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Mount and Blade - Best game of 2008 you probably never heard of.

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January 29, 2009 8:22:08 PM

I mentioned this game in another thread but I really wanted to give it it's own thread because it really deserves the attention. I did search the forum and found some threads from 2005, when the game was released for beta. But now it's finally been released, as of September 2008, but most people have probably never heard of it unless you check the Steam store front on a regular basis like I do. The back story of this game's development is great and I would recommend looking it up even if you're not interested in this game but are still a PC gaming fan. It's stories/games like this that guarantee that PC gaming will never die, but I'll leave that for another discussion.

This is by no means any sort of review or even complete overview of the game, I'm just giving my initial impressions and hoping it will spark somebody else's interest and they'll check Mount and Blade out. The first thing I'll mention which I know will interest many who've been around for the various DRM/Piracy debates on this forum is that Mount and Blade is natively sold as "Try then Buy". You can download the full game free of charge from the developer's website. The only restriction is that you can only reach level seven without paying for a serial code. But from what I've played so far 7 levels will last you quite a while and give you more than enough of a taste of what the game is like. Also included are several "scenario" type of skirmishes which show some of the later game content you can expect.

The setting for the game is a fictional medieval realm. Let me stress that it is medieval NOT fantasy. There are no goblins, elves, magic potions, spells monsters or any of that. It's straight up medieval, which is great in my book because fantasy is too common and often used as a crutch for developers who can't come up with original gameplay. Basically the game is completely free form taking place in a land of several warring kingdoms where you'll interact with everybody from lowly looters and peasants all the way up to lords and kings. And unlike so many other RPGs you're not automatically pinned as some long last heir to a thrown and destined warrior. You're pretty much just a regular dude and it's up to you to decide which path(s) to follow. There really isn't even a storyline to try and follow. You could just run around solo harassing villagers and/or other outlaws or trade caravans or you can build your own army and gain your own castle, which will have to be defended. And pretty much everything in between goes.

Even though the game is categorized as an RPG there is a heavy emphasis on mounted combat (as the name Mount and Blade implies). But combat in general is pretty fun and very innovative. Some may complain about the controls but they are fairly easy to learn yet offer a rather complex battle system. Simply button mashing will end in a swift death but there are no complex combos to learn. The combat system is somewhat similar to Age of Conan where it's about attack and blocking various areas of the body, but it's all real-time with the focus on where and how you strike an opponent. Movement speed is also factored into how much damage is inflicted, which is nice because it rewards high speed combat as opposed to a sit back and wait approach. It also makes taking terrain into account very important in a fight. Running uphill, through wooded areas, or wading in a stream slows movement speed and makes solders easy targets for faster moving, harder hit attackers. Taking the high ground early in a battle (especially on horse back) really makes a difference.

The dynamics of group management are very important and add a real strategy element to the game. You learn pretty early on that traveling around in the Mount and Blade realm is best down in numbers. This can mean recruiting peasants to join you, buying mercenaries, recruiting soldiers of you kingdom, or even convincing captured enemies to join your side. But you also have to pay them weekly and keep them happy or else risk them defecting. The character development in Mount in Blade is very in depth and thorough (yet not overly complex like many RPGs), but you'll also find yourself spending just as much time developing your party - which can range from you and one other person or dozens of other troops including other lords who serve under you.

One final thing I'll touch is the graphics because it's an obvious negative that will standout to a first time player. There are two views in the game, an isometric/top down view which looks like something from the PS1 era. This is what's used when traveling around the land from various castles, villages and battles. Basically it is what it is, but works for the basics of just moving around the map. The second view is the third/first person view used while in castles/villages and more importantly in battle. I would compare the graphics to something slightly better than WoW and more realistic than cartoonish. This is in part because the game was developed in 2005 and in part because it is rather low budget in general. But there are two things I'll say about the graphics (specifically the in battle part). One is that while they looked dated, they are nearly flawless. There's very little clipping or otherwise broken looking textures. And two, the game does run extremely smooth at max settings with even the most modest of hardware and during some very large scale battles. One complaint I so often hear about games like Crysis is that developers today focus too much on graphics and not enough on gameplay, resulting in lackluster gameplay which is difficult to run on even good machines. Well folks Mount and Blade is the game that puts graphics on the back burner (but still gives a very nice and solid presentation) and puts the real focus on making the game fun.
January 29, 2009 8:43:44 PM

Im an owner of this game, and the graphics are dated, but the innovative gameplay offsets this. this is a good overview of the M&B.


p.s. there are graphical enhancement mods that help make the game more presentable.
January 29, 2009 8:59:52 PM

Thx Purplerat...i feel i should give it another chance tbh
January 30, 2009 12:57:25 AM

the problem with the game is that its all about fighting, the main hero has almost no story and after a while there isnt much new in terms of variety to do outside fight bandits or raid castles.
January 30, 2009 8:29:09 PM

Pershing121 said:
the problem with the game is that its all about fighting, the main hero has almost no story and after a while there isnt much new in terms of variety to do outside fight bandits or raid castles.



