Mount and Blade Warband: Napoleonic Wars – PC Game Review
Mount & Blade Warband: Napoleonic Wars. PC game expansion. Publisher: Paradox Interactive. Developer: Taleworlds. $10.00, download
Passed Inspection: Wide variety of units, abilities, game modes
Failed Basic: Steep learning curve, multiplayer only
As you march toward the enemies of the French Empire, shells begin exploding nearby. However, the reassuring tune of the fife and drum corps gives you the spirit to continue advancing. A few moments later, the man next to you is killed by a jager our commander orders a bayonet attack and you surge towards the Prussians, fueled by a mixture of hate, fear, and love for the Emperor Napoleon!
This scenario is one of many that can be recreated in Napoleonic Wars, a download-able multiplayer addition to the Mount & Blade Warband game. The game includes more than 200 different soldiers from a wide variety of units, including line infantry, cavalry, engineering, artillery and other elite formations. Battles will be fought between French, English, Prussian, Austrian and Russian armies of up to 250 players on a number of different maps. The uniforms are colorful and accurate.
Within each soldier type, players can select from several different roles. For instance, in an infantry unit players can be a regular trooper or a drummer, fife man or color-bearer. Drummers, fifes and color-bearers each provide different bonuses to nearby troops, such as faster reload speed or better morale. When playing music, these support units perform historically correct pieces.
Engineers can build trenches and other fortifications using their shovels, or destroy an enemy position using their ax. Artillery men must load, aim and fire heavy cannons or howitzers using shells, grapeshot or even rockets. A brief tutorial teaches players the basics of infantry, artillery and cavalry combat, but some of the more complicated roles such as drummer or engineer are poorly armed and can be harder to master.
Battle is extremely deadly and a single bullet is enough to end your heroics. Melee combat is also unforgiving although sometimes you can survive a single bayonet attack or slash from a saber. In order to protect themselves from infantry attacks players must parry their enemies’ blows. For cavalry attacks you can kneel and use your bayonet like a spear. The best defense against gunfire is solid cover or trenches built by a friendly engineer but you can also kneel and make yourself a smaller target.
However, combat is decidedly unlike Napoleonic warfare. There is little or no coordination among players so there’s no neat and tidy lines and columns. Instead, players usually form small groups and try to gang up on isolated enemies. Only a few shots are fired before players engage in confused and desperate melee combat. Players seeking a more realistic form of combat can join a “regiment,” similar to a clan in other MMOs, which will drill together, practice formations and fight other regiments in battle.
There are options for engaging in more historical combat, such as a Commander Battle where players lead large groups of computer-controlled troops. You can issue commands and control formations. A similar option is available under the Custom Battle option. Another exciting option is Siege mode, where one army of players defends a fortress from the attacker. Some siege maps force the attacker to use boats in order to cross a river.
There are also duel servers for those players who are confident in their skills and wish to challenge another soldier to single combat.
There are also traditional battle modes such as death match, team death match and battle. New soldiers who have little experience will find they die quickly and have to wait awhile before the battle ends or they can respawn.
However, the biggest limitation is the lack of any single-player content. The sand-box element where players can travel across a world map, visit other towns, raid villages or pursue a caravan is not included in the Napoleonic Wars DLC. But, the inexpensive price is attractive and the game expands the multiplayer content of Mount & Blade Warband.
Players who prefer multi-player games will enjoy Napoleonic Wars but anyone looking for a single-player campaign or story will be disappointed. Grognards who cherish historically accurate uniforms and music will be pleased. On the other hand, casual players might be frustrated at how quickly they die. Grognards might also be disappointed by the lack of historical tactics and teamwork in some servers, but they can join a "regiment" to experience proper formations and tactics.
Players who download Napoleonic Wars from Gamersgate may need to install two updates in order to play. Also be sure to keep your serial number handy because you need to enter it before you can join a game. The updates and other common technical problems can be resolved in the TaleWorlds support thread here:
Armchair General Rating: 80 percent
About the Author
Paul Glasser is a graduate student in Lexington, Kentucky, where he studies modern French history. His interests include comics, role-playing games, and home-brewing beer.