Mod of the Week: Warsword Conquest, for Mount and Blade: Warband
Years in the making, Warsword Conquest is finally playable in beta: a full conversion mod for Mount and Blade: Warband that transforms the game into a world based on Warhammer fantasy. There are thirteen different factions to join, including the rat-like Skaven, the scaly Lizardmen, Chaos, pirates, and of course, dwarves, elves, and orcs. But screw all of those, because you can play as a skeleton. Don't you want to play as a skeleton? I'm gonna play as a skeleton.
With so many factions and races from Warhammer Fantasy in the mod, I'd rather not pledge my allegiance to a single one and miss out on seeing most of the others. I decide to play as a freelance skeleton, lending my services here and there but not getting too attached to anyone in particular. I begin by joining up with the goblins of The Badlands. They're so short that when I speak to them their heads are barely visible in the conversation window. However, they're happy to hire an inexperienced skeleton (named Murray, of course) into their ranks. It's awesome to run into battle alongside trolls and spider-riding goblins, and we make a mess out of several groups of dwarves we run into.
I eventually decide to retire from the goblin army (my commander is very understanding) and visit my homeland, the Tomb Kings Empire. High King Settra is happy to employ me, and while I'm not at all xenophobic, it is rather nice to be surrounded by my fellow undead, and particularly nice to be given armor and weapons suitable for my flesh-free body (the goblin gear didn't work for my bony bod). Also cool: when we go to battle, our cavalry rides skeletal horses and giant undead snakes.
As much as I love going to war alongside my skeletal brethren, I eventually decide to move on (once I can afford my own necroserpent to ride), so I recruit a small force of skeletons from the local taverns (why do skeletons hang out in taverns?) and we move through the Pirate Kingdom and head into elf country. Along the way I stop in various towns and taverns, and soon I've got a motley crew of followers, including a couple of swabbies, a half-dozen men from the Alcatani Fellowship, and even a few Skaven slaves.
Of course, no matter how much progress you make in a Mount & Blade game, it can all be suddenly and horribly lost, such as when my weirdly fearsome crew runs into something just plain fearsome: some Norse raiders. It's not that a bunch of bearded jerks are so imposing, it's just that this crew has some hired ogres on their side, and the massive, hammer-wielding merc-monsters wade through my ranks, clubbing us all into bonemeal. I didn't even know you could hire ogres. I'm definitely going to need to hire some ogres.
I need cash to hire a new crew, so I throw in with an Elven army for a bit. Normally, I find elves a bit snooty, but I have to admit, charging into battle alongside them, with their gleaming armor and white horses and colorful banners... okay, I get why elves are so revered. Also, props to them for letting a skeleton join them, no questions asked. Not a lot of elves would do that.
Eventually, I make enough cash to head out on my own again. I meet a skeleton lord (in a pub, of course), I hire a small collection of Lizardmen, and while I can't find any ogres to fight for me, I do find some Gorols, who are so tall that when I speak to one, only his crotch appears in the dialogue pane. They're not ogres, but hopefully they'll pack a wallop, and I'm happy to once again be in charge of a crew of violent misfit monsters.
By now I've worked my way through the Skaven Kingdom and I'm as far north as I can go, in Dark Elf country. I've added a Waywatcher to my crew, along with some merc leadbelchers (ogres at last!) and a few Dark Elf recruits. We win battles, capture prisoners, and sell enough of them to buy a boat. We even chase down some undead pirates, but considering Murray was an undead pirate in another life, I feel like I should let them go.
Eventually, we make our way to the Realm of Chaos, which is actually pretty organized, what with the castles and towns and hierarchies and people unwilling let some skeleton marry their daughter without knowing him better. At least they dress interestingly!
It's been a long journey and Murray is ready for some steady work, and the Chaos Realm is as good a place as any. I join the Chaos army, though they force me to wear their armor, which sort of takes away my skeleton-ness. Still, a job is a job.
When I last left Murray, he was gaining influence in the Realm of Chaos, he'd bought and opened a mill, and was hoping to woo and marry Chaos Lady Timethi. Hey, every swinging bachelor skeleton has got to settle down someday.
Installation: Warsword Conquest is still in beta, so look for future updates. It can be downloaded here along with a hotfix, and all you need to do is locate your Warband folder, and extract the files into the Modules folder. Extract the hotfix on top of those files, and then activate the module when you begin playing Warband. It's also on moddb.