Customer Review

268 of 282 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revolutionary indie game, more value than any other in recent memory, October 27, 2008
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Mount & Blade - PC (Video Game)
To be fair I have been playing M&B since it was in beta 0.610 or thereabouts. It was rough and unpolished then, but it was the first game of its kind, an incredibly immersive and fun steel-and-horses age combat simulator. I bought it immediately, and have never looked back.

This first thing that confuses people including off-the-cuff (Gamespot) reviewers is that this game is not Oblivion. Taleworlds went in a completely different direction, instead of rehashing the same formulaic crap that infests the game publishing world today, and they should be thanked for it. Instead, they get rated down for NOT being boring. This is not strictly speaking an RPG in the way that the industry thinks of RPGs. It is not strictly a strategy game. It is not a shooter. So what is it?

Mount & Blade is a great sandbox game, along the lines of Pirates!, but more interesting (to me, anyway). You get thrown into the game and from there can literally do whatever you want. The game does skew towards combat professions and goals, since its greatest strength is its combat engine, but you can be a merchant, a rebel, a vassal, a mercenary, even a tournament specialist. You can even do several of these things in sequence, defining the career of your character through your gameplay choices.

The combat engine is utterly magnificent. This is one of the rare games where you can come up with a solution to a problem by doing what you would do in the real world, and it works! On foot, you turn your body in the same direction as your weapon swing as you make contact, and you get an increase in damage. Duck in and out of striking range based on the actual length of the weapons you and your opponent are using. Stand on the high ground with your bow for a range advantage that you can see happening as your arrows take a natural dropping flight path. Get back up on the hill to slow the momentum of that gyu riding down on you, step to his blind side, and chop his horse out from under him so you can brain him while he tries to get back up. This is a lot more immersive and gratifying than spending points on various melee skills and hitting control buttons for special moves over and over again while standing in one place.

The political and economic systems in vanilla (un-modded) Mount & Blade are simple, but they work! Build up friendships with local lords by doing stupid errands for them if you like, or else catch them in combat with a superior force and run in to save their bacon, which they'll be grateful for. Build favor with the ladies of the court so they can funnel bribes for you to lords who mislike you. Gain enough renown and favor with your liege to be put forward as a candidate for Marshall, but make sure you can curry enough votes to win the election. Burn local villages to prevent enemy lords from recruiting there, and kill their caravans to stagnate their city's economy.

I have seen lack of a concrete storyline mentioned as a weakness in some "professional" reviews. The game lacks a storyline because it's not supposed to have one! There is a background, there is an ongoing political dynamic, but you create your own story. Honestly, I don't understand the point of "story" based games where you walk through in a linear fashion, click some buttons, and listen to some voiceovers. To me the last great story-based computer game was Fallout, which also incorporated a sandbox play style as part of its dynamic, in addition to some really great lore. Nowadays, if you really want to follow a storyline, you can probably find better and longer-lasting ones in different media. Books, for instance. (If you lack the imagination required to have a rewarding experience reading a book and prefer the multimedia experience brought to you by some hack writing computer games, there is always television.)

The most important thing to me about Mount & Blade, though, is that it captured my attention back then, and still does. I spend many nights not going to sleep because there's one more siege I want to pull off, or one of my rebellion faction lords who needs help, or some juicy enemy caravans waiting to be plundered. I would rate its replayability along the same lines as the original Civilization when it came out (and I basically wasted six months of my life on that). Not many games nowadays can even capture my interest, let alone hold it for longer than a couple of days. It's just that much fun.

There are a lot of videos of M&B gameplay on YouTube, and some of them are mine:

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Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 5, 2009 6:57:11 AM PDT
StarSearcher says:
Great review. I'm turned off by a lot of the stuff out there, too. Today it feels like connect the dots with the faint lined traced in already.
Honestly, I read books more because that's the only place left to get decent character development and good story telling.
TV doesn't even cut it.
I'll check it out based on this review.

