September 2, 2010

Mount & Blade & Die

I've spotted Mount & Blade quite some time ago. I've seen it getting decent rating but didn't bother reading any of the reviews. I've seen it sold for a bargain price, but didn't care to buy it without knowing if it was worth even the low price tag. I really don't know why I was almost deliberately trying to avoid this game. It would have probably slipped by me if it wasn't for Steam.

Character creation process is classy

During the weekend deal of the last week of August (well, it appeared as they've extended it one day, at least) Mount & Blade was 75% and Mount & Blade: Warband 66% off the original price. The prices were down from EUR 29,99 each to EUR 7,50 and EUR 10,20 respectively. Now, the full price is outrageous, for the original M&B at least. It's possible to buy the boxed version for about EUR 6, that version also having more value. Something to put on a shelf, right? (Well, might be only me that old-fashioned.) Anyway, it wasn't (only) the price that made me want to buy the games, but the commotion on the Steam forums that followed the weekend deal announcement. Some people cared to explain how wonderful both games are and that everyone must consider buying at least one of them, especially with prices being that friendly. Plenty of Steam customers listened and went for it, reporting on the same forum that they loved the game to bits, thanking for a good advice. I was sold, buying both games the minute I left the forum.

I am not going to write a review of the game, not yet anyway, I am still exploring it. M&B is huge. It allows the player to go anywhere and do almost anything he wants. But that's only one of the reasons I cared to mention the game at all. The "Die" part of this post's title refers to how difficult Mount & Blade might be. The game has one of the most flexible difficulty settings I've ever seen. There are several independently adjustable parameters which form the overall difficulty. It is depicted in percentage, 100% being maximum. The parameters vary from AI's level to combat speed. Fiddling with all the options was the first thing I did upon loading the game, that's what I usually do in every game I play. I ended up entering the game with 70% difficulty. I actually entered a 4-part tutorial first... and got my ass served to me on a platter when it came to battling opponents. It's something I never experienced before - dying several times during tutorial. With all the difficulty settings I've set the tutorial opponents could sometimes kill me with just two blows of a mace. Passing all parts of the tutorial did actually require plenty of concentration in the end. Mind you though, with all the difficulty settings on default, the game can end up being a walk in the park. Actually, the game turns out to be extremely easy (but mostly annoying) no matter the difficulty settings, thanks to horrible AI. But I will have to talk about it in more detail later on, while giving the game a proper review.

Mount & Blade has a huge community and plenty of mods, some of which are able to change the face of the game completely. It also has support for online battles, I haven't been in one yet, but heard they are grand. The world of the game is endless, it's like Sid Meyer's Pirates really. The game was so very popular during the weekend sale that the store was out of the game keys very fast. I actually had to wait almost a day before Steam generated more keys and allowed me to enter the vast world of Mount & Blade.

Even though the Steam's tasty offer is already over, it's still possible to get Mount & Blade for a really low price. It's probably available in every game store. Warband might be priced higher, but it's the original game that is already polished and has a variety of mods. Don't expect flashy graphics though. M&B looks decent but not on par with any recent mainstream game. There is an upside to that though - I was able to run it on a completely outdated laptop which has an integrated graphics card. For the hardware I used the game looked stunning and worked damn sweet. The Warband stand-alone expansion has improved graphics and is more demanding to hardware.