Mount & Blade PC
Published by: Paradox Interactive
Developed by: TaleWorlds
Release Date: Out Now
In many ways Mount & Blade is a very unusual RPG. On the one hand it has a great combat system that can be very satisfying and on the other hand it doesn't have that rich storyline you expect from an RPG and the game feels kind of strange because of that. Those who simply want an RPG with a strong focus on combat and that offers an open-ended experience will find Mount & Blade to be a mostly enjoyable game. It's not perfect by any means but Mount & Blade provides an original gaming experience with a rather impressive take on medieval-style combat.
The game is set in Calradia which happens to be in chaos. Kingdoms are at war and criminals roam the land. You'll begin the game by creating a character. You'll select your character's gender, their father's occupation, what they did in early and later life as well as choosing a reason for becoming an adventurer. Finally you'll get to name your character and distribute Attribute, Skill and Proficiency points before being dropped into a medieval-style world with just a horse for company. From this point on you're free to play the game as you wish. You can play as a merchant or an adventurer but the real fun in the game is the combat and whilst you begin the game fighting by yourself, as you progress you'll get to recruit an army to fight by your side.
The combat is in real-time and it's very enjoyable. Fighting solo is OK but the real fun is when you have your own army to fight alongside you. Particularly impressive is the combat on horseback, which is quite unlike anything I've experienced in a game before. Those looking for a fairly accurate medieval-style combat game would do well to play Mount & Blade. There's no fantasy nonsense here and you won't have access to healing potions or magic spells to save your bacon so you'll win battles through your battle technique alone. You'll often come up against large numbers of enemies and it certainly pays to recruit an army (who'll also improve as you progress) of your own to take part in battles and sieges. The battle mechanics are very satisfying, regardless of the weapons you choose to fight with, and the game could simply have been marketed as a medieval battle simulator had the developers chosen to do so.
Whilst the combat is gutsy and certainly enjoyable, it's a shame that the game world isn't more immersive. The absence of a storyline wouldn't have been so bad if the people you converse with actually had some semblance of a personality. Their responses to your questions are completely flat and have no trace of individuality about them. In truth it's difficult to feel that it's not a complete waste of time talking to them as most of them give you the same responses. Had the characters in the game had more personality you probably wouldn't even miss an elaborate storyline. The game does a good job of allowing you to play as you wish and side with whom you choose but it would have been better if you had personalities you could really form affection or disdain for. Most of the quests could have been more interesting and varied too.
Had Mount & Blade been released around seven years ago it probably would have looked quite good. By 2008's standards however the game looks rather basic. Unfortunately the quality of 3D graphics have long since surpassed what's on offer here and whilst we certainly don't value the quality of graphics as highly as some (game-play is by far the most important factor in our book), it is important that they are of a fairly decent standard. The one positive to take from the very basic visuals is that I imagine virtually no PC gamer should suffer with performance issues. The presentation of the game as a whole is on the basic side.
Deaf gamers won't have any real issues with Mount & Blade. All dialogue in the game is text only and you'll always be fully aware of who is saying what. The game's tutorial is also text only meaning that you'll have no trouble in getting to grips with the game. All quest details are given in text and you can recall the quest details at any time. There aren't any captions, which for the most part doesn't cause any problems but it would have been good to have seen some included, if only to add to the ambience of the battlefield.
Your opinion of Mount & Blade will depend on what kind of game you're expecting. If you're expecting a rich storyline and all the trappings of a modern day single-player RPG you're going to be bitterly disappointed. If you're looking for a game that allows you to roam the game world as you see fit and engage in some rather impressive battles (you could argue that it's a medieval battle simulator and I don't think many would disagree with that) and don't mind the absence of a quality storyline then you could actually have found a game that will hit the spot nicely. Assuming you're not after a typical, story-driven RPG the only cause for complaint will be the quality of the graphics which are basic. A try before you buy version is available for the game (which limits you to developing a character to level 6) and it's certainly worth looking at as it's fair to say there's no other game quite like it on the PC.