GDC11: Hands-On with Mount and Blade: With Fire and Sword

With all the praise and adoration Mount and Blade and its standalone expansions have received, for some reason or another I’ve never bothered to play any of them. Perhaps it was the vast intimidation of having a truly open world game where you could play it however you wanted. Or maybe it’s just because I was too lazy to install it and play it on my computer.

Either way, after sitting down with TaleWorlds designer and producer Mikail Yazbeck and having a go at the newest expansion, With Fire and Sword, I may have to finally get off my ass and install the past two games to get ready for this one.

If you were like me, you probably didn’t play Mount and Blade because you didn’t have really any clue what kind of game it was. You’d heard genres like “action RPG” and “RPG RTS” thrown around, and perhaps you were scared off because of that. Well, to describe it accurately, Mount and Blade is whatever game you want it to be. The series is an action RPG of sorts, or it can almost be a lifestyle sim, where you manage your minions and subjects as a leader, or it can be a straight up RTS, with you commanding large armies in some seriously epic sieges across vast lands.

With Fire and Sword is no different, but that’s not to say nothing has changed from Warband, the previous expansion. This time, the land isn’t some made up fantasy world; it’s medieval Eastern Europe, with the factions being lifted straight out of history. While Yazbeck thought the game wouldn’t be as interesting because of the setting, I actually think being one of the only games rooted in medieval Eastern European history sounds like an extremely intriguing premise.

Additionally, the combat system looks to have been tweaked even more, with more calculations put into swings, swing times, and swing angles.  Swinging a weapon from up high hits differently from swinging diagonally, and the longer you hold a wind-up can affect the strength and effectiveness of the hit as well. During my play, I held a sword in wind-up position for so long that when I finally swung my sword, it was laughably soft. The same applies to bows and arrows; the longer you hold an arrow cocked, the more tired your arms get, and the less accurate your arrow flies.

Speaking of projectiles, With Fire and Sword marks the first appearance of guns in the series. Fans may cry out and exclaim using guns vs. arrows is simply unfair, but TaleWorlds has implemented balance that makes sense and invalidates that claim. Being that this is around the time when guns were first invented, they’re slow to reload and completely inaccurate, yet take only a single bullet to take someone down. As a comparison, arrows are quick to load and quick to shoot, but not as damaging as bullets, so it’ll take a while before a guy goes down to arrows.

Beyond that, the gameplay was the Mount and Blade fans have learned to adore. Hearing from Yazbeck that the game pretty much has no story or campaign, and you can create your own world and your own game as you wish, made me a little pumped, because it actually sounds like Minecraft but in medieval times with epic battles and whatnot. Just seeing a clip of a player leading a siege made my adrenaline rush; I don’t know if I’ve ever seen battles on that scale that were so immersive.

Although I only had a small portion of time with With Fire and Sword, it definitely left a positive impression from me. When it comes out sometime in early April of this year, expect a review from me.

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Allen Park

Allen is an utter whore of a gamer; he's completely open-minded to all games, be they AAA blockbusters or $5 casual children's games. His focus is on indie games specifically, valuing gameplay and ingenuity over sparkly visuals and ridiculous gimmicks. When he's not geeking out over the newest art game, he's out toning his sexy, sculpted shoulders while surfing epic 1.5ft waves, or having a good time with local, high-gravity microbrews.

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