Look at that sad sack of ‘ish. How would you like to spend 80 hours of your life playing the role of a roaming barbarian leader with a face like that? Need more convincing? Well what if I told you that along your epic journey you will get experience points, attribute points, skill points, and weapon points to distribute as you please. You can build yourself as a strong and charismatic brute, an agile and cunning warrior, or anything in between. Do you like looting? Tracking? Path-Finding? Spotting? The delicate art of inventory management? Wound treatment? Surgery? First aid? Engineering? Persuading? Trading? All these skills and more along with the proficiency you need to wield virtually any medieval weaponry you can think of are waiting for you in…
Pretty much every fantasy role-playing game ever made. So then why the hell was BioWare’s recent epic PC RPG, Dragon Age: Origins, such a special gaming experience for me? Dragon Age was a return to form for the 15 year old game developer. The second game BioWare developed was the genre-defining PC RPG classic, Baldur’s Gate, back in 1998. Their games have changed with the times though. To make the kind of big budget and highly successful games Bioware makes now, you simply cannot make games like Baldur’s Gate anymore. At least, that is what I told myself before the release of Dragon Age. Before I let this blog post turn into more of a Dragon Age and BioWare love letter, I should get to the reason why I brought Dragon Age up in the first place. This game should not exist. BioWare is a HUGE multi-million selling game developer and is now owned by the second largest game publisher in the world, Electronic Arts. These kinds of games are only made today by those crazy independent European developers on budgets that allow their characters to look as awesome as that dude at the top of this blog post. One such crazy Turkish developer would be TaleWorlds, makers of the two current games in the Mount & Blade series.
After distributing many attribute, skill, and weapon points, and desperately randomizing your avatar’s face in hopes of arriving at a slightly less revolting look than you start with, the player is simply dropped into a world map view similar to the map views in Playstation One Japanese RPG classics like Final Fantasy 7 and 8. From there it is up to you do decide what you want to do. There is no story other than the story you create for yourself. Neither is there any greater evil entity or princess to save. There are seven nations competing for territory and you choose which, if any, to ally, attack, or ignore.
I need to stop that right there. If I continue at that pace it will take hundreds more words to get around to any kind of point. What makes Mount & Blade a sweet video game is it’s open ended nature, silly looking yet awesome playing directional weapon swinging and blocking combat, and effing castle sieges. You siege castles in this game. With up to 60 people a castle, with all the expected medieval era siege weapons, and up to 60 people defending said castle this game can get ridiculous. The only reason these huge battles are awesome is the combat system. In massively multiplayer games like World of Warcraft massive 100 on 100 person war zones are common. Warcraft’s problem is in the way it plays. Everything is a dice roll. Damage dealt, chance to hit, chance to critical hit, etc are all take care of for the player by the built in game systems. In Mount & Blade every swing of your blade, clash of your shield, and shot from your bow is in your control. You need to keep in mind how long it takes to swing a weapon, what direction you slice, jab, or stab your enemies in, and calculate firing arcs when shooting arrows or bolts.
Basically, I am saying Mount & Blade is LARPing the video game. LARPing is all sorts of bad, but Mount & Blade is all sorts of awesome. Thank you, Turkey.