Anthony "Tony" Magestro--or known on the field of battle as Metzge--is an avid writer, gamer, and entrepreneur. When he's not writing, gaming, or entrepreneuring, he enjoys cooking, trippy movies, and trying to be awesome to varying degrees of success. Feel free to check out his LinkedIn page, especially if you need freelance help with content writing or digital marketing. Or just like to network, that's fine too.
Since its initial release in 2008, Mount & Blade has been sort of a sleeping giant, going from unheard of to household name what seemed like overnight. Since then, the franchise has grown primarily with expansion Mount & Blade: Warband and add-ons (that is total conversions made by other studios dabbling with TaleWorlds‘ game engine) such as Napoleonic Wars or standalones such as Caribbean! Viking Conquest is but one of the latest additions, developed by Brytenwalda–and recently rereleased, refreshed and reforged for battle.
Before I get too far into my review, I just want to mention that I haven’t played Viking Conquest prior to its rerelease. At the time of writing, the game still is tagged with “Mixed” reviews on Steam, though it’s important to note that there’s been a wave of positive reviews and changes in old ones that were initially negative after the release of Reforged Edition this past July.
That being said, regardless of any blunders Brytenwalda might have been guilty of, it’s still the mark of a passionate developer when they’re willing to step back, regroup, and try again. As far as I’m concerned–and for what that’s worth–they did a pretty great job. After all, starting off as modders, it’s pretty impressive that they got the chance to actually publish an add-on with TaleWorlds.
But right… onto the review.
After a few minutes into the story campaign, I could tell that this was potentially the best attempt using Mount & Blade‘s engine yet: the towns are buzzing with activity, feeling alive with denizens going about their business. One of the first locations has you visiting a bustling village with horsemen making laps along its outskirts and children playing in the streets. Admittedly, NPC settlements like this one in earlier games were often empty save for important people like merchants or the local lord and his house.
Brytenwalda didn’t stop there, however, looking to polish up everything, from higher quality textures for weapons, equipment, buildings, and character skins, along with what seems to be better balanced game mechanics (especially with combat), a better optimized engine, and an updated UI.
As for combat, weapons now seem to have more defined roles. For example, axes are a great tool against shields, hacking them to splinters and leaving your foes defenseless; spears are great to poke opponents at a distance and to force horsemen to dismount (one way or the other), but are difficult to use in close quarters. These applications were still present in vanilla Warband, but Viking Conquest takes it one step further, making combat animations more responsive and controls to parry, kick, and shove your opponents much easier.
And that’s not even touching upon the sheer scope of battles, having literal hundreds of soldiers on the field at a given time rather than a couple dozen. And naval battles. And Vikings. Obviously.
Though I have nothing against Warband‘s original setting, it’s games like this that always prompt me to research these periods of history. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not familiar with the Dark Ages of the first millenium for Western Europe, and despite my educational background in German, I know so little about Germanic and Scandinavian culture of the era. So admittedly, Viking Conquest is just appealing to me on a whole bunch of nerdy levels.
I will say though, despite how much I enjoy it, it might be time to retire Mount & Blade‘s initial engine and hold out for Bannerlord. After almost seven years since its first launch, its age is definitely showing, not just in graphics, but also with the overall setup of the game itself.
Environments still feel barren and character animations, artificial. The questing and journal system is still lackluster and ambiguous, having you run around the map and looking for shady individuals that need to be brought to justice or harassing the peasantry for taxes they owe their liege.
That isn’t to say that the attempt on the developer’s part is half-hearted, but when you’re competing against a fanbase of competent modders who do the same work for free (and Brytenwalda was once among them) while having screenshots and articles leaked about the upcoming sequel, it’s hard to keep gamers enthused.
While I’m happy to say that Viking Conquest does a good job of that, only time will tell to see how long players will find themselves plundering the eastern shores of Albion with the soon rise of Bannerlord. Still, it’ll be a while until that happens… and being a Viking is pretty cool.
…unless it comes to football. But that’s neither here nor there.