Mount&Blade .950 Impressions
Mount and Blade is an indie sandbox third-person action-RPG. It’s the much-loved baby of a Turkish couple, and they’ve been working on it on their own for years. I bought it for about sixteen Australian dollars mid-2005 and I occasionally go back and have intense, all-night sessions of it for a few days, usually when a new version is released. I’ve been really glad that their project hasn’t fizzled for lack of funds – in fact, back in January this year Paradox Interactive (who make Europa Universalis and other epic, time-consuming historical strategy games) signed them up for publishing! Obviously I was excited when I read on The Independant Gaming Source that version .950 of Mount and Blade, their first release with all their new-found money and resources, had been pushed. I’ve played it for a few hours now and thought I’d just announce it’s existence along with some first impressions.
Firstly, more has changed than in any other release. The entire structure of the map is different: it’s now divided into five different kingdoms to whom you can pledge your allegiance and fight for in campaigns. The quests system has been given a huge overhaul, and there’s a database of people, places and factions that updates as you discover more about the world. Each town (as far as I can tell so far!) seems to be completely different in layout, though they aren’t populated with unique characters yet (except for the taverns of a few major cities.) It’s a huge jump in variety and world-detail from previous releases, though, and if they keep it up by release they might finally have some good story arcs.
Instead of choosing your stats and starting equipment, etc., you are given a series of choices. Not moral choices like in The Elder Scrolls series or in Ultima but basic things like “You were the son of : a) an impoverished nobleman, b) a merchant, etc.” I really don’t like this – it just means I’ll have to eventually learn what each of these background choices does when I want to create a character. It might make sense for beginners who don’t want to be overwhelmed by choice, but for people who’ve been playing a while it’s a bit of a hassle.
Speaking of hassles, the game consumes your time needlessly. There’s this one type of quest given to you by a small town (who only give, it seems, about three different types!) where you have to train their peasants to fight before bandits come again. It works like this: you stare at the screen for about 15 seconds waiting for the game-time hours to go past before fighting one peasant (which consists of 10 seconds of finding him and about three seconds of beating him to a pulp because he’s naked and armed with a stick). Surely this whole process can be bypassed? It seems like a real time sink. The penalty of losing those in-game hours is enough without having to sit their twiddling your thumbs. Not being able to speed up time when running long-distance errands also leads to boring thumb-twiddling. Very unnecessary.
The combat seems to have changed too, not that I’m so into the game that I can quantify it in any way. It just seems a lot harder to hit a target from horseback – which I suppose isn’t such a bad thing because it means you have to develop your actual skill and not just the characters. It also means I’ve spent a lot of time circling ’round my horse for 4 or 5 attempts at an enemy! Hardly the game’s fault, though.
I wish I had more time so that I could get to higher levels with M&B, but university is getting in the way. I imagine the fun really starts when you’re an experienced leader and a great fighter and waging war with giant battles and castle sieges. I’ll work my way up there and post some more of my impressions here.