Mount & Blade Review
November 9, 2008 by Ewan Aito
Picking the right RPG can be quite a daunting task these days. There are so many different styles to choose from the epic, story-driven, turn-based games like Final Fantasy to the more immediately accessible action-RPG games like Fable II and it can be a minefield finding the right one for you.
Turkish developer TaleWorlds has thrown their hat into the ring with their latest title, Mount & Blade, which takes a completely new approach to action RPGs. Mount & Blade is a purely free-roaming RPG that plunges you a vast medieval land. The choices are immense and what happens in the game’s story is purely up to you. There is the opportunity to do everything from herding cattle to usurping the thrones of kings. Become a mighty hero and lead hundreds of men into battle for the safety of the land or gain a reputation as a fearsome and ruthless outlaw by preying on all who dare to cross your path.
The game is fairly simple to control. Before you begin the game you have the opportunity to tackle a few tutorials to help you get used to the fighting and horse-riding systems. The controls turn out to be fairly intuitive although using a bow and arrow whilst riding is quite a challenge – certainly a skill to be mastered rather than a flaw in the control system.
Once in the game you are give a horse and are left very much to your own devices. The game has a massive map to explore with various villages, castles and cities to explore. They are all named and colour-coded depending on which country they lie in.
One of the more useful and rewarding elements of the game is the ability to hire men from outlying villages to fight alongside you. They will level up as they fight with you and can become fearsome allies in a bind. You can hire more seasoned mercenaries in the various towns around but they do cost a little more and it’s cash that you don’t really have to spend at the beginning. This is actually one of the major draws because, as your reputation grows, you will be able to lead your men in to larger battles in aid of whichever lords you decide to align yourself with and even lay siege to castles and towns.
Your men are also fairly easy to control as all the commands that you will need to issue to them are mapped to the function keys. Just one key press to issue an order and then it’s back to concentrating on killing as many of the enemy as you can either on foot or on horseback.
If you are raising a band of men they do need to be fed and you can trade goods in order to keep your troupe alive. Obviously the men need to be paid as well so finding quests is the main thrust of the game. Quests can be found in towns either from the lords in the castle or the town Guildmaster. You can also raise money by attacking other travelling bands you may encounter ranging from sea raiders and looters to the lands various noblemen and their entourages. Pillaging villages can also be a fun, if slightly evil way to raise money and get supplies.
The graphics are fairly traditional in terms of PC RPGs. It does feel like an updated version of Severance without the fantastical monsters. The visuals are smooth, clean and well defined but there is no real sense of uniqueness and the game tends to feel a bit bland and same between locations. However, Mount & Blade has a good range of scalability options, which means the game will run smoothly on even the slowest of gaming rigs.
Again, the sound is fairly pedestrian. There’s not really much to write home about. It almost blends in to the background like some sort of medieval elevator music – neither good nor bad, just ignorable.
The real Plasma Factor for Mount & Blade is its concept. It is a true sandbox RPG. You can go anywhere and do anything and the gaming experience you get is entirely up to you. There is no set storyline, just the opportunity to explore and in that respect Mount & Blade can stand up alongside heavyweights like Oblivion and not look out of place. At times it may seem like too ambitious a project but TaleWorlds has made a valiant attempt at creating a persistent world that you can exist in and interact with. As a result, they have a created a game that is immensely addictive once you get going. It inspires the kind of “just one more quest” mentality that makes an RPG truly playable.
Mount & Blade is not a bad game at all. The controls are tight and well thought out and while the graphics and sound don’t rock the gaming world the game plays like there has been a lot of care and attention put into its development. It will never be a legendary title like Oblivion or Baldur’s Gate but it is an excellent addition to any RPG fan’s collection.