GB Feature: Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword Preview

Brother None had the opportunity to take a press demo of Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword for a spin, and has returned with a two-page preview based on his experience. A little something to get you started:
Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword is an upcoming standalone expansion pack to the excellent sandbox action-RPG Mount & Blade. Like its predecessor, With Fire & Sword offers a completely open world, where you recruit and manage a large band of fighters and accept quests from lords and mayors, with longtime goals of joining a faction or even becoming a king yourself. The franchise's main draw throughout all its titles is its excellent combat system, which is flexible and intuitive, with each battle feeling unique as you employ different tactics or the tides of fortune just happen to sweep another way.

What makes With Fire & Sword different from its predecessor is that it is set in 1655, in a semi-fictional representation of Eastern Europe at the time, with factions such as Tsarist Muscovy battling Poland-Lithuania. It's a novel setup compared to Mount & Blade, which was set in a fictional land, albeit one that clearly resembled medieval Europe and its environs. The jump forward in time means a different albeit not wildly different visual style, as well as the addition of firearms. The game is based on a Polish historical novel penned in the late 19th century, called Ogniem i Mieczem, which is translated as With Fire and Sword. The work is generally considered a standard in Polish schools, but while I know of its existence it never passed in my curriculum as a student of history, and I am unfamiliar with the story and can not say how it relates to the game, other than being set in the same year and region.