Sunday, May 6, 2012

Reconnaissance From Napoleonic Wars DLC!

So I picked up the DLC expansion on sale for $5 and gave it a whirl.

The Good: The game graphically is mediocre if you compare it to a triple-A title bankrolled by a major studio and millions if not tens of millions of dollars.  For a mod made by players in their spare time on an engine developed by a married couple from Turkey the graphics are solid.  Some of the uniforms just "pop" like the Polish Lancers.  The period detail I cant yet say I'm an expert in, but for the Prussian units that I've looked at extensively in selecting my miniatures for the uniforms are spot on.  Some of the small details like the unit and company information on the British canteens is really brilliant. Weapons include muskets, rifles, musketoons, various styles of swords as well as some really fun comical additions for the Russian Partizanis (levied peasants) who start with a random weapon from a musket to a pitchfork or even a birch tree limb.  The Partizanis get a broken bottle too as a thrown weapon! (I've actually knocked a Hussar off his horse with a well aimed throw--was rather hilarious.)

In addition there are some great extras.  Each army has its associated drummers and fifer and has period marches from each of the respective nations (Prussia, Austria, France, Russian, Britain). Oh! and dont forget the bagpipes!  Its pretty awesome charging with a few score of Imperial Guardsmen, while beating out Pas de Charge on the drums with the Eagle and fifer next to you. Inside many of the buildings are pianos which can be played--and some maps turn into "Defend/Attack the Piano!" to the background tones of Brahms or Beethoven.  The music, flags, and officers all give small buffs--very small--to reloading speed, melee combat, and musket accuracy respectively.  The only one I can really even notice is the music reloading buff.

The terrain can also be built up or destroyed by sappers through a building menu allowing the creation of earthworks, gabions, sharped stakes, etc.  Cannons, Howitzers, and Mortars also can destroy these creations along with blowing holes in buildings.  The game really comes alive though when you grabs some friends or convince some random pubs (players) to hop into a voice communication server, such as the public TS3 hosted by the devs and coordinate.  The most kills I had in a single 10 minute round was when I convinced another random player to get in the public TS3 and help me operate a cannon.  We got 12 kills that round and demolished the Frenchy's redoubt. Many "Regiments" exist which are player organizations for scheduled "line battles" with 125 players a side with everyone on voice comms and knowing what their doing.  The main "official" servers are 200 man servers and at least for me as a West Coaster I don't have any major lag issues when the server is at full capacity.

The game is really at its best when there is some coordination.  The sappers get some defenses up, the cavalry counter enemy cavalry, harass stragglers/skirmishers and try to discourage charges, the artillery softens up the enemy concentrations and the infantry hold the defenses/artillery/high ground until a numbers advantage develops or the time-clock runs down.  This coordination happens somewhat organically because losing isn't that fun and getting cut down one by one while you're charged by a coordinated group sucks.  Generally the sides clump together, but sometimes it can be frustrating as 100 self-appointed officers spread out in 100 different directions to be defeated and destroyed in detail... repeatedly....

That is all the good.....

The Bad:  the game still suffers from the clunky Mount & Blade: Warband combat engine.  It's less noticeable in single player, but online it is definitely awkward and off putting and the Mount&Musket (Napoleonic Wars) team may have actually made the clunky combat system worse.  Melee takes up most of the combat as muskets are really inaccurate at anything outside maybe 100 feet (and even then it seems hard to hit).  Its a lot of people circling and randomly stabbing and praying the lag/clunky mechanics work it out in the end.  Movement seems also feels like your a lumbering ox at the best of times.

The Verdict:  the game is currently retailing for $10.  At $10 the games not overpriced, but there are a lot of free mods out there that incorporate gunpowder, and the whole thing places much more like a skirmish between light infantry due to the lack of coordination amongst public players with no voice comms.  I probably wouldn't pay retail, but if you're a fan of the period then mods and indie games routinely go on sale so when it drops to $5 or less I definitely think its worth it at that price point.    Again another great player driven expansion to Mount & Blade and independent gaming.

First some some in-game shots:
The floating symbols are so non-history buffs can tell friend from foe

The Redoubt

Below are some "reconnaissance"--officers and generals (like Blucher, Wellington, Schwarzburg, and Napoleon) get spyglasses that zoom.  I loaded a custom battle and took some fun shots of the Uniforms for reference.

Totenkopf Hussars

Prussian Reservists

Westphalian Landwehr Cavalry

Kings German Legion

95th Rifles

42nd Highlanders ("Blackwatch") Should have grabbed a pic of the Piper too!

Hussars and Light Dragoons (Inniskilling)

French Voltiguers

Polish Lancers of the Imperial Guard! The uniforms are magnificent in game and the lance is great against  infantry

French Cuirassier

Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard

Polish Line

Silesian Schutzen (Taking notes, they up soon on the table!)

Silesian Schutzen

Lutzow's Freikorps and Kurmark Landwehr

Prussian 8th Line

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