If you haven’t noticed it by now, I’m a bit of a gaming fiend. I like to take a game and play the hell out of it for a few days, then let it rest for a month. Well, my latest obsession has been Mount & Blade: Warband. I have got to say, I cannot stop playing this game. I keep playing “just one more battle” way passed my bedtime.
I’m not entirely sure why that is either. The game is clearly a budget game… and if I remember correctly it was created by a husband and wife. Considering that, it is quite impressive.
The game starts with the creation of a character to inhabit the world. The player chooses skills, a background, ability scores and weapon skills. Calradia is a dangerous place, so definitely don’t skimp on those weapons. The feel of the world reminds me slightly of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones; there is a fantasy world, but the focus is on the political maneuvering and the battles.
The core gameplay is the medieval combat, filled with arrows and bolts and swords and horses. You buy your weapons and armor, or find them on the rotting corpses of your foes. Why, yes, I will take that Tempered Bastard Sword from your cold, dead fingers, if you don’t mind. Each of the types of weapons and has their own strengths and weaknesses. Axes break shields better than other weapons, but often have a shorter reach than their sword counterparts. Bows can be fired faster and while mounted, whereas crossbows pack a nasty punch and will pierce through armor. Plate armor protects you from minor blows, but limits your movement speed considerably. Choosing weapons and armor becomes incredibly tactical. Do I want to get the fastest, lightest horse possible and use my archery skills to rain a hail of deadly arrows on my enemies (awesome)? Or do I want to load up with a heavy charger, full plate, and get stuck in the middle of a massive melee (also awesome)?
It is glorious.
Once you get passed the character creation, the game is entirely open-ended. If you want, you can play a bandit, praying on the caravans that travel between the cities and avoiding patrols of soldiers. Or you can play a bounty hunter, getting cash from eliminating bad people. Or you can hire your services (not that kind of services!) out to a King or Lord of one of the game’s factions. You can try to woo the ladies or gentlemen of the court (okay, maybe it does include that kind of service; I haven’t gotten that far).
Or, you can take a fortress from one of the factions for yourself, declaring yourself King (or Queen). That’s what I’ve decided to do with my first character, Clover Dawn. She did the mercenary thing for a while, then moved onto serving under the King of the Rhodoks. Now she has declared herself Queen of the Kingdom of Dawn (oops on the name) and taken a white unicorn on a field of purple as her sigil. It’s a bit of a hassle trying to protect the villages around my fledgling nation, but still fun. I mostly just go around looting villages of the nearby kingdoms. Wading into battle, slashing left and right. I’d definitely get myself killed if I actually were a king. It’s going to end badly for Clover too, I think. I need to focus on building up my economy and solidifying my hold on the lands I have, but charging into battle is so much fun.
I really don’t understand why I’ve played this game for probably about 20 hours since the start of this last weekend. The graphics are merely okay. The dialog and questing is not compelling. The AI isn’t particularly good. Even the combat, which is the best part of the game, is fairly buggy and sometimes frustrating. Maybe it is because the game appeals to the part of me that wants to strike out on my own, forging a new nation with new ideals. Or maybe I just want to own my own land. Or perhaps I just need a war cleaver to be happy in life.
I’m going to have to contemplate this game more in order to get a feel for just why I find it so compelling. Till then…