Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword Q&A - Medieval Madness

Mikail Yazbeck, designer and producer on With Fire & Sword, talks about 17th-century warfare.

In addition to sounding like an awesome heavy-metal rock band, With Fire & Sword is an extremely open-ended, medieval combat game. Its battlefields involve hundreds of troops engaged in massive sieges or skirmishes, along with the unintended hilarity you get with hundreds of players running around at once. One moment, you may find yourself locked in an epic duel with an opponent, but before you know it, he gets blindsided by a runaway horse. We caught up with Mikail Yazbeck, designer and producer on With Fire & Sword, to talk about how the next entry in the Mount & Blade series is coming along.

All the fun of medieval warfare, now with powdered wigs.

GameSpot: From what we've seen, With Fire & Sword will have some truly huge multiplayer matches with hundreds of individual fighters on the field, hacking away at each other. Why make the game this big? How will the game keep battles of this size manageable?

Mikail Yazbeck: The immediate response would be, "Why not?" But in all actuality, we have large-scale multiplayer battles because we want to capture the feeling of warfare. We don't just want to ship another 32-player online deathmatch and call it a day. If the single-player is about large-scale battles, then why can't the multiplayer be as well? It only adds to the experience. Each player will be in charge of commanding his or her own squad, and squad commands are carried out the same way as in single-player. If players just want to fight, they can simply order the charge command, and the army will take care of itself.

GS: We understand that With Fire & Sword will have a new multiplayer mode, Captain mode, which will let players command a small battalion of soldiers. How does this mode work in practice? How does it work in multiplayer?

MY: As mentioned above, the player will command his or her own army the same way as in single-player mode. That means using the F keys to choose orders from a pop-up menu or holding down F1 and dragging a movement flag over the terrain for troop placement. Players can command three to 24 soldiers(depending on the dedicated server setting), with a recommended 16-player count (but more powerful servers could certainly host more players and more bots). Soldiers are purchased through the equipment screen, and players will have to decide on spending money on their own equipment or buying a more powerful set of troops.

GS: We also understand that With Fire & Sword will offer extensive customization options that will let players play as a great variety of different warriors, or as a merchant. Tell us about some of the customization options available both for individual characters and for armies.

MY: The Mount & Blade series has always been about player-created play styles and customization. With Fire & Sword, [this] is no different and will continue the tradition of our classless character development system. There are four base stats that drive over 20 skills, in addition to the weapon proficiencies that improve with point investment and usage. You can make all sorts of combos from a calculated mounted spear-wielding pistoleer to a grenade-lobbing claymore-carrying full-plate-wearing crazy man. Or you could forgo combat skills in pursuit of trade or command skills and focus on building an unstoppable fully decked-out force (Note: players buy every piece of equipment for their armies).

The king's steed crumbles after a single jab to the rear.

GS: The new game will introduce firearms to Mount & Blade for the first time. But surely, they won't be the absolute best weapon on the battlefield, will they? How are these weapons being balanced against conventional medieval weaponry like swords, bows, siege weapons, and cavalry lances?

MY: Firearms essentially provide more ways to play Mount & Blade. Guns do kill people, but so do swords, axes, bows, spears, pikes, clubs, etc. If the player can handle the aiming difficultly and slow reload speed of a firearm, he or she will be rewarded with powerful results. On the other hand, we still have "old reliable" to fall back on; the bow and arrow are still something to be feared as they are faster and more accurate. The balance is such that it will come down to player preference. Having said that, though, the single-player battlefield has become a significantly more dangerous place as there are a lot more dangerous projectiles flying through the air for players to maneuver around. In With Fire & Sword, players will have to be a fair bit more tactical compared to Warband's medieval battlefield; be sure to put on some plate before you go out for your daily Rambo session.

GS: We understand that there are new systems and strategies planned for With Fire & Sword's combat system. What are some of the new systems and tricks of the trade that players will want to know about, beyond carrying two shields into battle to protect their own backs?

MY: Tread softly and carry explosives…um…I mean players can blow holes in castle walls to make sieges a whole lot easier. You'll need a fair bit of points invested into the engineering and tactics skill lines to pull this off, but it's well worth it. Also, I recommend utilizing the new wagon fort system when traveling through enemy territory. If you are attacked, you'll start the battle encircled by the comfort of your supply carts, which will act as a barrier between you and your attackers. Think of these like mini-sieges, but without men falling off of ladders or other siege-related tomfoolery.