Posted on Oct 8, 2009 6:19:56 PM PDT
Sara says:
Thanks, that review, it really helped. Having played the game before, it now makes a lot more sense and I can look at it with new eyes.

Posted on Nov 24, 2009 8:44:00 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Jul 22, 2010 12:43:23 PM PDT]

Posted on Jan 28, 2010 6:47:04 AM PST
Collins, you don't have to insult linear storytelling games and game writers just because you prefer sandbox games. I like sandbox games too, but even they are usually better with some good story and voice acting. If you really think a low-budget indie game like M & B is better than a linear masterpiece like Uncharted 2...well, all I can say is you are probably the only person on the planet who feels that way.

Yes stories are usually better told through books and movies, but those media always put you in the perspective of an observer. In a game, you are the protagonist. The characters are talking to you, the enemies are shooting at you. That makes all the difference for most gamers, and they would MUCH rather play through a mix of story and action than watch TV. Add to this the fact that most movies are pretty bad these days, and most TV is not action-adventure (24 and Legend of the Seeker being the only exceptions at the moment), and that leaves just books. Books are wonderful and they will probably never be topped by any other media. But does that mean you should just read books all day? No, most of us want that control that only games provide.

Posted on Feb 22, 2010 8:20:33 AM PST
I just got this game myself and your review is absolutely spot on. It's basically Pirates! but set in a realistic Middle Ages environment. Definitely a bit of niche title (as most Paradox games are) but for those that want a true open ended game experience that combines RPG, action and strategy elements in a no-frills package, there is no better game out there.

Posted on Mar 13, 2010 5:41:42 PM PST
Song Pae Yu says:
Collins, great review.
I bought the game based on your review and I liked it.
For some reason I have stopped playing this game when I got to the spot where I am in a process of getting to be a vassal.
I am some what scared, LOL. Hate to get into the political impication and such or to deal with the large numbered enemy troops.
I may have to read up on the strategy on the internet i guess.

I love the battle scene where I ride around the horse... for life of me, I can hardly hit anyone but atleast I can run into enemy with my horse and do some descent damages. Or some poor sap trying to ambush me in the market place... beat them up and take their money.
I wish the game had better screen set up though... interacting with hero's items, game info and such.


Posted on Aug 18, 2010 5:45:32 AM PDT
Burr says:
It was good until you could no longer resist the temptation to take elitist potshots at people, basically diminishing your review and yourself as a reviewer in one sentence. You should leave inconsequential personal attacks out, it weakens the review as a whole and makes everything sound subjective.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2010 4:09:35 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 13, 2010 4:14:11 AM PST
H. Collins says:
Heaven forfend that a customer review of an entertainment product be at all subjective. I look forward to any game review you may recommend that consist of nothing but file sizes and system requirements.

Posted on Nov 26, 2010 11:10:35 AM PST
Janzer22 says:
just want to say thanks, i decided to buy the game after reading your review

Posted on Dec 3, 2010 11:33:03 PM PST
Matt says:
Collins, I'm with you I prefer Simulator RPG's, to Adventure RPG's. However there is a difference between saying something along the lines of "I don't understand why people are so hung up on the story, games may be a decent medium to tell a story, but they're one of the best medium's for simulating a life via open ended gameplay." And "If you lack the imagination required to have a rewarding experience reading a book and prefer the multimedia experience brought to you by some hack writing computer games, there is always television." Which is a pot shot insinuating that those who prefer their story via interactive sequences or just don't like reading are somehow lacking in imagination.

I understand why you said it though, I far more frequently hear that so and so game sucks as a RPG because it doesn't have an epic and consequently somewhat linear path from start to end via story. Many people seem to feel the RPG genre is actually the Adventure genre, and it upsets me too when they disregard otherwise great games because they aren't viewing it from the perspective that it was intended for. Disregarding that there might be other ways to appreciate a good RPG. Unfortunately, even though I agree with you in premise, the potshot in your review does much the same thing.. Otherwise very good review.
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