Mount & Blade: Warband does the natural thing by adding multiplayer to the excellent sandbox combat simulator RPG. And with the open beta out, now is the perfect time for us to preview the game to see how it's shaping up.
All the single player additions aside, multiplayer is the big selling point of Warband. It plays with a bevy of familiar gameplay modes, such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Battle, Capture the Flag, Conquest and Siege, I also spotted some specialized, mod-based sessions running, such as a Roleplaying server, or a "Hunt" server which had enough users to join, and provided a very enjoyable experience significantly different from the other Warband multiplayer mode. A good sign that Mount & Blade's adaptability is poised to leak into multiplayer too. The only regular multiplayer modes I freely got to try were Team Deathmatch, Battle and Capture the Flag, the servers running the other game modes never having any or enough users on them. Of these, Battle plays closest to Mount & Blade as we know it, consisting of multiple skirmishes of up to 5 minutes, in which the players do not respawn, and the last team with a man standing wins.
Each session has two competing teams consisting of troops from one of Mount & Blade's factions. When you join a session, you get to pick one of the two competing factions, then a troop from said factions, made up of familiar faces such as Nord Huscarls, Rhodok Crossbowmen or Khergit Lancers. Once you pick your troop, you have an amount of gold based on server settings with which you can buy equipment to upgrade your character. Stats cannot be updated, and characters are reset for every new session. You can even switch equipment and characters in between respawns. Clearly, the idea here is to experiment as much as possible from session to session, seeking to exploit your skill set and specific tactical advantages of the different available maps.
Because that's the big, obvious advantage of multiplayer: no more opposing infantry charging your cavalry in an open field, or men defending a castle by bunching up near the ladders. The fact that real people are now behind the opposing troops means that even the traditional wimps of Mount & Blade, the cavalry-free Nords and Rhodoks, can put up an excellent fight, even in a fairly open field.