I began as a local hero, leading a small band of men to rid the area of bandits. My ranks grew and I entered a war on the side of the Rhodoks. Once the war was over, the King requested that I become his vassal, and I accepted. I was given a small village to call my own, and it prospered under my rule. Another war broke out, this time with the Vaegirs crossing our borders, and so my services were once again requested. My force, now at 500 won battle after battle, siege after siege, always the first in and the last out. Upon crossing the border we walked into an ambush, 3000 hardened Vaegir veterans lying in wait. We didn’t stand a chance. I was taken prisoner along with the surviving soldiers in my service. My King, whom I had remained loyal to this whole time, refused to pay the ransom, calling me a coward. My men were executed and I was dragged around for days before making my escape. I returned to my village only to find it razed to the ground and all the peasants dead, murdered by the one I once called Majesty. He now hides in his last remaining stronghold and I am leading the army of my former enemies. The siege towers have reached the wall; it is time to end this.
This is just one of the many scenarios that I managed to create for myself playing one of the most open-ended action RPG’s I know of. Mount and Blade is a great game that was unfortunately overshadowed and left to collect dust on the shelf. Only one of my ‘real-life’ friends knows about this game – apart from me – and it seems a shame that a game so full of possibilities just went unnoticed by so many.
Mount and Blade is a rare beast, an RPG that has no fantasy elements. It instead opts for a medieval style land named Calradia, populated entirely by humans, horses, livestock and peasants (fine, I suppose peasants count as humans too). As for the story? Go and make your own! Mount and Blade puts you through a simple character creator, asks you a few questions about your character’s background for your initial stats, then unleashes you into the world of Calradia, riding your noble steed, and wielding your sword , allowing you to do what you please. Want to become a Robin Hood style character and give riches to the poor? Go ahead! Maybe you want to become the Cool Thomas Jefferson of the medieval world? Feel free! Mount and Blade offers the amount of freedom that many sandboxes try to promise you before failing to deliver.
Something I love about Mount and Blade is the way it implements its mechanics in such a simple way. It provides the freedom that they boast without making you feel overwhelmed while also proving that cutting-edge graphics don’t make a good game. The combat is simple enough for you to easily grasp, but complex enough to allow for interesting battles with surprises here and there, and the same can be said of the world map. Unfortunately, simplicity can also be the game’s biggest weakness, causing repetitive quests and making some of the NPC’s feel like glorified travel guides instead of humans, simply telling you a location and what to do in a text screen. Still, if you apply a little imagination and forget about the little flaws, it adds up to a simple yet addictive experience.
I firmly believe Mount and Blade is the first great medieval RPG, and with the addition of multiplayer in the standalone title Mount and Blade: Warband (plus a small community of modders creating constant expansions that constantly expand the game, ranging from extra continents and even Lord of the Rings themes), you really have no excuse not to try this at some point. Plus, thanks to GameStreamer, you can download it at a rather low price, so what are you waiting for? Mount up!