Content of the article: "A Critique of the Perisno Mod for Warband: More Isn’t Always Better"
This is a longform post with a tl;dr conclusion at the end. I would ask that you read the details if you want to discuss and make counter-arguments, and I am receptive to such discussion.
Intro: Hello everyone. I am a Warband vet of around 1000 hours and have played many mods. For many years I have attempted to play Perisno, only to make one excuse or another for not actually playing it. Having finally made it about 30~ hours into a playthrough, some issues became immediately apparent to me with this mod that make it a fairly unenjoyable experience overall. In this review I'd like to point out some of these issues, and offer feedback to the mod creator(s) about what would make the mod better. (I'll add a tl;dr at the bottom as well, since this is going to be a longform post). Most of my experience is with Native/Diplomacy, Floris Expanded, and Viking Conquest.
What is Perisno, and what's good about it?
Perisno is a built-from-scratch fantasy world made entirely in Warband's engine. There are many kingdoms and minor factions with which to ally, fight, and recruit troops from. The game has one of the most extensive and interesting troop tree varieties I have seen, which means it's possible that one playthrough will have you seeing entirely new content for roughly 90% of the experience depending on where your second or even third playthrough starts. The troop trees are deep and offer interesting and meaningful choices, and troops compared to one another are somewhat balanced, with some having better stats but taking longer to train and being more expensive, while others are cheaper and easier to train but have lower maximum potential. There are also actual quests in this mod, which are fun to follow and give meaning to exploration in the world. Custom mercenaries and a Household Guard feature are also really cool. For those seeking a challenge, Perisno is also up there with Pendor in terms of challenge, and should be commended for being so difficult, but at the same time some of where this difficulty comes from is also a source of my issues with this mod.
Let's talk about that difficulty.
Perisno brands itself as a difficult mod, at least more than Native, which isn't really saying all that much to be fair. Some of the ways it does this is somewhat irritating, however. In most other Warband mods, including Native and Floris, the way in which you gather early strength is usually through fighting battles with early-game bandits, taking prisoners, selling loot, and for some raiding neutral towns to get a lot of loot quicker. In Perisno, this isn't really an option; from day 1, most bandit parties will outnumber you, usually with better, or even late-game troops, and the exponential unit scaling (more on that in a second) makes it so that recruiting some starting troops is basically a waste of time, especially since tier-0 troops cost 30 per recruit rather than 10 in Native (similar to Viking Conquest iirc). So, the only way to make money is to do Lord quests, "bounties" (which are basically just the Lord bounty hunter quest where you go to a village and kill a random guy, then lose town rep, except a Tavern guy gives the quest to you), and town quests. From there, you basically only want to recruit companions and maybe 10-15 of the highest tier mercenaries in case you get jumped while on the world map. And you will get jumped on the world map, because one of Perisno's quirks (similar to Pendor, but worse) is that enemy parties are extremely quick, especially since many of them only have mounted troops. As such, the only way to build your party early on is to pump Pathfinding as much and as quickly as possible, because you seriously need a party speed of 8.0 to evade most of the overland map parties in this mod. Expect to have to shell out money to bandits rather frequently, and leave troops to die if you don't want to wipe.
The problems with exponential unit scaling.
While Perisno isn't the only mod to feature units that get exponentially better, it is one of the mods where it is most pronounced. Units often jump by hundreds of proficiency points in a single promotion, and basic tech tree troops often have stats in the high 400-500 range, a proficiency level which is difficult for the player to achieve (let alone your companions, who naturally progress slower). By comparison, the best troops in Floris and Pendor take ages to train up, especially in Floris, and even then they only reach about 300 in their proficiency stats most of the time. Perisno units also usually jump 10-20 points of body armor per tier, with max level troops usually having 70-80 body armor, meaning that literally only other top tier troops with 8-10 Power Strike can even damage them. Seriously, the units in this mod can tank Lance hits, shortly before skewering your horse and you in one swing.
