Review: Mount & Blade
Over the past few years we have seen the open-world genre become something more than just a bustling city where you beat up everyone you see. It has grown into just about every setting you can think of, from the outer space of Mass Effect to the mythical age of The Elder Scrolls. Heck, you can even add the post-apocalyptic setting of Fallout to that as well. But when it comes to taking a setting that is not in modern time, they always seem to add some whimsical magic to the setting that I don’t really enjoy. In comes Mount & Blade e, an open-world game set in the medieval times that does not include any sort of magic to the game. It’s a straight up medieval time setting that lets you decide the fate of your character.
Mount & Blade is a sandbox medieval-themed PC game set in the realm of Calradia, a world divided by five different factions (Nords, Swadians, Rhodocks, Vaegirs and Khergit Khanate) all vying for supremacy in the land. Upon starting Mount & Blade , you are given some background story to choose from. Such as who raised you, how you lived as a child, what you did as a young adult and what drives this character to venture through the world. These questions are basically a way for the game to define your stats. Once you’re done with that and customize your appearance, you’re instantly popped into the world. What happens next is up to you.
Your first look of the game will be an almost top-down perspective on the landscape around you. This is basically the world map; you click on an area you want to go and head in that direction. Castles, villages, towns and other people are the main things you’ll see on the map, and you have free reign as to what you want to do. But this can be a rather big obstacle to climb.
If you decide to go to a village, you can look for villagers that would fight for you, check the village’s supplies, or go to the village elder and ask for quest. Going to castles gives you with the opportunity to meet the lord of the castle who serves under one of the five kings of each faction.
But towns are probably the most important places in the game.
Once you enter a town, you can go shopping for weapons, armour, a horse and some general items. Each town also has a lord that you can visit, a head villager to get quests from, and a tavern where you can hire mercenaries and companions for your group. Also, each town has an arena where they hold tournaments for money and renown.
Aside from venturing into villages and the like, you will probably run into your fair share of bandits. It’s at this point that Mount & Blade ‘s combat system shows its face. Combat is done in a third-person perspective that pretty much looks like the Empire series, and is usually fought on a huge landmass. You and your group of soldiers go head-to-head with your opponent at opposite ends. From there you can direct your men via commands of what to do next. If you leave it to the AI they will just keep running till they meet up with the enemy. You, however, can tell different soldier types to manoeuvre differently throughout the map. So, hypothetically you can tell your foot soldiers to charge the enemy and then tell your horse units to flank them.
Throughout all of this, you control your created character and move him around much like any other third-person game. Once you meet the enemy, you use the left mouse button to attack and the right mouse button to block. Depending on how your camera is positioned, you will attack and block from different angles. Pulling the camera more left makes your character swing right, pulling it right swings your weapon left, and pulling it higher up swings your weapon down to the enemy. Blocking also works this way. This becomes vital to the combat because how much damage you cause and receive all depends on where you attack and block.
You can also opt to be a long-range combatant with the use of a bow, crossbow or a sling shot of some sort. Each has a reticule that shows you where you’re aiming, and you use the left mouse button to shoot. If you’re using the bow, the longer you hold down the mouse button the more focused your aim will be. But if you hold it for too long then your reticule will start to shake which causes your aim to go off. If you use a crossbow, you won’t suffer from that aiming mechanism but you will have to manually reload. Using the sling shot, you need to use rocks instead of arrows but it doesn’t do as much damage as the other two.
On top of those, you can also ride on a horse, which controls kind of how you’d expect. Once you press forward, the horse starts to move. The more times you press forward, the faster the horse goes. You don’t have full control of the horse and it will take some time to get used to it, as you can also use archery, swords and even poles while riding. But it all seems to get a bit lost in the controls of steering the horse.
Aside from the combat, Mount & Blade offers up an enormous amount of freedom of what to do in the world. From being a merchant and heading to different towns to buy low/sell high, just wandering the area searching for bandits, or even just raiding villages. But what you probably would want to do is get into a kingdom and help them in their quest for world domination. You have five different kingdoms to choose from, each serving a different purpose. Some specialize in horses, others, spears, or others are balanced on each side. The way you go about joining a kingdom differs in a multitude of ways. One of the main ways is to get enough renown till one of the kingdoms take notice. This is usually done by joining and winning tournaments. Win enough and a king will request your vassalage, at which point you will get your own town to help build up, and, well, work your way to domination by following the king’s orders.
Another way to do this is to help out a king’s vassal with some of his quests. Once you start to build up a reputation with one of them, they may start to ask you to become a mercenary for the kingdom. But you don’t get your own land and you still have to listen to a higher-up’s orders, which is pretty much the same as listening to the king’s. Once you do enough requests for the kingdom, the King will finally ask you to become a vassal.
Once you do get into the groove of things and you become a vassal under a King, it takes awhile for things to happen. When you do get a village under your control you can choose to build buildings to help improve the village. For example, there are search towers to keep thieves at bay, or schools to bring in more people to the village. But there’s a problem with how long it takes to build these things. A normal building will take about twenty days to complete, and the time doesn’t pass by fast enough for you to really get invested in it. To put things in perspective, it would take about two days to go from one side of the map to another. Also, you can only build one building at a time.
If there’s any problem with this game it’s in two key things. First, this game came out in late 2008 and it looks like an Xbox game from 2004. The second comes from the many glitches in the game. Most have to do with a lot of the quest-based aspects such as certain conditions being met and yet, the game doesn’t acknowledge it and the quest will not end. Which pretty much ruins a lot of the game.
Along with those two negative points, the world is rather barren. You get a lot of the same quests from different characters, a lot of the towns don’t look all that different, and there is hardly any voice acting aside from some generic comments. Once you explore one kingdom and move on to the next, you’ll find out that each of these kingdoms don’t really have any sort of identity. The game itself just feels like they did just enough to release out to the public.
That aside, Mount & Blade has one heck of a mod community that fixes up a lot of the problems, and offer some really great content. Heck, there’s even a Fallout mod for this game that is pretty good. If you’re looking for an open world game set in medieval times, this is probably your best bet. Set aside some of its flaws and the game has an amazing amount of potential in it and plenty of replay value. With a heavy focus on combat and sheer amount of things to do, Mount & Blade is a game that was certainly a long time coming.
|Title:||Mount & Blade|
|Publishers:||Paradox Interactive AB|
|Genre:||Adventure, Role-Playing, Action, Simulation|