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Page 3 of 3Unfinished Business
Mount & Blade is out of beta and you can tell, as it now has quite bit more polish and shine than it did previously. However, as a finished product, it does not yet feel complete.
To start off with, I still encountered some minor and major technical issues in the game. A few crashes to desktop weren't the worst of it, nor were the remaining clipping and collision detection issues. Where it started to get really frustrating was when I could not take over Dhirim for the simple reason that the siege tower did not appear at ground level but instead appeared floating high up in the sky, leaving my guys to idly run against the town walls. Essentially a (quest-killing) bug since I was working on the Swadian rebellion (there are ways around this, but considering the entire remains of the Swadian army was holed up in there I could not really use automatic battles) and not something I can easily excuse in a finished product. But I have seen worse from AAA companies, so overall this is not that big of a deal.
More importantly, it being out of beta immediately makes me regret that it is no longer the organic product you could return to as it was updated. The game has a great modding community to keep you busy, but that doesn't mean it feels fleshed out enough by itself. If it were still in beta, there'd be many updates I'd be hoping for in the next edition: faction and liege-specific quests so that they don't feel so identical and bland. Expanded siege mechanics and more siege weaponry, such as arbalests or boiling oil for defense, and battering rams or catapults for offense. More advanced options to surrender or retreat for the enemy rather than always fighting to the death. And perhaps most importantly: finally fixing the (order troops to charge without you) calculations so they accurately present what would happen if you pick charge and then just not get involved, rather than the battle option randomly killing off troops more often than not.
Mount & Blade is a hard game to judge. It does what it sets out to do and it does it very well - the swordplay action alone would keep many gamers occupied for hours on end. The sandbox gameplay may not be fleshed out and most likely you'll eventually find the game feels pretty empty, but odds are that before you get to that point you'll have easily sunk 30-40 hours into the game.
But we're an RPG site, so I have to ask one specific question: is it a good RPG? By any measure, the answer is simple: no. However you define RPGs, the game does not measure up. It lacks a storyline, its NPCs are shallow, it utilizes player skill over character skills pretty heavily, it has no choice and consequence, no meaningful dialogue, and only repetitive quest-lines. Essentially, Mount & Blade is a sandbox game with stats. which makes it fairly unique, aside from maybe a far-stretched comparison to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
I'm not saying this just to get technical, but Mount & Blade's lack of RPG-style gameplay does have a simple conclusion tied to it: I can't recommend this blindly to someone simply because said person (likes RPGs). If you like The Witcher, Neverwinter Nights 2, Jade Empire, or Oblivion, that is no guarantee or even an indication that you'll like Mount & Blade (though it shares quite a few elements with Oblivion). Instead, if you're a big fan of Elite or Pirates!, this game warrants a look. Just don't be surprised if you find the variety of quests and environments a little wanting, and, equally, don't be shocked if you find the combat a little addicting. I personally find it an easy game to leave after a week of intense play, and equally easy to return to a few months later.
Don't just take my word for it, give the game a try yourself. And please ignore the cover art, it's not much to look at.
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