Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword by Paradox Interactive review

Mount & blade gets guns and grenades
Photo of Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword by Paradox Interactive
£9.99

With Fire and Sword is a standalone expansion pack for the Mount & Blade series of sandbox action RPGs. The subtitle takes its name from a famous Polish novel written by Henryk Sienkiewicz, and the storyline of the single-player campaign is based on the book, telling the tale of a bloody war in Eastern Europe.

With this instalment, the previously mediaeval world of Mount & Blade moves forward in time, adding gunpowder to make combat considerably more explosive. Don’t think you’ll be running across castle ramparts machine-gunning enemies down left, right and centre, however.

Muskets and pistols
With Fire and Sword’s rudimentary muskets and pistols take around ten seconds to reload – and you have to stand still while doing so – which means you’ve got to be very careful aiming. Miss, and you’ll have to swiftly pull out a sword to deal with that still-alive (and presumably now even angrier) maniac who’s charging towards you wielding a two-hander.

The unwieldy nature of the firearms ensures the interplay of swords, lances, arrows and guns remains fairly balanced, and the muskets aren’t overpowered. If any weapon is in danger of being overly powerful, it’s the new grenades. While dubiously effective, they’re still undeniably entertaining to lob into a room packed with castle defenders.

Balance bugbears
There are balance issues elsewhere in the fresh single-player campaign, which starts off in punishing fashion, forcing the player to face multiple musket-toting bandits alone. Money and troops aren’t easy to come by initially, which means this isn’t a particularly novice-friendly game. Another downside is that some elements from Warband, such as tournaments and marriages, have been stripped away.

With Fire and Sword has also witnessed a bit of tinkering to the multiplayer options, with the addition of some new maps and a mode of play. The Captain mode lets each player lead a squad of AI-controlled soldiers, resulting in massive pitched battles and a refreshing new angle for online play.

Company: Paradox Interactive

Positives
  • Muskets and pistols work well and aren't overpowered; budget price.
Negative
  • Some elements of the game such as campaign difficulty aren't so well balanced.

Verdict

The introduction of guns proves to be a largely entertaining one, and the new multiplayer maps and mode are useful additions too. However, With Fire and Sword suffers from some issues with the balance of gameplay, and also drops some of the good stuff Warband had going for it. Still, at a tenner on Steam, this is a solid buy purely for the muskets, giggles and grenades.