to me, and nothing makes me smile like watching AI do something unexpectedly cool or clever. MMO sandboxes, dating back to UO, promised to replace the NPCs with other players, opening the box in terms of unexpected or cool stuff. UO more or less delivered, as have a few other sandbox games. Players however are flawed, because they can also do stupid things that break immersion, or cause perfectly good rules to be changed because they abuse them. For all the benefits an MMO brings to a sandbox, it also brings its fair share of drawbacks.

Single player sandbox games of high quality are rare, especially pure (no magic) medieval ones. It figures that a guy in a garage (plus wife) would be the ones to create such an amazing game like M&B:W. It’s also a slap in the face of the entire industry as a whole that so few can make something so amazing, in so many aspects. What in gods name do you spend $100m+ on if someone can make Warband happen?

I’m not going to do a full review of the game, but I do want to mention a few things that really stand out.

First and foremost is how well the game runs. Yes, we’re not talking DX11 powered Crysis graphics, but maxed out the game looks more than decent, and far more importantly the look of the game sucks you in rather than distracts you. Oh, and it runs at 120+ FPS maxed out at 1900×1200 with dozens of soldiers+horses all fighting it out. Loading times are very brief, and I’ve only had it crash twice (most likely due to my computer just begging me to give it a break more than anything else). With how quickly and frequently the game auto-saves, I lost less than 10 minutes to the crash, and that’s without ever saving the game myself. In short, the game just works, and you never find yourself fighting AGAINST your system or how things run. That’s rare in PC gaming, and highly appreciated.

Going along with how well the game runs, the UI and ‘how you play’ design of the game is simply fantastic. Things that should be in a menu are (selling/buying goods for instance), while things that add immersion are done ‘in game’ rather than in a menu (taverns, village/town quests). The game has great balance in this regard, and really makes you question the design of other games in contrast. You again find yourself just playing the game rather than playing with its controls, if you know what I mean. It also very much has that ‘one more turn’ style to it, without actually being turn-based. Straight medieval crack that makes hours disappear like seconds.

The often-mentioned combat in M&B:W is indeed phenomenal, and in so many different ways. For starters, it just feels powerful. You FEEL your sword coming down on someone, you FEEL your crossbow bolt taking someone off a horse, and you FEEL the terror you bring when you are charging into a line of infantry with your cavalry. Very similar to how Darkfall combat feels more visceral than standard hotbar mashing, the combat here is like that but on steroids.

But perhaps even importantly, everything feels balanced and accurate, while still allowing you to play hero. Taking a castle IS more difficult, and you can’t just go solo vs everyone else and expect to win. At the same time, you CAN be the deciding factor, and you can take out more men than the average soldier. It sounds very simple, but it really is a crazy balancing act. Yes, on a horse and with a bow you can ride in circles and pick people off, but they might hit you with ranged attacks, and if not, you will eventually run out of arrows. You can get really good at the melee combat, you easily beat 2-3 foes at once, but no amount of player-skill will stop 15+ enemies from eventually killing you. Far too many games either cheat to get you, or allow you to kill hundreds single-handedly. M&B:W get’s this just right.

Damn, almost two pages and I’ve yet to mention the best part: the sandbox world. To keep what is already a long post a bit shorter, I’ll just say that the world ‘works’. If you stand still and do nothing, the game will go on and things will happen. Factions will war against each other, lords will get captured, towns will trade hands, etc. Initially nothing in the world is tied to you or your actions, and the real beauty of the whole thing is FORCING the world to recognize you as a factor. That is the ‘end-game’ here, but how you reach is up to you, and, perhaps more importantly, the actions of the AI. That to me is the pinnacle of a sandbox, and based on my experience so far, Mount and Blade:Warband nails it.

Obviously, I can’t recommend the game enough to anyone at all interested in this style of play. It is, simply put, the most fun I’ve had with a game in 30 hours since… perhaps ever. No joke.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Combat Systems, Darkfall Online, Mount and Blade: Warband, Random, Site update. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Last day of Hardcore Casual

  1. Ravious says:

    Also…. mods. The game is very moddable, with some awesome community additions.

  2. Wait…you’re talking about Warband singleplayer?

    I thought all the gushing would’ve been about the multiplayer as detailed in this K&G blog post and accompanying video:

    http://www.keenandgraev.com/?p=4100

    • SynCaine says:

      Eh, honestly, I don’t know if M&B combat would really work in an MMO. Some aspects, sure, but not all of it.