GS: While the previous Mount & Blade games were intended to be period pieces set in medieval Europe, With Fire & Sword is based on a historical novel. Why choose a work of fiction as your basis for the new game? Will there be a larger story behind the gameplay?

MY: Delving into a real historical setting is something our fans have been clamoring for since the release of the original Mount & Blade. In fact, our fans even modded in some sort of firearms into the original Mount & Blade. We also wanted to have a unique atypical setting that stood apart from things like samurais, Romans, etc, so for us, the choice was clear. And we decided that 17th-century Eastern Europe gave us the exotic and interesting backdrop we were looking for. As for story, there are several optional storyline quests that players can pick while they play if they want a more directed experience beyond simple rescue-the-girl quests.

GS: Aside from the game's many new features, are there any other additions or fixes being added to the game to specifically address requests from the Mount & Blade fan community? Give us some examples.

MY: Well, in fact, so much of the content--like the new fully customizable armies and Captain Mode--in With Fire & Sword is what our fans are looking for. Aside from the plethora of new features, there isn't anything else I can mention.

There's a party in 17th-century Europe, and you're invited.

GS: Are there any other points you'd like to highlight about With Fire & Sword?

MY: If you have ever had an itch to get lost in a foreign land full of strange knights with wings, pistoleers with funny mustaches, or bitter royalty bent on European domination, then the tumultuous 17th-century land of With Fire & Sword is the place to be.

GS: Thank you for your time.

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Discussion

30 comments
stormlord87
stormlord87

saw an earlier comment about EA or some other big publisher backing this game, and i say that's one heck of a bad idea. keep this game indie, buy it, support it, and for heaven's sake let it stay true to the niche segment of the gaming community where it's appeal is appreciated. no game is meant to be liked by everyone. sorry for the /rant, but what EA is doing to bioware is ripping my soul to shreds.

MalCon06
MalCon06

even so mount&blade nd mount&blade warband had some bugs also in the terms of graphics i expected more .. but i really love the idea nd love this game .. lose the sense of time while playing it, nd i have high expectations for this one! :)

Deinbeck
Deinbeck

I dunno about 10 years behind. I think some of the animations could use some work, the game would look a helluva lot cooler if you actually lopped heads off and such. Warband has a few issues, but overall I've gotten hours and hours of fun out of it. The game runs like butter for the most part, and it's a hell of a lot more fun than alot of the big budget garbage games out there. I'll be picking this up for sure, this is a really great series of games.

tiggerlu
tiggerlu

Hope they enough cash to really polish this game, Warband had way too many bugs, and except for the combat engine the rest of the game was 10 years behind in terms of graphics, scripting, AI etc... This game can be a big league game with a bit more investment - they can't stay a small team anymore. I was amazed the first two games, but have high expectations for this third one!

dyurth
dyurth

Great news! May be a detail but I hope they redesigned the GUI too, to rid me of that C64 Defender of the Crown-feeling i get during dialogues and menus. As amazingly good as M&B and MB&WB are, some aspects just feel so archaic. I think that more user-friendliness equals more accessibility, which in turn equals appealing to a wider audience and therefore more money/resources for an even cooler next M&B game. As long as they don't change the heart of the open-ended game mechanics and keep the battles bloody, I want this!!

Naturlighet
Naturlighet

It'll be interesting to see how it turns out. I've always been amazed by how a small core of talented developers can come up with such a unique pitch on the gaming market. I hope that the new content not only consists of the majority of the features the community has been asking for, but also that it meets the "new game on old ground" demands in its' reviews, so that new gamers are encouraged to try out this great game.

paShadoWn
paShadoWn

"lulz it sucks" is a first escalation stage of corpies. Then they "launch lawsuits", if it also fails they either back off or send in mercenaries.

bubsy6087
bubsy6087

if they add destructible castles with those explosives that would be totally awesome.

sircyrus
sircyrus

Mount & Blade is one of the greatest things to come out of gaming. It's incredible that such a small team has been able to create something that blows away virtually every medieval combat sim put out by the mega-corp gaming studios. I wish those big studios would take lessons from this game, rather than going "lulz its grpahics sucks" then going on to regurgitate a new Assassin's Creed, CoD, or an overpriced and underwhelming DLC.

