Review: Mount and Blade

At a Glance

ESRB Rating: T - Teenagers
My Rating: Ages 13 and up
Genre: Adventure / Open World
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2008
Review Published On: October 11th, 2016
Played on: Thaddeus

Available from:

Humble Store, Steam

Save System:

You can choose to use one of two save schemes, called "realistic" and "manual". On realistic, your game will always save when you exit the game. If this option isn't chosen, then you must manually save from the game menu.

Regardless of which save method you use, you can pause the game by bringing up the game menu with ESC. While travelling on the overland map, you can also pause the game by simply staying put.

Summary of
Major Issues:

This game primarily revolves around large scale battles between factions. These are shown in third person, and can be bloody. However, gore is rarely seen and the blood effects can be disabled.

The other major concern is that you can choose to play as a villain, rampaging over the countryside like a sort of pirate on horseback.


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Riding into battle

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Truly famous warlords fly their own banner

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In the company of allies

Game Overview

Ever wanted to conquer a fantasy world? Well here's your chance! Mount and Blade is an open world fantasy game that's designed around the concept of building up massive armies and sending them into battle. Unlike a lot of games that involve strategy and politics, your character is also part of the action. When you go into battle, you're right there with your troops. This means you're going to need to focus on taking out the enemy combatants while you're shouting out orders to your army. Of course, early on you won't have an army to speak of, so you'll be doing the bulk of the fighting yourself. Even still, your army is primarily there to support you in combat, not do the fighting for you.

Since this is an open world game, there's no story other than the one you develop as you play. You can declare loyalty to any faction you wish, or if you're the rebellious sort, you can even start your own faction once you're famous enough. The game is detailed enough for the various factions and their vassals to have their own opinions of you and your actions, so make friends and enemies wisely as you roam the world.

If you need something more to keep you busy, you can accept tasks from lords and town elders. These tasks may involve delivering packages, collecting taxes owed to a lord, or bringing grain to an impoverished town. You may also find yourself having to rid towns of outlaws and bandits. The longer quests come from joining a marshal's campaign, which is bound to happen when you're a vassal of a faction.

Since most of the game revolves around large battles, combat is omnipresent. You fight on both horseback and on foot, with the mouse movement (or optionally the enemy position) determining how you attack and block. You also have a choice of weapons to use; I tended to prefer going into battle with a bow and a two-handed axe, but feel free to experiment. Just remember that bows work somewhat realistically in this game: you'll need to aim so that the arrows arc into the target.

Overall, this is a really fun game with just the right amount of challenge. The only reason I wouldn't outright recommend it is that there are newer entries in the franchise with more content, additional factions, and new ways to thrive in the game's world.

Points of Interest

Excellent character creation tools
It's a bit surprising how involved character creation is in this game. You not only have a lot of freedom choose your character's appearance, but you also create a narrative describing their life up to the present day. The end result is a character that's tailored to be exactly the person you want them to be.
Huge battles
Although you may occasionally battle one on one or against a small group, most of the time you'll be fighting alongside a lot of troops. Battles with over 50 participants on each side are relatively common, as most lords ride with full armies. When battles get extremely large, the combatants will arrive in waves. This keeps things challenging as you'll be progressively worn down by the previous waves of enemies, but it mainly seems to serve as a way to keep your computer's resources from becoming overburdened by the large number of people on the battlefield.
Leadership matters
Unlike most strategy games I've seen, Mount and Blade focuses more closely on you and your relationship with your troops. Your party morale is very important, as it determines how well your troops fight, and if it gets low enough, some will even desert. Two ways to keep your party's morale up are to keep good food stocked in your inventory and staying busy with victories in combat. On the flip side, remaining in camp for too long makes the group restless and kills morale.
Find your own way
There's no fixed storyline, so you are free to join any of the factions in the game or even found your own once you're strong enough. You're also free to chose what weapons you use, what troops you lead into battle, and which lords you befriend. The latter is actually fairly important, as they'll remember major events like battles where you fought together or some of your more famous exploits.
Medieval kitchen sink
Each faction is based on a different way of life, even when it's not remotely historically accurate for them to mix. The result of this is that you have mongol hordes fighting viking warriors, and other completely ridiculous combinations. Likewise, each faction's territory is unique and provides advantages for some while being an issue for others. Everybody specializes in something, creating a unique feeling to every nation.
Retire when you're ready
After choosing to retire from your adventures, your legacy will be evaluated and the game officially ends. There is no other way for the game to end; you can't be killed, so even the most devastating defeat only ends in you being taken prisoner for a short time rather than game over.
Cheating doesn't detract from the fun
Not everybody likes to play entirely fair or wait for things to develop, so there are a number of cheats available to bend the rules a little. Interestingly, none of these are going to make things that unfair, as they are only temporary changes like restoring your health in battle to giving you a little extra money. They're a good way to jump into the action and skip the early game, but that's about it.
Can get repetitive
Nearly everything in the game revolves around the battlefield. One fight is often just like the next, with the main differences being the characters involved and the location of the battle. That said, the combat system is pretty fun and varied, so you can probably stay entertained for some time. However, I can see people getting bored after a few dozen fights, so this isn't going to be the best game for everyone.
Time moves slowly
In my opinion, the biggest problem with the game is how slowly time passes. Some activities, such as building an addition to a village you control, will take months to complete. This translates to many hours in real time, as the game's clock doesn't advance during battles and you'll need to find ways to keep your troops from becoming listless and bored while you're waiting.

Concerns and Issues

Bloody combat
During the battles, characters become splattered with blood as they fight each other. This is still much less graphic than many modern games, and it can actually be overlooked if the battle is small enough. During large battles however, it's possible for your character to be painted completely red by their enemy's blood.

For those that don't want to see it, there's an option in the game's launcher to disable the blood entirely. You probably won't notice it missing, honestly.
Since the game takes place in the middle ages, women are not considered equals, and it shows. In fact, if your character is a woman, you'll need to work more than twice as hard to prove your worth.
Training in your undies
During training segments, all participants wear very little clothing. For the men, this means duking it out in leather pants and nothing else. The women on the other hand wear a leather bikini, which is modest enough. Either gender is going to get some serious bruises if they aren't careful. Actual armor is roughly the same for both genders, and provides ample coverage.
Everyone talks more or less formally throughout Mount and Blade, but they'll still occasionally refer to their enemies as "bastards" from time to time. Amusingly enough, there are a few actual bastards (ie, illegitimate children) around trying to claim the throne.

Another example of mild swearing comes in the form of some less than polite greetings you might receive if your reputation with a nation is particularly bad. It's kind of awkward to be a famous warlord and have some upstart greet you by asking (and I quote), "Who the hell are you?"
Massive body counts
AND HOW. Fortunately, you and the various lords cannot be slain in battle. At most, such characters can be taken prisoner by somebody, though they will often manage to escape during combat. The same cannot be said of the mercenaries, soldiers and townspeople that accompany them into battle, as they are often mowed down like fresh grass. Remember that these battles often involve scores of people, and you can see just how quickly the body count rises.

Note that if you want to reduce enemy fatalities, you can have your troops use blunt weapons. This way they'll knock the enemy troops unconscious instead of outright killing them.
You can play as a villain
There are no hard and fast rules here. What you do is entirely up to you, though the consequences are not. You may choose to befriend or pillage towns, buy or steal goods and cattle, join or tear down kingdoms; the choices, good and evil, are there for the taking.