Story is way over blown in games. If I wanted a great story I would read a Harry Potter book. If you don't like a game because it has no "story", I might have to question your manhood. Now if you don't prefer the gameplay then I get your point.
February 3, 2009 4:22:34 PM

I agree that storylines are over-hyped. What I love about a game like Mount and Blade is that with the absence of any linear or central storyline the game let's the player create their own storyline which will be completely different every time you play. Even in a very open game like Oblivion you're still going to encounter the scripted central storyline from time to time so every game seems very similar. But with a game like Mount and Blade which is completely free form a brand new unique storyline is created each new start. You just have to have a little imagination to fill in some of the gaps like characters back stories and what not, so I guess it's one of those things where you get out of the game what you're willing to bring in.
The one game that I always thought did this the best was Civilization. Actually M&B is somewhat like an Action/RPG version of Civ (which makes me think that a Civ/Mount and Blade combo type game might just be the greatest game ever - kind of what Spore attempted but failed at). I guess when you play Civ you could just sit there and think of it purely as a strategy game, kind of a massive chess game, but I always preferred to view each game as an alternate and unique retelling of history.

After putting in quite a few hours over the past week I've hardly become bored because of the lack of a storyline. The one complaint I do have is the apparent lack of scaling with weapons and gear. It seems like I've already seen the highest level gear and I'm pretty close to it with what I'm using. I just haven't gotten around to dropping the major cash to buy the most elite gear just for a slight upgrade. Maybe there's something I'm missing hear on the gear, but at least there are mods to remedy this.
February 5, 2009 1:08:45 PM

I am wondering if gameplay in Darkfall will be somewhat similar to gameplay in Mount & Blade.
March 1, 2009 4:16:09 AM

Incredibly fun game, actually. I bought this and The Witcher at the same time, and have hardly touched the Witcher.... It's a ton of fun to slaughter people while on horseback.

And no one mentioned this, but the game is BUILT for modding. Tons of mods, big mods, small mods, the whole shebang is available in this. It lets you load up whatever mod you want when you start the game, then keeps your characters separate from one another for you. Excellent game (especially since it's like... $15).
March 10, 2009 4:36:58 PM

So, I bought it on STEAM during a 75% off week for a total of $7.50 :) 

I'm having a good time with it. I love games where I can buy furs in the south and sell them up north for a profit. All the while slaying bandits and raiding caravans.

I did really piss off one kingdom though (Swadia), riding through that territory is very nerve racking indeed, I'm still pretty low and can only have a party of ~40.
March 27, 2009 10:14:29 AM

thanks for sharing the info purplerat...
March 27, 2009 1:36:46 PM

No problem. I haven't played it in a couple of weeks but there are tons of mods to try plus they are supposedly releasing an expansion in the fall which will add multiplayer. For those who've add a chance to try this game out and experience the mounted combat, the ability to battle against other players sounds pretty cool.
March 27, 2009 4:22:08 PM

I am finally getting the hang of archery and spears on horseback, hell yeah!
March 27, 2009 5:22:21 PM

Yeah, that is one of my main complaints, how far the fights spread out. A minor one though for the amount of fun I have in this game.

So... how does everyone start a fight?

I start out with an...
1) "everyone follow me" and head straight for high ground.
2) "Hold the line" & "archers advance ten paces"
3) "cavalry follow me" ride to a flank near enemy archers
4) "infantry charge"
5) "cavalry charge"

This is just my basic battle recipe and works well when evenly matched or slightly outnumbered (even won a 45 vs. 109 this way as the hill I was on was tall and had a river they needed to cross in front). For smaller groups "everyone charge" works great :) 

Multiplay could make this game great.
March 27, 2009 5:47:42 PM

That basic strategy is pretty good, but you do have to mix it up when fighting different groups. For example if you are fighting a lot of cavalry you should put your infantry up front and have them "stand closer" with your archers and cavalry a bit behind them. Let the enemy cavalry run smack into your wall of infantry and they'll be slaughtered. Then use your cavalry to either finish them off or run down any archers or infantry they may have.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the order you have your troops set in the party management screen determines how they will line up initially in the battle screen. So try to keep you archers near the bottom and your stronger infantry and cavalry near the top.
March 27, 2009 6:39:45 PM

I did not know that, good info.

How many party members do you have (hired specialists). Are they a waste of money? They seem to be pretty helpfull and I like the fact I choose their skills and upgrades.

And sorry, archers retreat 10 paces behind infantry before the intial clash. I will admit I usually send in my infantry instead of letting the cavalry smash into them, I will try that.

LOL moments, fighting 60 farmers in a village. Hack left then right has never been so much fun :) 
March 27, 2009 7:31:20 PM

I've tried different strategies with hired specialist aka heroes aka companions. If you have too many you're guaranteed that some will not get along and will leave. Since some are much more useful than others you need to cater to the ones you like and get rid of the ones that aren't of much use before they cause more valuable ones to leave. I've done well with no companions but the buffs some give (like + engineering) can be invaluable since you don't have to waste your own points on that skill. It really makes party management interesting because you have to decide which are more valuable to you and also pay attention to which skills stack and which don't. Some skills it's too your benefit to have multiple members with points, including yourself. Others you only get the value of the highest single character.

Also I love slaughtering villagers too. But one thing that I think makes this game so great is that even against lowly villagers it only takes one well placed shot to take you out and ruin your day.
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