Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live back in the medieval times? Well I have a lot, then one day I discovered this game called Mount and Blade and I decided to check it out, its price was low enough 20 dollars normally, but it was also on sale at the time due to a steam sale so I got it for only 5 dollars! I installed the game and excitedly checked it out.
The game started by asking me if I wanted to play as a Boy or a Girl, out of curiosity I clicked girl to see if there was special option, to my surprise there actually was. The game told me that true to normal medieval times if I were to play a woman the game would be much tougher due to all the characters being inherently biased to not like women, I was instantly fascinated at the attention to detail, but since I was new to it I decided to play a Male character instead, no need for hard mode yet. I made my character which consisted of explaining my background, which changed your stats and skills accordingly and once I finished I had a few extra skill points to allocate to the many skills available. Once I finished making my character and choosing how he would look I was instantly thrown into the game and into combat, I was being robbed, it was shocking to me that the tutorial would instantly provide a real threat but it was not that big of a deal as the combat made sense so it was not too big of a deal, every weapon attacked in 4 directions based on the way you chose it (Mouse movement based/Character Movement based) I swiftly dealt with the enemy in front of me and was hooked. I finished the starting quests that acted as a mini tutorial and was thrown into the game.
The area I chose to start the game in was home to a faction called the Rhodoks, they sounded cool so I decided that I would play the game from there. I soon discovered how much freedom was available to me, I could talk to any of the members of all of the factions of the game of which there are 6, The Khergit Khanate, The Nords, The Rhodoks, The Swadians, The Vaegirs, and the Sarranid Sultanate. They all had their own styles that made them unique to encounter. The Khergits had horse archers and skilled foot archers, the Nords had extremely powerful foot units, the Rhodoks had Spearmen and Crossbowmen that combined to form a powerful defensive wall, the Swadians were masters of heavy Cavalry, the Vaegirs were Jack of all trades with a slight leaning towards archers, skilled at all things masters of none, and the Sarranid Sultanate Had extremely good horsemen and archers but near worthless foot soldiers. Every faction was unique, but I stuck with the Rhodoks due to their playstyle being my favorite.
I went from there, I explored the local area going from village to village recruiting peasants who wanted to make their future in the military, what better military than a scruffy startup to make your name in? My numbers swelled to about 50, the approximate maximum size for a starting army, you would need to have more charisma or renown as a character (gained by doing impressive things like winning battles) for more people to be willing to join. They started with simple pitchforks and a shield but as they grew experienced you could choose their upgrades allowing them to be anything from a spearman to an archer to a horseman, though the Rhodoks are one of the factions (the other being Nords) that did not have a cavalry unit. It was truly a growing experience and felt like a natural way to build an army, and all this was independent, I was free to choose to join up with whatever faction I wanted, they all wanted more troops and once you are well known you could join up with whoever you like, a completely unique experience for me in a game.
But the game wasn’t just about units you hire! Your player character wasn’t limited like the units you can obtain to fight for you, you had complete freedom over what you chose to use and fight with and you yourself could become extremely powerful, but what I loved the most about Mount and Blade was its ability to keep you feeling useful despite the fact that with your army you could be fighting in 200+ people battles, possibly even more if you made allies within your faction, which I tended to like to do.
Mount and Blade is not all perfect though, it suffers from a major technology issue, the game runs on a somewhat dated engine that leaves the computer controlled units fairly stupid, and while you can command yours to help alleviate that, your enemies can remain stupid, as an example an exploit you could do was to get on your horse and run by a row of units that were told to hold their position, and if you got close enough they would break formation and chase you making them easy pickings, I would say this is the game’s biggest flaw as it while it has a very good diplomacy system and fairly solid combat system, the actual A.I. can be abused to make the game much easier than it is meant to be. However a fair counterpoint is that the game’s difficulty is completely customizable in every regard to make the game more easy/difficult, so if that becomes an issue it is possible to handicap yourself so it becomes fair.
Mount and Blade Warband also has a Multiplayer component, in it what you can do very much depends on the server, be it fighting other players in large battles where organization depends on the players following an appointed leader, dueling other players in a test of skill, or even a roleplaying server that uses a mod to allow people to have jobs.
Speaking of mods the game has an extremely active modding community with many “total conversion” mods that as the name implies totally convert the game to a new setting, be it a mod called Gekokujo that lets you participate in the small factional warfare of feudal Japan or a simple mod designed to expand the base game giving it new ways to play and hundreds of extra hours of content, there are mods for whatever you want.
Overall I would recommend this game to anyone who either likes sword/bow combat, deep strategy and diplomacy, or just having fun commanding an army I have gotten about 70 hours of playtime out of such a cheap purchase and I intend to get many more. I will refrain from giving the game a score though, I disagree with rating things out of 5, 10, or even a hundred, my personal “rating” is that I recommend it, I might recommend a game (and explain why), or not recommend the game (and why again) but I don’t give numbers because they are too easy to be too generous or harsh with and don’t give an accurate representation of a game. I strongly advise to any readers that they adopt this rating system in the future too so that games can receive much more fair reviews.