If there's one thing that horses are good for, it's glue. But before glue had been invented people used them as cars. You might be surprised to learn that they are superior to cars in a number of ways, and the best of those is that they're perfect for swinging a sword from back of as you attempt to trample your enemies. Videogames have seldom managed to portrayed this positive and healthy activity in a useful way, so we are glad that one game manages to do that: Mount & Blade. This horsey melee game series has been been around for a while now, and is about to ride again with a third title: Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword. I decided to have a quick chat with TaleWorlds' producer Mikail Yazbeck about what this new game means, and where it came from.
RPS: Can you start off telling us a little about the Mount & Blade games, for those unfamiliar with them. What sort of games are they, and why are they special?
Yazbeck: Certainly! Not the first time we've had to answer this question, but the answer is never easy nor short. Mount & Blade games are about a few key things, using your imagination and ambition to make your own story and reach your own goals and taking advantage of different play styles the game offers; whether it be brutal combat, decisive commanding, keen trading, or crafty politics and kingdom building.
That's not to mention the amazing mod and multiplayer scene we have had going since Mount & Blade 1, which has only flourished with the release of Warband. Really, any time I have the opportunity to tip my proverbial hat to our community, I'll take it.
But I personally think people find Mount & Blade games special because they offer something to gaming that people have been wanting, which is a solid somewhat realistic ranged and melee combat system that is completely skill based and wholly satisfying, all set a truly open and dynamic medieval world (sorry folks, no elves!)
RPS: Can you tell us a bit about what Fire And Sword does that's different from the other Mount & Blade games?
Yazbeck: With Fire & Sword introduces new tactics and new styles of play because of the historical period it's set in brings to the table the age of firearms & hand grenades. The single-player and multi-player modes offer new thrills (sounds very market-y I know, but really, there are new thrills, I promise) because of all the new features and weaponry introduced.
RPS: Is this once again a primarily single-player experience? What multiplayer elements does it offer?
Yazbeck: The single-player campaign features an all new map, factions, weapons, armour, customizable army system, great new castle/town upgrades, and better balanced economy with more money making options. Oh and it features lengthy optional storyline quests for players craving a more purposeful experience.
The multiplayer has 15 new maps and a nifty new mode called "Captain Team Deathmatch" which gives each player a squad of bots (up to 24) to command. These bots are controlled in the same way as single-player and enable players to stage massive battles. I think people will end up doing a lot of historical re-enactments with this system. I'm hoping I can participate in some of them! If you've got any planned just PM Yazzy on the TaleWorlds forums!
RPS: Wasn't Fire And Sword already released in Eastern Europe? How is that different from what is being released in the West?
Yazbeck: It was actually released twice over there. The most recent release is this new version of the game that's been made in the Warband engine(which we've since polished even more for the international release). And the first release was inside of the Mount & Blade 1 engine and was released in between M&B 1 and M&B:Warband, but only in Eastern Europe. That older version of course didn't have all the features that this version has, but was demanded enough for us(and by us I mean Sich Studios/Snowberry along with TaleWorlds) to want to remake it using the Warband engine and bring to an international audience.
RPS: What sort of challenges have you had in making this particular game work the way you intended? Has the modern era of firearms changed the way the game has played?
Yazbeck: Balance was and is always a concern when you introduce something so radical as firearms into a game like ours, but we feel that overall firearms add more flavour and styles of play to the game and thus worked out they way we've wanted them to. I hope players feel the same way, and I'll try to make regular polls on the forums to sort out the best balance for everyone, if they're feeling too at odds with the implementation.
RPS: Can you tell us anything about future plans for the Mount & Blade series?
Nothing too specific I can reveal right now, except since the release of Warband we've staffed up and are cooking some pretty good things.
RPS: And can you tell us a price and release date?
Yazbeck: With Pleasure! Yes, this new stand-alone expansion is coming out May 3rd and will priced at $14.99 (you've got to hate those .99 cents!).