Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword Preview

Paradox Interactive looks to release the third installment in the Mount & Blade series and MtB takes a moment to take a quick look at the newest standalone expansion pack.


While most games are released exclusively for the home console systems these days, there are still some experiences and genres which only tend to thrive on the PC.  In addition to the real-time strategy titles and countless simulation games we tend to see about commuter transit here at Mash Those Buttons, there are also a number of hardcore PC titles known for their very devoted fan base.  One such series has come to our attention in the form of Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword, the newest installment in the somewhat obscure but well beloved Mount & Blade series.

For the uninitiated, the PC-only series Mount & Blade is something of an odd beast in today’s market.  A rather unique blend of strategy and RPG mechanics, each of the iterations in the M&B franchise sees players take control of a single man in a medieval world beset by open conflict and political dealings between rival nations.  Through the course of each of the previous two incarnations of M&B, the player is tasked with taking his or her single character and setting forth to gain riches and renown with the ultimately intention of leading a single country to world domination.  In a way the games play a bit like the popular Total War series, but the focus is more on the player’s character than maneuvering armies around a continent.

Like its predecessor, the new standalone M&B expansion pack With Fire and Sword has players once more rising to power as they align themselves with various nations in the race to global supremacy.  Although the format does stay true to the previous Mount & Blade games, developer TaleWorlds Entertainment has added some interesting new elements to the game play in WFS.


For one thing, the generic medieval kingdoms of the previous titles have been left behind as players now vie for control of 17th century Eastern Europe.  The conflict in With Fire and Sword now focuses on the tense relations and open warfare taking place between the Polish Republic, Cossacks, Moscow Tsardom, Sweden, and the Crimean peoples.  Once more the player is asked to gain the power and renown required to help lead one of these nations to rise above those that would compose them.  However it’s not just the setting that has changed, but the (relatively) more modern period of this expansion also brings with it a number of technology options as well.

With the 17th century also comes the widespread popularity of the time honored warfare marvel that is gunpowder.  For the first time in the series, players can opt to trade in their old crossbows for a handy pistol or musket rifle.  While these new weapons are incredibly devastating on the battlefield, they do come with a hefty downside as they take far longer to reload and arm than their bow and arrow counterparts.  Long time Mount & Blade fans may be a little hesitant to use these slower use weapons, but once they see their troops begin to employ hand grenades on the field of battle they’ll likely come around.

Yet it’s not just war that has changed in With Fire and Sword, but also the series’ open market and economic structure.  In addition to the normal exchange of goods and the constant play of supply and demand familiar to fans of the series, new options have been included to give a little more market control to the player.  For one thing, caravans can be funded to go to far distant towns and sell their wares before returning back to their point of origin.  This new feature allows players to focus their attention on the political intrigue and open warfare between nations instead of heaving to run all over the world trying to sell bags of flour at a markup.  There is also a brand new banking system in place along with the added bonus of being able to take out loans or deposit cash should bandits become a problem.  There are a lot of economic options available for players in this new Mount & Blade expansion that really helps to minimize the downtime between questing or combat.


While these new features will definitely interest the hardcore M&B fans out there, many of you may not be familiar with the series.  Although current fans of the series are no doubt looking forward to looting and pillaging towns while furthering the agenda of their home nation, there are certainly some gamers out there who just haven’t heard of this very niche PC series before.  We at Mash Those Buttons certainly recommend downloading the demo for the original Mount & Blade to help new players get a feel for the series, but there are a few things to keep in mind should the newest installment pique the interests of strategy game fans out there.

If there’s one thing that separates Mount & Blade from other strategy-RPG titles out on the market, it would have to be the methodical pacing of the series.  Much like the old proverb of learning to walk before you run, each game in the series starts the player out as a very fragile and susceptible target in a massive world ready to pounce on him.  The ultimate goal of the game may be to lead an army to glory, but at the start of the adventure all you’ll have is a bit of coin in your pocket and a rusty sword.  For the first few hours of any player’s campaign, you’ll be eluding bandits and sticking to safer areas of commerce in order to make your fortune and build your character up in the eyes of the world’s nations.  Trying to hunt down army deserters or ransack towns is a surefire recipe for disaster until you can get a few men under your command.

Players that manage to keep their self-confidence in check and accept a few errand boy quests will eventually earn enough coin to help fund their war efforts.  At various taverns in cities all over the continent, mercenaries of different specializations and allegiances can be hired to form a motley crew of an army.  Crossbowmen, musket men, cavalry, pike men, and other assorted soldiers can be bought up and paid a weekly wage to fight under the player’s banner.  With an able regiment under your command, you’ll be capable of accepting missions from the nobility and generals of each nation.  For many Mount & Blade fans, this is where the heart of the series lies.


In the later portions of With Fire and Sword’s campaign, players will be involved in massive battles involving hundreds of A.I. controlled soldiers.  Whether it’s open conflict on a large plain or the siege of an enemy stronghold, players will combine their armies with those of their allies to route enemy forces and claim or defend the land at stake.  The strategy employed in combat mostly boils down to giving very basic commands such as charging ahead or falling back, but the army composition between the various unit types is what will determine a victory or a hasty retreat.

Although the artificial intelligence in the Mount & Blade franchise isn’t particularly smart, it’s really the scope of the series that sells the experience.  Watching armies clash, cavalry riders surround enemy encampments, or bandits lay claim to a defenseless caravan is exciting and shaping your own personal army into a force to be reckoned with is really satisfying.  Growing your character from a single wandering mercenary into a major player in the political theater and having your actions affect the world at large is something that needs to be experienced to really appreciate.  And looking back on the dozens of hours you’ve invested into this world and realizing how far you come is incredibly rewarding.

All of this time investment and incredible payoff is what makes Mount & Blade such a lasting experience for fans.  While it is a bit too early to know whether With Fire and Sword is itself a worthwhile addition to the series, we still definitely recommend that those unfamiliar with the franchise keep an eye on this new standalone expansion.  We at Mash Those Buttons will be sure to have more information about TaleWorlds Entertainment’s newest strategy-RPG as it approaches its final release date in Spring 2011.

Jason Wersits
Jason Wersits
Jason Wersits

MASH Veteran

Jason Wersits is a Senior Editor for Mash Those Buttons. A lifetime resident of New Jersey and a diehard Starcraft fan, Jason spends the bulk of his time on the site working with the review staff to cover the games you care oh so much about.

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