The guys over at Resolution Magazine have cranked out a hands-on preview of Mount & Blade: Warband after trying their hand at the expansion's ongoing beta test (which, incidentally, is now in open beta). An excerpt to follow:
Several of the game types show potential. There's something instinctively satisfying about this authentic medieval combat when played online. Castle sieges are chaotic but slow-burning affairs, where tactics are essential to success. In Battle mode, death is permanent, the winning side being the one with men left standing at the end. Fight And Destroy plays with the same ideas, but asks teams to defend or attack catapults and trebuchets. There's the possibility of real strategic planning across these modes, and it'll be interesting to see how the relatively small-scale games we played transfer across to larger matches (servers can hold up to 64 players) after release.
Across all game types, a lightweight but functional equipment system allows you to kit out your character - on-foot, with-arrows or on-horse - with armour and weapons prior to each game. You've a set amount of money - which ups as you survive rounds - to spend on balancing your equipment list, so opting for heavier armour leaves less to spend on weaponry, and so forth. Finding the right mix to suit your class and playing style is tricky, and in the couple of hours we spent playing I didn't come anywhere close - but it should provide a compelling reason to experiment with different options.