I've made no secret of my love of the PC game Mount & Blade: Warband. For the uninitiated, TaleWorlds Interactive built an open world for the player to recruit, equip and train his own warband and travel across the land looking for trouble. Play is split between the realistic and real-time action of first-person medieval warfare and the strategic view of a fictional landscape populated with towns, cities and castles. Published last year by Paradox Interactive, Warband was a surprise hit for the Turkish game developer TaleWorlds, with fans across the globe contributing to over 650k in total sales for the franchise. So it didn't take a genius to guess that one of the "unannounced" projects that we were set to learn more about from Paradox last week was going to be from TaleWorlds. That secret project is the "standalone expansion" Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword, and it represents the next step in warfare technology.
Yes, this is your boomstick. The deep bass boom of a musket firing, aimed at a rider speeding towards you and watching your opponent's body crumple, is way more satisfying than it should be. But what was the inspiration to take one of the best medieval combat simulators on the market and potentially muddy it with guns?
"The 17th Century is a really cool period in history, because gunpowder is coming up in use and power and you get to see things like early hand-grenades, muskets and pistols," said Mikail Yazbeck, designer for TaleWorlds and producer of With Fire & Sword. The guns and grenades actually make for an interesting contrast between the swords, bows, and horsemen of the older times. "People want this new technology versus old technology struggle."
The concept of gunpowder in the Warband engine actually was one of the first things that fans of the game modded into the setting, so Yazbeck took that as a vote of confidence. "Fans made mods to put guns in the game early on, so we knew that they wanted to see some sort of setting that had that gameplay style," Yazbeck said. "What they're modding can be seen as a wishlist sometimes. If we think that it's [a feature] worth doing, then we consider [adding] it."
The historical setting is a departure for the series. The title With Fire and Sword comes from a Polish historical novel published in 1884, written by Henryk Sienkiewicz, about the era in northwestern Europe when muskets began to be used. In the game, you can fight as one of five factions: the Polish, the Cossacks (from the Ukraine), Russians from Moscow, the Swedes and the Crimeans. Each will have their strengths and weaknesses; the Russians will be an "easier" faction to control while if you want a challenge, controlling the Poles might be more up your alley.