The birds sung. Each chirp, each tweet and each singsong melody were a jarring reminder of the peace back at home, but I was here for my country, for the honour and glory of the glorious British Empire. My feet were sore and the person before me had an extremely familiar hat. I’d counted each fibre at least twice on the miles we’d walked. Column formation they called it. Galloping past was a scout, no doubt returning with information on the enemy positions. Our job was simple: find the French and remove them.
“COLUMN HALT!” came a sudden bellow from the front, accompanied by a drum. The orders echoed down the line. “LINE RIGHT ON ME!” came the following order.
I’d trained for years for this moment and I couldn’t even see the enemy. I ran alongside and stepped into formation. The large open plain before us looked inviting, a large farmhouse in the distance stood with an ominous presence. I could just about make out moving hats; at that moment a huge French flag sprung into view. I stood in silence, the drummer hammering out the order for formation, I glanced down the line to the right estimating at least 200 of us stood, our colours proud, our formation tight.
“PRESENT ARMS!” I lifted my gun, it felt heavy. Heavier than ever before. I leveled my musket at the hats in the distance.
I gulped, the birds stopped singing.
I pulled the trigger.
Mount and Blade Warband: Napoleonic Wars has been met with a roaring success, cementing itself in the top 10 sales on Steam within the first few days of release. Mount and Blade Warband was released in 2010 and featured a sandbox campaign play where you would gather an army, engage in political intrigue whilst blending RPG, RTS and FPS into one unique gameplay. The game offered a charm and won many over offering, hours of endless entertainment. I, for one, was one of these slaves to the game.
Under the surface of the game lurked a community, a community that encouraged modifications and in particular had the potential to offer a multiplayer experience like no other. On November 17th 2010 the modification Mount and Musket: Battalion “Waterloo” was released, lead by developer Maxim “Vincenzo” Munnig Schmidt. The modification featured huge 200 player battles with muskets, bayonets and cannon. It introduced the foundations to allow a community to blossom. Community driven clans, called “regiments”, formed with ranks, officers and organisation took the core game and carried it to greatness. In February 2011 the last patch “Mount and Musket: Russia” was released and Vincenzo took MM to Taleworlds, the developers behind the game of Mount and Blade. The modification was solid, more popular than the native game; they agreed to the game design and wanted a commercial product. The game was funded, voice actors hired, and the team behind Napoleonic Wars started work on bringing out the first DLC (downloadable content) for Mount and Blade.
On 19th April 2012, Napoleonic Wars was released and resulted in a mass migration from the old MM modification. The game offers a multiplayer experience like no other, blending a roleplay aspect with first person shooter and a hint of strategy. It is all driven by real people and dependant on a community. The game allows you to take control of an individual in a 3rd/1st person view, be it a common soldier known as a ranker or an officer, maybe an honourable dragoon or a burly cannoneer. The game offers a variety of roles and on the surface offers an enjoyable multiplayer shooter.
However the game has a depth to it like no other. It encourages clans and enables groups of players to work together, obeying orders and roleplaying the part of a man from the Napoleonic era. This is what interested me: the competitive scene behind the game.
Unlike most modern games with in-game progressions, experience points, perks, features and unlocks, NW does not share these features. In the other games you can play alone, level, advance and progress with a system in-built for personal advancement. In NW you play with a community, and advance based your own merits, your own desires, ranking up within a regiment and promoted by your superior officers (other players). Like a clan or guild in World of Warcraft the driving factor is you.
I started playing NW a few days ago and ran around aimlessly shooting, missing and getting hacked down by large groups of men. I adjusted my tactics and followed people, groups forming lines, building barricades and firing in volleys. I noticed these groups of people had similar tags such as. “90th_Perth_Cpl_Polipol” and in particular noticed many had the prefix “90th_Perth”.
I stood with my British flag and daft name and staggered around attempting to follow them. I lived. In fact, I started getting kills and winning rounds. I figured that in order to get their perfect volleys and orders followed flawlessly as a group, these “90th_Perth” must be using Teamspeak or Ventrillo.
Fast forward a few hours of gameplay and questions, I’d undertaken some basic training, learnt about the game, the mechanics and basic orders. I was ready. I stood with my new name, “90th_Perth_Pvt_Farske” and Scottish flag above my avatar. With an enormous amount of pride I stood in line with 15 other rankers, listening to the chatter on Teamspeak.“Face Left!” shouted the soothing Irish voice of 90th_Perth_Sgt_Niall “Present Arms!... Fire!”
I can honestly say we went ahead and dominated servers, destroyed other regiments and generally had a fantastic time. I learnt how the regiment was a part of a collective of regiments called the 10th Commonwealth Division, the 90th Perthshire Light Infantry Regiment of Foot also the 13th Somersetshire Light Infantry, 2nd Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards and 3rd Royal Artillery Regiment all sharing a server and Teamspeak.
I spoke to the founder, “Colonel” Viktor, of the 90th Perthshire Light Infantry Regiment of Foot” about the regiment I had just joined. He created it on October 20th, 2011, having played MM since 19th September. He decided to form the 90th because his old regiment (2nd Nottinghamshire) was disbanded on October 19th, and creating his own regiment had been a goal of his for a while. The 90th focuses on making a fun community where people can improve their game and take part in a style of gameplay they enjoy (linebattles). Viktor recommends that anybody new to the game plays the tutorial and learn how to play the game before jumping into any sort of multiplayer battle/regiment in order to get as much out of it as possible.
I feel I experienced Napoleonic Wars as it was meant to be experienced, in regiments with the community against the community. It was true competitive gaming with an extremely friendly feel. I recommend stepping into the mashup of RTS/FPS/RPG with an open mind and willingness to experience all that this game has to offer.