Warband, although billed as an expansion of Mount&Blade, is the game the latter should have been.
The key difference: Warband adds a multiplayer mode on top of Mount&Blade's single-player package. It is a terrific addition.
Battles are fought in realistic mediaeval combat style that requires players to mimic fighting actions.
To slash with a long sword, click on the mouse button and move the mouse sideways. This action is faster than, say, thrusting a pike, in which one needs to move the mouse in the direction of the attack.
Blocking is similar to slashing. Arrows need to be redrawn and crossbows reset for a new shot. The cavalry requires precise timing in order to stoop down and land blows on infantry.
All these felt clumsy at first, but the actions added immensely to the gameplay and excitement level, especially in multiplayer mode. For instance, a shield will properly protect the left side of a player but only if raised in time.
The multiplayer modes are standard fare: death match, capture the flag and conquest. With up to 64 players in any single battle and 32 a side, the action is fast and furious. Lag could be a problem but there are enough games online to easily jump into most evenings.
There are also welcome additions to the single-player mode, such as a new cavalry-heavy faction, Sarranid Sultanate.
Players have new options too, including the ability to declare themselves king and get married.
Unfortunately, players are still not given directions on what to do in the game; you are free to roam, pillage, pledge allegiance, trade - and do whatever you fancy - and this can be disconcerting for some players.
Warband is not the prettiest visually compared to some others, but those looking for a mediaeval hack-and-slash game should look no further.
The writer is a freelance writer and avid gamer.