I'll admit I don't share the penchant for independent games that spunior does, I usually find I don't have the paitience to deal with what can be some pretty buggy, primative games at times. That said, Bill Harris was talking up a storm about Mount & Blade at Dubious Quality and I'll be damned if it isn't pretty cool!
A little something from his article.
I've wanted to write about Mount & Blade for several days now, but it's a difficult game to write about. For one, it's not finished, so the main story arc isn't even in the game yet. Then there some cities in the game that are on the map but the associated buildings aren't there"”again, because the game isn't finished.
So why am I playing a shareware game that isn't even finished? Because it is unbelievably fun. I've spent over twenty hours playing and it's an absolute blast.
As far as I can determine, Mount & Blade is being created by two Turkish developers (husband and wife, I believe). I think calling it "low budget" would be a misnomer, because I'm not sure it has any budget at all. In spite of this, however, they have created a deeply immersive, interesting world.
Here are the basics. At its core, Mount & Blade is a medieval RPG, and it's old-school all the way. There are no cut scenes, no spoken dialogue, and no high-budget gloss. The core mechanics are relatively simple: your character rides across a world map, visiting towns and facing random encounters with other groups"”friendly or hostile, depending on your alliances.
What is it specifically, though, that has kept me playing for such a long time? In a word: combat. Regular readers of this column know that I'm not a combat guy. In Mount & Blade, though, combat is so brilliantly handled that I can't call it anything else but sensational. To begin with, the geography of the combat regions is so well-designed that it is both visually and tactically beautiful. Mountain passes, deep streams, and generally hilly terrain provide a wealth of tactical opportunities, and they're beautiful graphically as well.
Second, and I can't stress this enough: horses. Horses have never been as thoughtfully and beautifully represented as in this game. Combat on horseback is absolutely unforgettable, and since the primary camera is slightly behind and above your character, you get to see it all. The animations for the horses are stellar and entirely convincing, and in rare moments you will see some spectacular things"”a fallen enemy being dragged by his horse looks amazing, and a horse collapsing and throwing its rider is one of the best animations I've ever seen in a game, period.
I've focused on archery as my combat skill, because it's tremendously interesting in this game, and when I shoot an enemy, the arrow remains. Passing a fallen enemy on the battleground and seeing several arrows sticking out of his chest is a remarkable moment.
The combination of horses and archery make for thrilling combat, particularly when the enemy has horses as well. And there are frequently 25+ units on a battlefield, so it provides a tense, gripping illustration of the chaos of combat. It's so immersive that it's almost impossible to stop playing.
During my fairly brief sample of the game so far I can confirm that the horse combat is very cool and the archery is a lot of fun. Don't let the game's somewhat dated graphics and initially rudementry feeling combat system disuade you, it's well worth sinking a little time into. Vey charming.