Usually, we are nothing but excited with sandbox games. The freedom one derives from exploration can be quite liberating. In an RPG it is also equally nice to have some sort of overall quest which ties the whole thing together. TaleWorlds has decided to just keep with the sandbox part of that equation, ditching an overall quest and thrusting gamers into the unknown.
Mount &amp; Blase features a very fluidic and fun combat system. Every weapon acts as you would expect and, while macro-attributes such as damage and speed are effected by your skills, you will actually have to do the majority of the grunt work in combat. You control every swing, movement, and parry of your character. Combat plays out like a tactical event, picking and choosing your moments of attack carefully while also timing your blocks and parries. Even combat on horseback is handled great. While in some ways, using a mount is helpful, it is also more challenging to time your sword swings and archery shots.
Also cool is the large-scale combat you can find yourself in. By recruiting troops from towns and the like, you increase the numbers in your personal army. At one point, I took part in a battle with easily twenty members per side. The battlefield strategy employed in these large skirmishes is vital as one false swing or direction can mean the turn of the tide. Commanding troops is done easily by shouting commands at them. They are fairly basic commands but mirror what a human being would be able to shout while riding into battle. This adds an additional element of realism to the combat, as knights in the middle ages did not have GPS or other high-tech gadgets with which to organize themselves.
Mount &amp; Blade shines like a bright beacon for smaller developers everywhere when looking at the combat system. Unfortunately, where it loses a bit of its luster is in the open-world created by TaleWords. As mentioned before, you are dropped into the kingdom of Calradia which has been broken apart by multiple factions. What you do in this world is entirely your business. You can choose to become a warrior, mercenary, trader, or whatever else you can come up with. While there are quests given by individuals in towns and whatnot, they are not required and will serve only to further your character’s development. This lack of overall story often times leaves the player asking themselves, ‘What now?’
The character development is fairly complex, TaleWorlds taking a queue from Daggerfall in asking you a series of questions to determining your base character. From there, you allocate some skillpoints are off you go. Along the way you level up your character, increasing your skill points and personal wealth.
There are a multitude of armors and weapons to use in the game as well as a good trade system for those aspiring merchants out there. The enemy AI runs from fencepost to challenging, with enemies performing acts of self-preservation as well as selecting their own weapons on the fly and parrying as necessary.
Graphically, the game looks okay. Some scenery comes off as lush and pretty, but the game’s shaders and textures are just not up to modern standards that you will find in other RPGs. In my playthroughs of this game, however, the combat made up for the lackluster graphics. In fact, I wish there was a way to just play various battles out, skipping the rest of the stuff in the game, but I digress…
Overall, we must applaud TaleWorlds for the game’s awesome combat system but must caution gamers that the rest of the game is not nearly as exciting. Not saying that at $29.99 it is not worth picking up, but don’t expect it to be the next Oblivion (although we like M&amp;B’s combat system way better than that mainstream title). Also. the mod community is currently working on enhancing the game as well, so I would not be surprised to see a lot more from Mount &amp; Blade in the future.