By Luther Blissett
I came to free-roam medieval indie epic ‘Mount & Blade’ pretty late in the day. On paper it sounded pretty hideous as a gaming experience; with one reviewer summing it up as ugly, devoid of plot, structureless, repetitive and unfinished. With all this in mind I hadn’t expected the title to be the slowburning success that it has been. Almost three years since its release it still has a massively dedicated following, with this in mind I finally decided it might just be worth checking out. I wasn’t expecting much at all, but what I got was the most addictive independent title of the last ten years. Put simply, playing ‘Mount & Blade’ is, I’d imagine, more moreish than crack cocaine. Christmas? Bypassed. Girlfriend? Neglected. Friends? Who cares. Job? Not anymore. ‘Mount & Blade’? Yes please.
Exaggeration (mild) aside, I was floored by how good this game is. Developed by TaleWorlds, a Turkish team low on numbers and top level industry know how, they essentially plagiarised ‘Sid Meier’s Pirates’ and added a few neat twists. Sorry, epic twists. Rather than roam the seas looking for loot as you did in their 1987 inspiration, you are let loose in a fantasy kingdom where you can pretty much do as you please. Recruit ruffians and train them into knights, storm castles, lay siege to towns, sack villages, fight in tournaments, lead your war-band into battle, meet like minded medieval sociopaths down the tavern and enjoy collecting taxes from your poor peasant folk. It’s all good fun. Even the mindlessly repetitive ‘go seek’ quests can earn you favour with one of the game’s several monarchs. Kiss enough Kingly arse and they’ll grant you land, maybe even a castle and more importantly your own spiffy coat-of arms.
This might not sound like much, but seeing your force of badly designed troops taking to the battlefield sporting your very own hastily chosen banner on their shields is a tasty touch. The success of the title however, can’t solely be attributed to its creators. This is largely because it is a broken game with a host of obvious flaws. Perhaps because of this though, hundreds of amateur designers have taken up the game’s cause and created dozens of brilliant mods which can alter everything from the graphics to the entire way you play the game.
Essentially when you buy ‘Mount & Blade’ (which you should) you are buying into dozens of free to download variations, many of which are superior to the original title. Crappy graphics and initial teething problems aside, ‘Mount & Blade’ is a serious success story for small time games developers and shows us that you don’t have to have the budget or the backing of a major consoledependent developer to make a game which will deliver serious fun. I’m going to be keeping a very close eye on the next game TaleWorlds release . . . but for now I have castles to storm and villages to burn!