It’s not often that I’ll so hastily point to the sheer tonnage of a mod in order to bring attention to it, but the ever-expanding Floris Mod Pack (currently at Version 2.54 and still growing) is a rightful exception. Even after a full suite of patches and updates, Mount & Blade: Warband weighs in at just shy of 900mb. Despite billing itself as just a suite of enhancements to the ‘vanilla’ campaign mode of the game, the Floris Mod Pack adds almost 2.5gb of new content, features, graphics and effects. In short, it’s big. It’s also deep, involved and complex.
That’s not to say that M&B: Warband was a small or lightweight game to begin with. While it was only slightly expanded over the original release of Mount & Blade, it was still a time-devouring titan of a game. An action-RPG/sim blend leading you through the life of a medieval mercenary, from poorly equipped no-hoper to perhaps lord of your own lands and leader of massive armies. The Floris Mod Pack is not the work of one man, but rather a curated all-in-one upgrade pack drawing from the best and brightest in the (impressively active) M&B modding community that aims to improve and flesh out every single aspect of the game.
Didn’t think that the castles and towns were unique and well-defined enough? Now everything has its own look. Wanted more character interaction with NPCs? It’s there. Perhaps you’re a history buff, and didn’t see your favourite swords and shields represented? Just about everything ever seen in medieval Europe, Asia, Egypt and beyond is covered here, and it all slots into place naturally, filling out each nation and giving them a more distinct flavour of their own. The graphics have also gotten a universal overhaul, and the game is far more detailed. There’s a lot of nice, subtle particle effects to see, such as massed cavalry kicking up a storm of dust in desert battles, and the overworld map has gotten a major lick of paint as well.
The past few major updates to the mod pack have also addressed some issues I had with earlier builds. While interesting, the overhauls done to the unit evolution tech-trees were a little mystifying at first. Your first band of Sarranid peasants are ready to be promoted to regular troops, but the choices of ‘Sarranid Ajam’ or ‘Sarranid Oglan’ won’t make much sense unless you’ve studied medieval history. Fortunately, everything now has simple designations attached. Ajam units are now labelled with a handy ‘I2′, signifying that they’re Tier 2 Infantry, and Oglan troops would be A2 – Tier 2 Archers – a simple and intuitive change. You can also view all unit promotion trees via an in-game reference screen, so there’s no excuse for confusion anymore.
This is all highly configurable, too. There’s an in-game options menu added to let you enable and disable a huge range of features, from bugfixes applied to the original game content, to new enemy AI that uses proper formations and more. The later stages of the game are highly fleshed out, too, letting you settle into a more leaderly role and assign troops to autonomous divisions. It really is one of those packs where they’ve thought of just about everything. In a nod towards medieval accuracy, it’s even harder to climb the ladder to success if you choose to play a female character, but you can still earn respect through great deeds. Or just skip that and take the head of anyone that disparages you for your gender – that works, too.
All of these upgrades do have a cost. The system requirements for the game go up sharply when running this mod, and a quad-core CPU with 4GB of RAM or more is highly recommended. There are smaller, less memory-intensive installation options if you wish to sacrifice some of the graphical upgrades, but that would be missing out on half the point of the mod pack. The other tradeoff is that the learning curve – already fairly steep – is steeper still. My advice for any player that isn’t a veteran is to stick to Easy difficulty, which multiplies the health of both you and your followers. While I can’t recommend this as a starting point for Mount & Blade beginners – a few hours of the regular vanilla game will help you find your feet – this is really a must-have if you want something meatier and richer than the default campaign.