      Aside from performance issues, it’s just a little TOO much in terms of demand. For the bigger PvP battles, of course, yea, awesome. But for that kill 10 goblins quest? No thanks. (In M&B you can get away from this somewhat because you are just one soldier in an army, vs the only one doing stuff like in an MMO)

      And yes, the combat is just one aspect of the game, and while indeed great, I think the game would still be amazing if the whole combat model was removed and replaced with a result screen. The rest is that good.

  3. Kyir says:

    I told you about it back when the Steam holiday sale started friend. No one listens to me.

    Anyway, Swadian Knights should be everywhere.

  4. Dril(ski) says:

    Been playing since I saw Bartlebe’s post on K&G. 100+ hours and counting; 95 of which are in multiplayer.

    Some things still make me go WHAT THE FUCK, like people who are insane at long-range archery (player skill) and when someone kills me, with my weapon never having moved towards them, despite me releasing the left mouse-button at least half a second ago.

    But, yeah, it’s damn enjoyable. On open plains, though, a good horseman can pretty much roflstomp everything, especially if the archers are too dumb to shoot the horse first.

  5. BuffandGrind says:

    I love it too!!!!.. try playing with a female character. Its much harder to become a vassal and start getting income that way but I did it. I also decided after I met the “Pearled One”(Female throne claimant) that my overall goal is to
    install female monarchs in all the kingdoms possible and take over the rest for myself.

  6. Bhagpuss says:

    Interesting.

    I’d heard it mentioned a few times but not really paid much attention. I’m not in the market for a cavalry combat sim, which is what it sounded like.

    Having just watched that video on Keen’s site, though, I’m impressed. Might have to give it a try, although heaven knows I don’t have time for another game that demands hours and hours of play, if it does turn out to be as good as it looks.

  7. Kyff says:

    This game is simply great. I found out about it on the DF forums of all places. A LOT of people there recommended it. The game is inspired by SId Meyer’s Pirates!, which also had an open world with random encounters and shifting alliances.

    However I would like to point out that the economy is a little off in my opinion. At a certain point adding more fiefs will rather bring a decrease in income so youhave to rely on vasalls of your own to manage your affairs. And the loyalty of vasalls is really jhard to maintain. Maybe a bit too realistic.

    Secondly the Multiplayer mode is quite fun but rather pointless. You can buy improved armor/weapons after a successful encounter but everything resets after a few runs. Add abundant cheating/hacking and you get something not entirely to my tastes.

    To sum it up: I really enjoy Calradia the best thing I gathered from M&B is the knowledge of another great Paradox title: Europa Universalis III. A completely different kind of game but it might appeal to you as you seem to like Civilization.

  8. I love Mount and Blade: Warband. Hell, I even called it Darkfall Without Consequences once on a blog post.

    It’s fun, and entertaining, and you can make your own stories in your head from your adventures. :D

  9. mbp says:

    Come on Syncaine you haven’t been keeping up. The original Mount and Blade got tonnes of Blogger love way back when it was still in Beta. It was one of those games with a really long Beta period and they financed the game by gradually increasing the price as it came closer to release. The only problem with that model though it that by the time the final game came out we had all played it so much that we had kind of moved on. I never did get around to Warband’s multi-player myself.

    I still think M&B has the best horseback mounted combat ever though. The awesome power of a properly couched lance is stunning.

    By the way at one stage I managed to get the game working with Anaglyphic (red/green) three D glasses. Absolutely stunning.

  10. mbp says:

    I found and old blog post (2006) about my stereoscopic 3D experiments in Mount and Blade: http://mindbendingpuzzles.blogspot.com/2006/11/adventures-in-stereoscopic-3d-gaming-i.html#links

    Not sure if this trick still works with a modern Nvidia graphics card (I have ATI now) but it was pretty impressive at the time.

  11. Scott says:

    I bought M&B:W last year during a Steam sale and I’ve put maybe 10 minutes total into the game? 30 tops. It seems like something I’d have a lot of fun with but the camera FoV is (to me) broken. I’ve been playing FPS and you-name-it since the beginning and have never experienced “video game motion sickness” but M&B:W does it to me, badly.

    Shame, really, because it does seem like something right up my alley…

    • SynCaine says:

      Both views give you issues? The default is more ‘over the shoulder’, but you can also play the combat/interaction in a more FPS-view as well.