hvypetals
hvypetals

thats funny, i too didnt think much of mnb when i first played through. but once i broke through about three hours i was hooked. nothing like stopping a couple hundred guys tryin to seige your castle and looking down the ladder at all the arrows and dead guys to make you feel like this is an awesome under rated title.

digimon360
digimon360

this is one of those games where you hate it at first then love five hours later

TheLamaKnows
TheLamaKnows

I played Warband for 2 hours--- hated it Played another 2 hours-- saw potential, but thought it was bad Gave it a couple more hours-- thought they might have a winner A dedicated gaming session (and get some offline documentation)--- It's probably one the my all time favorite games. Looking forward to the new one!

BornGamer
BornGamer

Imagine if EA or Activision had the guts to put their money behind developing a game like this. Gaming might actually evolve faster than the speed of a crippled snail.

vipershefu
vipershefu

More RPG elements, a more sophisticated diplomacy system, dialogs with recorded voices(no more reading :D), a more interactive world and castles and towns with more life in them would definitely put this game on the best games ever made list.

Krinnium
Krinnium

sweet :] here's to hoping they succeed

FuriousHamst3r
FuriousHamst3r

I'm a big fan of M&B, played it for about 6 months non-stop when the original was released, tried alot of the mods available even for the beta versions. It's a very good sandbox game, but even so it does get kind of boring if you don't have more diplomacy options, and other different types of missions. The battles are always fun, those large scale battles even more. Can't wait for the 3rd instalment.

qu4ck
qu4ck

Very excited about this one! Sounds like some nice new features, explosives should definatly add a new twist to sieges.

Tristen95gi
Tristen95gi

I want more diplomancy options. Like Why can't Swadia, Nords, adn Rodocks have an alliance against the Vaegirs, Khergit Khanate and Sarranid Sultanate. Also some more dynamic quests and inner Faction Rivalry. This is such a good game but with those it would be one of the best

downloadthefile
downloadthefile

Hope it can differentiate itself from M&B as well as from Warband by adding some new elements to diplomacy, ruling and working for kingdoms, acting independently from all of them as a bounty hunter, etc. I loved the first games but I don't think I'll get this if it's essentially the same thing again. I would really love for them to add some more interactive cities and towns. It seems like you should be able to do more stuff in them than you currently can. More RPG elements like some loose story and compelling motives for your character would be much appreciated. I don't even care about the graphics of this one, actually, as long as they can come through with some more world building and stuff to do. The game is like a huge toybox except it has only one toy in it. They could do much more with the format they've developed.

Dorgoth12
Dorgoth12

looking forward to this, ive played some very good mods for MB in this setting. high hopes already.

gwailo2470
gwailo2470

I'm actually looking forward to this. Not being from a big company, it actually has a higher chance of not being a buggy overpriced POS at release. Hopefully Paradox will let them finish the game before pushing them to release it, I've lost a lot of respect for them in the past few years.

bladezatron
bladezatron

at the very first time when i played the M&B demo in the tutorial i was like WTF is this?.... then after i mounted a horse and recruited some soldiers and got to owning bandits across calradia i new this is the game for me, and since then i spend good hours every day owning npcs and players.

GuinnessHero
GuinnessHero

Original M&B was a brilliant start, but warband was pretty meh for me; didn't seem like much of an improvement. Hopefully the game will be a bit more refined and actually feel like the finished article this time around. The gameplay has always been there, just needs to be a bit more polished. The graphics have never been the main focus of M&B, but still glad to see they're getting an improvement. Catiously looking forward to this one.

PredatorRules
PredatorRules

all you need is a good simulation combat game with nice graphics and you'll be able to mod it anyway you'd like to

pitonudo
pitonudo

Hope there'll be more things to do than in Warband...

Samrat_Ashok
Samrat_Ashok

This one's going to be good. Cannot wait.

CptAsbjoern
CptAsbjoern

Been with this series for a looong time now, looking forward to this :)

Gruug
Gruug

If this game is as good or better the Mount & Blade: War Band, I will be happy. MBWB is a pretty good game in its own right. Fire & Sword looks to be even that much better.

TheTrueObelus
TheTrueObelus

The first one was Sid Meier's Pirates! on land, but missing much of the charm. Still I'll be curious to see how this game develops.