Bucket Bros: The Carpenters of Comedy
Mount & Blade is a medieval open-world Action/Strategy/RPG, independently developed by a husband-and-wife team from Turkey. It features thrilling mounted (not to mention elegant unmounted) real-time battles backed up with "freelance" gameplay much in the vein of the Microprose classic Darklands.
I've never bought a digital download before, and until recently I was fairly outspoken against them. But after ten minutes with this shareware Action-RPG, I was singing a different tune. Here's why.
1. Big Beta Discount
During Mount & Blade's lengthy development, it was released as a public beta shareware game. Early adopters received the unlock code for as little as $7 (as it grew in scope, so did the price). Those who put their faith, not to mention credit card numbers, in Taleworlds received a lifetime license, good for unlimited upgrades even after the game was picked up and published by Paradox Interactive.
2. The Mod Scene
3. I Can Actually Run The Damn Thing
Minimum Requirements: Pentium II 300 MHz, 64 MB RAM, Windows 95/98, DirectX 7.0a, DirectX-compliant 3D accelerated video card, DirectX-compliant sound card, 4x CD-ROM drive, and 150 MB hard-drive space.
Taleworlds supports gamers, not the graphics card industry. That means you can turn off all the fancy pixel shader B.S. and still get it to run on a GeForce 4 MX 440. Like the geniuses at Blizzard, Taleworlds has realized that if people with four year old computers can PLAY their games, that means they might actually BUY them.
And even with the settings turned down, Mount & Blade still looks gorgeous.
4. It's an open-world CRPG!I honestly didn't know what to expect from Mount & Blade before I played the tutorial. Previews described the game as a "medieval war simulator," which made it sound more Rome: Total War or Dynasty Warriors than an RPG. But that couldn't be further from the truth.
Yes, the real time first-or-third person combat splendidly recreates the chaos of a Braveheart battle field. (The battles even begin with a spirited charge.) But that's just the combat -- outside of battle, there's so much more.
You can chum up with kings, wooing ladies of the court; travel to besieged outposts and offer your assistance -- or raid them yourself. Every town has a "Guildmaster" (basically the mayor) who offers quests ranging from "our farmers need help herding their sheep" to "here's a vast sum of gold, go pay my kidnapped daughter's ransom." (The game coyly suggests you should PROBABLY deliver the gold before it's too late.)
And if missions aren't your thing, you can always play a medieval version of Elite or Sid Meier's Pirates, become a traveling merchant and hire guards to keep you safe from highwaymen.
5. You can mount, AND you can blade.Remember how I said the M&B demo made me sing a different tune? Well, that tune was the theme to the Lone Ranger.
No other game does horse-mounted combat quite so well. I still haven't gotten the hang of swooping past footsoldiers and cleaving their heads with one smooth hack. But it took Japanese Samurai years to master the art of mounted combat -- especially equine archery -- so I guess I shouldn't feel too bad if it takes me a while to get the hang of a gallop-by-stabbing.
The rush of excitement as you ride into battle with a skull-splitting axe held high overhead is like nothing else. This game makes you realize that Oblivion's lack of mounted combat is every bit a glaring flaw as Doom 3's ridiculous "flashlight or gun" design.
Of course, if you'd rather walk, you can leave the horses in the stables.... but then you'd be missing half the fun.
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