This wouldn't be especially so annoying if these max level troops didn't spawn into Deserter stacks, which are virtually impossible to kill early, and unprofitable to defeat later.
The issue with this type of unit scaling is that it takes away virtually all meaningful progression away from the player and from the troops themselves. In 100-200 hours of play, I could maybe get to be as strong as one of my farmers that I gave $600, and this is as Tolrania, whose troop quality is actually overall on the average side of things. In Native and Floris, and even Pendor, it is possible to yourself become one of your top tier troops, and in a reasonable timeframe as well. In Perisno, you are basically always stuck being the general hiding behind his shield hoping not to get shot by one of the fifty 500 proficiency archers/horse archers in the enemy line; charging is basically suicide at any time, as any faction.
As well, when units are this close in skill across so many factions, many of the factions start to feel the same. Tolranian Noble Archers (Royal Incendirim) are virtually identical to Elven (Elintoran) standard unit line elite archers, and Tolranian Archers (standard) are virtually identical to Drachen Sharpshooters (standard), which makes each faction feel less unique. Native, despite being basic, did an excellent job at making each faction feel really unique; Swadians crush with their heavy cavalry, while the Nords are a slow-moving shieldwall of death, while the Vaegirs rely on their excellent archers and knights. In Perisno, despite the massive selection of troops, it doesn't really feel that different playing one faction to another; almost nothing separates Draharan desert horse archers from Elintoran elven horse archers. It all feels purely cosmetic.
Other, more minor gripes
Something else that bothers me in this mod is the size of garrisons; when a town has 600+ troops, it makes assaulting it virtually impossible, especially when the kingdom sizes are so small and lords so few in number. Moreover, due to the packed nature of the map, raiding is usually suicidal, especially with the exceptionally fast Lord speed on the world map, and that some Lords spawn with cavalry-only armies. As well, many Lords get special Household units that should be part of the standard unit roster; for example, one Tolranian lord gets a "Royal Alchemist" unit that literally throws AoE bombs; why aren't these recruitable in some way? I feel like it's just wasted potential.
What would I change?
Well, for starters I would add a lot more low-level parties early on for the player to actually be able to do the basic function of grinding off bandits to get gear and money. Dragging cattle around for the first 10 hours of the game isn't really fun. Party speeds need to be lowered across the board, since Pathfinding is one of the dumbest skills in Warband, and any mod that makes you get 7+ Pathfinding just to evade parties when you only have 20 people is just ridiculous. I would also probably lower the number of parties that spawn per faction, since between demon worshippers, old god fanatics, amazons, eagle knights, lymbard knights, wolf knights, and more, there are so many high-tier hostile parties on the map that the early game grind gets compounded by the ever-present threat of getting tagged by something while you were just trying to fast travel to another city by speeding up time.
More extensive, but also needed, is a serious look at how the game is balanced and how it doesn't really work with Warband's engine. Any troop that is not max level, is not worth the party space, and that feels wrong. Part of the fun of Warband is having to work with parties that aren't all max level, because of attrition, and I can safely say that the majority of your party's troops will likely, as mine, come from ones you rescued from one of the numerous bandit war parties on the map.
I really, really like the troop diversity in this mod, including the extensive ones for Farmers and Peasant Women/Refugees, but it just makes me sad that they never, ever live long enough to actually hit max level. Rather, they will be cut down by a 500 proficiency archer virtually every time, with no way to actually keep them safe to get them the experience they need.
Perisno is an ambitious mod with huge troop variety and commendable quest and faction design. However, the overtuned troops and fake difficulty make the mod hard to enjoy, and makes factions feel samey. For those with a lot of patience seeking a challenge, this mod may provide it, but overall the design seems to do everything it can to stop you from making any real progress, and being a warrior character in this mod is basically suicide due to the insane troop stats, limiting options for playstyles further due to needing high Pathfinding in every playthrough anyway.
Is it worth playing? Actually, yeah, I think it is. But prepare to be frustrated at every turn as the game constantly reminds you of your individual worthlessness even more than some of the most hardcore milsims out there.
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