Mount & Blade Preview

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Paradox Interactive
Developer:TaleWorlds
Release Date:2008-09-05
Genre:
  • Action,Role-Playing,Simulation,Strategy
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • First-Person,Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
Taleworlds' Mount & Blade has been steadily making its rounds for years now. Starting as a household project it has grown in fame, prompting the expansion of its developing house and a publishing agreement with Paradox Interactive.

I've seen many attempts to quickly describe Mount & Blade. It has been said that the game looks like an interpretation of Dungeons & Dragons from someone who never played D&D, it has been called Pirates! in a medieval setting, and, most aptly, a mix of Pirates!/Elite with role-playing mechanics.

In other words, it's a very unique independent game, having started out as an experiment to bring an oft-ignored mounted combat component into the realm of gaming, and ending up as a massive freelancer game with RPG elements and plenty of things to do.

The Bones

The bare bones of the game can be divided into two areas - the combat system available in many different battle modes and the open-world system, simulating 5 different factions at peace or at war, as well as containing an economic simulation (and, of course, roaming bands of bandits, looters, and deserters).

The combat system is simple and intuitive; you control one character (the PC), in third or first person, his movement and attacks being controlled by the WASD keys and the mouse. The basic weapon types are one-handed and two-handed swords/axes/clubs, two-handed pole weapons for unmounted fighting, one- or two-handed pole weapons for mounted charges, and the ranged crossbows and bows.

When fighting, the left button attacks, with a mouse-nudge when clicking determining which way you're swinging, while the right button blocks. When holding a shield it will block in all directions automatically, but without a shield you will have to time your block so that you're defending in the direction the attack is coming from. A shield will shatter once it has absorbed a certain amount of damage. Crossbows and bows work with an expanding reticle for aiming, meaning it's best to shoot while standing still, and almost impossible to hit someone when you're walking and difficult to do so when riding a horse, unless you have sufficient horse archery skill.

Mounted combat is when fighting starts becoming something special. Damage is calculated based on your skill, what kind of weapon you have, the opponents armor and what kind of spot you hit, but it can also get enormous speed bonuses. This system means that if you ride your horse at full speed, lean into your blow and hit someone in the back of his head with a sword, you can be pretty damned sure he'll be dead. Mounted units are often armed with lances, and if they charge at full speed they can couch the lance to cause hits that are nearly guaranteed to kill the opponent. Even if the opponent is smart enough to raise his shield against this, it is immensely satisfying to see it shatter into pieces under your blow.

Battles can happen in numerous formats. There's non-lethal combat in training, arena fights, tournaments and when suppressing revolts. For fighting in a war or hunting down bandits, your character can gather a number of men around him and fight other large bands with his group. Your group can include mercenaries and certain unique (hero) NPCs from taverns, prisoners you saved from other armies or towns, recruits from villages. The hero NPCs level up just as the PC does, often have specific talents in training or tactics or engineering, and can be equipped by the PC. Other (nameless) NPCs advance from simply recruits into hardened veterans or knights through experience they gain in your service. These faceless NPCs can die in battle, whereas the PC, lords and the hero NPCs can only be knocked unconscious.