Mount & Blade: With Fire And Sword

Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword is a double-edged sword

By Daavpuke, Posted 13 May 2011

Here ye, merry men. Let us depart on a noble quest in 18th century North-Eastern Europe. We shall follow the tale of a Nobel Prize winner and his writings of ‘Ogniem i mieczem,’ or With Fire and Sword (WF&S). And while the game of that name is probably ripe with references and mergers of factual and fictional parts, that’s basically most of what this Mount & Blade game will tell you upfront. Anything else that needs to be discovered is up to the player’s discretion. This is both good and bad, because there are so many possibilities for a clear story, but who needs that when they can simply create their own tale? Remember Sid Meier’s Pirates? Well, this is the same game, but on land and with horses and also more RPG elements, such as levels for you and your party.

NoobFeed Review - Mount & Blade: With Fire And Sword
Are you ready to witness the grandeur of  Mount & Blade: With Fire And Sword?

Now, don’t be taken aback by the presentation of WF&S, because it is indeed poor, but this is a game that relies on its deep gameplay. Even though the character creation is completely ridiculous, the overall world looks like a game from 1995 and the menus are nothing more than parchment, it doesn’t feel off. Since WF&S relies on an ancient feel as it is, there’s no shame in lacking style. Even the music can sometimes be basic; but then again, it sometimes also switches up to some pretty glorious tunes, depending on the area and circumstance.

And many different areas ye shall find, for this game will take you all over its map over and again. Barring a tutorial that teaches nothing and being thrown to the wolves, there is a charm to simply roaming and finding things out as they happen. Choosing a lower difficulty or the option to quit without saving can help at first. Also, there is an in-game encyclopedia with backlinks to many other subjects, which can be useful to read up on locales and characters.  Even though the cluelessness can be disheartening at times, it’s best to stick to it and learn, so the game can show off its many different options.

NoobFeed Review - Mount & Blade: With Fire And Sword
More in-game shots such as this map of With Fire & Sword can be found in 'My Playthrough'

Trying to summarize all the things possible in this game would be an arduous task, for there is just that much to choose from. There are about 5 different factions on the map and each has lords or underlings that can offer necessary missions. From many simple fetch quests to battles to finding or hunting down people; it’s a candy store of opportunity. Whether one’s taste goes for trade or looting villages, escorting caravans or robbing these blind for a nation or as a free man; again the choices are all there. But to make sure this happens properly, men will need to be hired for protection, be fed and paid and thus will begin the cycle of economics.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a hindrance in this quest for thalers, being the current currency. The economy scheme isn’t bad per se, but rather peculiar at first. It seems the only way to make any startup funds is to destroy people’s lives. Trading requires funds in advance, hunting down and murdering bandits for loot is much too straining and most starter quests offer nothing more than troop wages. To survive, one of the available nations will have to yield and a village or two will need to be burned and looted to gain some coin. This wouldn’t be so bad if anything wouldn’t cost so damned much. With items all costing well over the thousands, it’s hard to gain resources through legal means. Luckily, once started, it gets easier, but the fastest way will still be that which tramples innocents underfoot, so here’s hoping on not so honorable intentions.

NoobFeed Review - Mount & Blade: With Fire And Sword
This fight seems somewhat lost. It might be the numbers or the pike to the face.

That said, it’s easy to assume a sword or two will be needed to be drawn. Again, this can be done in name of a faction or simply at whim, but what is certain is that the game will thrive on this conflict. The combat Mount & Blade brings to the table is both its strongest selling point and its greatest weakness. By implementing a mechanic that is based on actual skill, with wielding having to be controlled rather than merely clicked, Mount & Blade brings something unique in the RPG genre:  Requiring aiming in order to hit. This can be done on foot or on horseback and with a series of swords and lances or ranged arms, but all will require practice. In all, while it is an amazing concept, the battle mechanic is kind of all over the place and even with physics and area specific targeting, aiming never feels on point. This can make or break the desire to play this game at all and either it will strike true or will always be a clear annoyance during play. But what is certain is that this could’ve been tweaked, even though the firearms reload time is genuine by being severely slow; as it was in those times.

NoobFeed Review - Mount & Blade: With Fire And Sword
Victory in With Fire & Sword is celebrated in the blood of the fallen.

Its second contradictory exploit and downfall is the nonchalance of the open world. While it is good to let players decide their own creation, WF&S does virtually nothing to lead players on and that makes the game lack an overbearing purpose. There is already very little story, but with no push to any source material, a game is only as strong as the willpower of the person playing it. This brings on the notion of how open a world really needs to be and where linearity is needed, if at all. In the end, WF&S overdoes it a little and could’ve been even more compelling than it is now by adding a bit more story oriented questing.

But for those that need no push to enjoy chopping heads, the game also offers a multiplayer option where players can team up in different factions in a few choices of games. There isn’t much appeal to this though, as the combat mechanic is a tough one at best; but it can add some variety to offset the open world campaign. Yet, only familiar fans will feel immediately driven to this mode and others will need to wait until they become seasoned or be taken down swiftly in a monotone deal that lacks balance. In nearly all game modes, combat was a mixture of shooting, then flailing with reach weapons and the occasional grenade throw; all in gung-ho style. It’s a shame, because in particular the Siege mode of storming castles would be a very intense fight if done right. But anyone will be hard pressed to find a dozen friends to coordinate an assault.

NoobFeed Review - Mount & Blade: With Fire And Sword
You can even get your FPS on in With Fire & Sword. Who need CoD, right?

In the end, Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword is a double-edged sword that could’ve been a prime title in the right hands. It tries something unique with combat, yet falls flat by not having the correct feel for it and that seriously hurts the game. But it is advised to push on and learn to deal with the pain, as there is more than meets the eye.  It also creates an open world, but doesn’t spur players to play, which again can cause for a disconnection in interest. But while these and aforementioned lesser quarrels stand in the way of greatness, the novel-based game does succeed in capturing the addictive gameplay of Sid Meier’s Pirates, where many others have failed. Amassing troops and leading those to greatness feels grand and as the game progresses there are always new options that open up. Once large enough, players can take over cities and start building a megalomaniac career or even take to politics. Certain special obtainable characters can also start squabbles in the party and generate reactions to certain situations. At any given time, something novel can happen to brighten spirits and urge players to play ‘just a while longer’ and that’s all a game really needs to be a glorious waste of time. Just remember that perseverance is the key.

Gallery (lost count)

My Playthrough

Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed. (@Daavpuke)

comments powered by Disqus

  • I wasn't planning on playing any RPG until ME3, but I think I'm going to love this one.

    Edit: That playthrough won't load even after a thousand try.

    Posted May 13, 2011

  • Couldn't tell you why, works fine right here, sir.

    Posted May 13, 2011

  • It finally loaded. I was expecting a video playthough though. lol.

    Posted May 13, 2011


General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Paradox Interactive
Developer(s): Taleworlds
Genres: Role-Playing
Themes: Sandbox
Release Date: 2011-05-03

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