      • Scott says:

        It’s not the camera view (first vs. third person) that’s the problem, it’s the field of view (FoV) that is totally wrong. I guess people who didn’t grow up with proper FoV for first-person camera never notice, because all the complaints (including my own) are from FPS guys.

  12. Pingback: Ardwulf’s Game of the Year 2010: Mount & Blade: Warband | Ardwulf's Lair

  13. Darren says:

    Dude…this is soooo 2009, but a GREAT game:

    http://commonsensegamer.com/?p=1352
    http://commonsensegamer.com/?p=1065
    http://commonsensegamer.com/?p=1062

    Have fun with it, dude.

    P.S…you need to read my site more ;)

    • SynCaine says:

      I visit your site daily, right after I hit TAGN. Looks like I somehow missed this game entirely.

      Edit: And oh yea, killing a horse and then following up on the guy you just dropped is indeed one of those great gaming moments. The animation for the horse and the guy getting up is top-notch. Second favorite is bringing a sword down on some guys head who has no helm, watching his head turn red and him crumple to the ground. So satisfying.

  14. Torcano says:

    Ha, I also saw this on the Steam sale (I went on a 100 dollar blitz of 5-20 dollar games one day), although to be honest I havent got a chance to play yet. It is however near the top of my to-play list and is installed and ready.

    @Kyff

    Europa is a one of the best games no one has ever heard of. I found EU in a bargain bin in my younger days, and played EU2 for countless hours while my homework sat neglected in high school.

    You guys can google and find out more faster about the game’s details than I could explain, but EU is a Civ-like set from roughly the 1400s to 1800s played in a form of Real-Time that you slow down or accelerate as you wish (and you will do both frequently). The world is divided into hundreds of provinces, each with its own resources and economic value.

    You select a specific ‘campaign’, which is usually just a beginning time period (and corrolating disposition of nations/forces as well as historical figures). You can select any nation that exists in this time from Russia to the Incas to Quebec (yes, seriously).

    I’m trying to compare it to Civ or another game like that, but in my mind at least it really defies comparison (except to Hearts of Iron by the same dev..). It can be played as close to RTS or TBS as you want and this alone makes it play very differently than Civ.

    However it does have the same key elements, and victory conditions are similar – for example conquering a predefined number of territories, achieving the highest victory points over the time period (and ‘campaign’) you selected, colonization, economics, etc.

    Everything is super-transparent, so while it is also super-detailed, you aren’t guessing at the actual mathy game effects of your actions. For example, you have a report containing pages of data on your nation, including details of all your troops and accounting.

    It really gets detailed when you have a huge empire spanning multiple continents with colonies across the world. You must upgrade each colony and province individually, a very intensive task depending on your game speed as colonies in particular require frequent attention and for extended periods of time. You must build and deploy troops constantly all around the world while maintaining a careful balance of income, morale, manpower, etc.

    A few ‘little things’ that stand out to me for some reason: armies have names (such as Army of the North, 1st Expeditionary Force), historical generals with ‘stats’, morale-based warfare, in-depth (although prob slightly broken) diplomacy, and playing a one-province nation like Hessen long enough to annex a few superpowers. That and conquering all of France to put a swift end to the Napoleanic Wars.

    Wow would you look at that, memory-driven rant-a saurus rex.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Yeah M&B is great game . It also has pretty decent multiplayer – 200+ people sieges can be fun. I wish more MMOs had M&B style combat

  16. xXJayeDuBXx says:

    I played the first Mount & Blade for about ten hours, till I realized it was the same thing over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over….sorry about that. So yes, it was pretty fun for about ten hours. I haven’t tried Warband, but I have heard good things about it.

  17. Johnwba says:

    M&B(WB) is one of those games where, if you’re into that sort of thing, that sort of thing being pretty basic medieval combat with little strings attached, it’s relatively fun.

    In truth, I found it really, really fun for the best part of a day, but once I realized that:

    A) It’s outdated in so many ways.

    B) The combat’s a little… Crude at times.

    C) It’s a lot of the same thing over and over and over again with little variance from map to map.

    I soon turned my back on the whole thing. That said, it’s one of those where I’ll never play it alone but it’s fairly good fun every now and then playing alongside people you know.

    The single-player basic and horribly tedious after you’ve strained more than eight hours worth of play time from it; the multi-player quite repetitive and frustrating, it’s never going to be more than a niche game that occasionally appeals as a ‘let’s try this for a bit’ sort of thing.

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