Never Gonna Give You Up: Mount & Blade

People mounted, with blades. THEY ARE LIVING THE DREAM.

This weekend, I had a plan. I had downloaded Japanese oddity Princess Maker 2 (odd in that, despite being made for PC, it isn’t actually a porn game), and fully intended to while away a few merry hours mistreating my angelically bestowed daughter until she grew up full of horrible malice for the world and became a supervillain (PM2 is also odd for a whole host of other reasons, natch). Locating the game in question proved a game in itself, however, and soon I was wading through a slew of games. I came away not only with Princess Maker 2, but also a huge pile of aged games which I haven’t touched since the heady days of my misspent youth. Then, recklessly, I stumbled onto the TaleWorlds website. I clicked download. My weekend swan-dived out of the window.

Mount & Blade and I have a history. Carelessly downloaded back when it was still in Beta, it swallowed me whole for a few weeks, submerging me in its world of lifeless dialogue, late-90s visuals, and vicious swordfighting. I scrambled away eventually, but a couple of months later I slipped up and returned to a game much closer to the finished version. Sure, it was still ugly as rotten dog and about as well written as an Argos catalogue, but the fighting! The fighting was and is a breathlessly thrilling experience. The AI might be non-existent and the game might be painfully unfair, but charging full-pelt into a bellowing line of axe wielding Vikings and leaving three of them with a lance-hole in the sternum is worth the entrance fee alone.

Medieval-era scrapping is one of the bugbears of gaming. When I was nine, the single biggest thing I wanted from a game was the opportunity to wear chainmail and batter people (or ideally, orcs) in the face with a sword. Golden Axe was as close as I got, and while I’ve never been one to turn my nose up at a side-scroller, it still wasn’t what I wanted. All sorts of games have tried to do melee combat, in different ways and with varying degrees of success. Does anyone remember Severance? Deathtrap Dungeon? Does anyone remember, God help me, Die By The Sword? Try not to think about it. More recently, Dark Messiah and Oblivion have had a go, but still ended up not quite nailing it. What is it about swinging a sword at someone’s head that makes it so difficult to base a game around?

Galloping to the rescue comes Mount & Blade, a game which is not quite a straight third-person slash ’em up, not really a roleplaying game, and hardly a strategic management game at all, yet nevertheless dabbles in all of the above with adorable earnestness. Mount & Blade is not even a fantasy game – no wizards, no spells, and (sadly) no orcs – just men and horses and dirty great spears. It’s more of a fictionalised Medieval life-sim, assuming that the life in question is that of a hideous robber knight / mongolian raider.

So time is spent trundling around, collecting troops and various bits of armour in an attempt to look like a cool 12th century knight (without hiding your wonderful moustache, natch) and robbing villages. Tournaments are entered, missions are done for oddly named noblemen, and invariably you get decked by hundreds of vicious horse archers or disgracefully hard spearmen. But even in the decking, there is joy. Massive anger and frustration also, but chiefly joy because the simple action of charging around battlefields wellying people with the biggest sword you can find is a visceral, gleeful delight. Yes, your thirty AI speament mates are totally useless, thick as a lard sandwich and completely unable to use their lances properly, but that doesn’t matter. They’re only there to hold the enemies in place while you shove a spear through the back of their heads, after all.

Mount & Blade is a rough hewn gem, and about the closest thing we have to a modern Elite (oh hush X2 fans, I’ll come to you in time), if Elite replaced spaceships with horses and lasers with swords. It’s horrifically unfair, even once you get the hang of the brutal combat, and is quite happy to let you assemble a tremendous army and then give you a stout kick in the kneecaps in the form of the hateful, vile, invincible sodding horse archers.* It’s learning curve is a right angle. It has flaws in their dozens, but it is a charmingly unique game, and to the right person, bundles of enormously frustrating slow-burning fun times.

But how will you know? How can you possibly know? Well as it happens, you can download the trial for free! What a good idea that is, eh? Head to TaleWorlds to get your mits on it. You get the full game, but you can only level up to level seven, which should provide a few hours of faux-Medieval merrymaking. Go on, have a bash, as there really is no other game like it.

Now shoo. I have a continent of people to stab in the neck.



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7 Comments on “Never Gonna Give You Up: Mount & Blade”

  1. Nightjuju Says:

    But what other games were you downloading? What old games do you speak of? What websites?! Ack the unending questions!!!!

    Also, Mount and Blade truly is a corker of a game, get the heaviest nasty lance you can find, and then spur your horse into the face of the enemy! Truly wonderful fun!

  2. Paul S Says:

    All in good time.

  3. Scruffy Says:

    Ah, Mount&Blade, I must play this again, can’t say I ever had the horse archer problem, but then again I did prefere the smaller fights to the large multi-round battles. But it was fun and I will play it… right after I stop playing this Russian made FPS/inventory management game (must get a mod to increase the weight limit!)

  4. NightHunter Says:

    Mount & Blade is £4 on Steam. If I don’t like it I’m coming for you Paul!

  5. NightHunter Says:

    Is there anyway to increase the camera distance from the player? It feels far to close in the tutorial.

  6. Paul S Says:

    No, I don’t think so. It’s a design decision that works, though – when a bloke on a horse comes pounding up behind you to stick a lance in your skull, it’s a bit of a surprise.

  7. NightHunter Says:

    I guess I’ll just have to get used to it. Thanks for the recommendation, I reckon this’ll get quite good once I’m used to it.

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