Nick's Gaming Blog

2 Game Design Students Reviews of Mount & Blade

So Jim Landes, the man in charge of the Game Design program at MCC e-mailed me a couple days back, and told me that two individuals had done a commendable job on their reviews of Mount & Blade, one of the assignments the Introduction to Game Design class has to tackle.  Jim asked if I’d be willing to publish said reviews on my site to recognize their hard work, and I, of course, agreed.

First, let’s get a couple things out of the way.  I myself, have not played Mount & Blade, per se.  I watched Kurt curse on a disturbingly frequent basis while attempting the mounted combat tutorial…play the game for a couple hours.  But that’s about it.  Other than that, let me say that, a few minor grammatical issues aside, I have not altered the state of these reviews from that in which Jim sent them to me.  Finally, allow me to congratulate Zachary and Hayley on their reviews; they are comprehensive, detailed, well-written, and cover all the core components that a game review should include.

So, on that note, let me include the reviews, beginning with Zachary Mathiot’s:

Zachary’s Review of Mount And Blade

This fantasy epic is set in the medieval era in an area called Calradia. This land is besieged by war and it’s up to the player to take part in the ensuing battles. The game fits into many genres. It can be seen mainly as an RPG/RTS. It also has elements of hack and slash and action/adventure titles with a little squad based magic thrown in for good measure. Even though it fits into these genres, it’s in a league of its own completely. Its main features include creating your own character, leveling up said character and traversing Calradia in search of enemies to fight for more experience and items. Along the way you become much stronger and gain soldiers who will join your ranks. They can be ordered to do many things in game from attacking enemies to picking up items for your benefit. You become almost like a commander of an army later on in the game.

There were many strong points to the game. For instance, the character creation portion is very in depth. You choose everything from hair color and skin tone to age and even facial features. You also are given the chance to set up your primary skills and stats to be used in battle. You even go as far as to choose your character’s back story, ambitions and his disposition in life. The combat system I found to be very intuitive. You use the mouse to direct your attacks. This can range from moving downwards for a downward slash to aiming and firing arrows at oncoming enemies. The tight controls helped to make this feature shine. The combat also takes place primarily on horseback. It’s the first time I have ever seen this done in a game and implemented so well. There was no real confusion of how to traverse the game world. Fighting enemies, collecting items, buying and selling them was also a breeze. The game environment is much larger than many others I’ve seen. It even stands up to most next gen games that boast sandbox environments like Infamous, Prototype and GTA 4. This leads to another high point of the game, the storyline. It’s a simple choose your own adventure type of story and ends up being very open ended. The story doesn’t bog down the game like other titles. The music and interfaces are also nicely presented and easy to navigate. They give the game a very polished feel that draws you, as the player, into the medieval atmosphere of the game.

There are some drawbacks to the game as well. Combat while intuitive and easy to control can be a bit hard to manage at times. Also the learning curve for making sure you hit an enemy every time is pretty high. The graphics here aren’t of the best quality and don’t do the game justice. The sound effects for enemies and other things in game are also very repetitive. You hear the same “arggh” over and over again from any enemy you damage. The game also takes a lot of time to get into and the pace is much slower than other titles. This may draw away fans of medieval hack and slash/ fantasy epic lovers or just straight up RPG or RTS fans. There wasn’t a lot I could find fault in with this game.

I believe a couple things could be done to make Mount and Blade a bit better. They could bring down the learning curve for the combat. While intuitive, it is difficult to master. They could change this by making the controls for combat easier to use or making the combat easier to handle. The pace could also be sped up in many different ways. This could be remedied by faster walking/running speeds, faster combat or new additions to the story that make the player want to continue. Travel to other places could be made more intuitive and a bit faster. The developers should also make some of the labels on certain people and places more realistic. Some of the barkeeps or innkeepers are called by their profession. They don’t have an actual name. Doing this would help make the game play experience more immersive. The developer could also make the game environment itself full of more people, animals, creatures etc. to give it a more populated and fast paced feel. Although there are some additions that could be made to Mount & Blade, it is unlike any game in the market at this point. I hope that other developers can learn from this and attempt to make their games as immersive and expansive. It deserves any awards and all awards that could be given to it.

Hayley’s Review of Mount & Blade

Mount and Blade is an action-and-strategy RPG for the PC, with emphasis on mounted combat, making this game unique.  Unlike the average RPG, Mount and Blade provides free-form sandbox game-play, somewhat like Sid Meier’s Pirates! , which is another example of an open-ended game.  That in itself allows the player to go anywhere and do anything they want, without having to follow a gradually unfolding, linear storyline.   In order to make playing the game more realistic, Mount and Blade is focused on skill-based combat, rather than stat-based combat.  The energy, speed, timing and impact angle of a blow all come into play to create a game that actually infuses physics into every fighting mechanism the character, and therefore the gamer, experiences.

When beginning the game, the player will find themselves in Caldaria and in a medieval world that is plagued by war.  Caldaria is a unified kingdom, containing five smaller kingdoms: the Swadians, the Vaegirs, the Khergits, the Nords, and the Rhodoks.  After creating their character’s attributes and starting skills, the player starts out with a horse that doesn’t always behave and very little money.  With that money, the character can purchase supplies.

From here, the game starts to become what the player makes of it, while shaping their own destiny.  There is no linear storyline.  Instead, Mount and Blade becomes a dynamic, responsive game world where the player’s actions affect how the events unfold.  This creates a different experience every time a new game is played.  The player can decide if he wants to move in the direction of becoming a vassal, joining one of the five battling factions, becoming an outlaw, or remaining a neutral, independent mercenary.    The favorable outcome is fluid; it’s what the player decides to make of it.

If the player decides to strive for Vassal status, many hard victories must be achieved before being offered vassalage by one or several kings.  Then, the player is given a village, in which they may add improvements and act as overlord.  As the player’s status grows, they can participate in military campaigns for their king.  As the recruitment of followers take place, the player can see that they also get better with experience.  Some followers start out as peasants and grow into an archer, footman for infantry, or cavalry soldier.

There are many ‘strengths’ in Mount and Blade.  One strength is that it has unlimited playability.  There are a growing number of fans who are developing mods for the game, meaning that everything from scenarios to the addition of troops and weapons can be modified.  The fan created content will keep this game in play for a long time, as well as for more opportunities for this game to advance and become more exceptional for very little money.   Other strengths include the use of skill-based combat, including combat mechanics, and the fact that the game provides an open-ended and dynamic world.

The weaknesses of this game are very limited, the most obvious being the graphics.  The game isn’t exactly eye candy but, in the gaming world, that’s not nearly as important as the game mechanics themselves and whether or not it is actually a quality game.  Other criticisms are repetitive quests, dialogs, and locations.  There needs to be more variety, more motley options in which the players of Mount and Blade find themselves immersed in an interesting, albeit imaginary world.  As the player advances, the world stays pretty much the same.  The characters in the game don’t treat the player’s character any differently than when they first started out.  If the perception changed, that would give the players more of the affirmation that they need, not to win the game necessarily, but to give it a more realistic quality that adds a whir of energy.  The slight blandness of Mount and Blade would be enhanced, allowing the player to fully immerse themselves in it.

Mount and Blade is an exceptional game indeed, and not very many gamers or game designers have many negative things to say about it.  It gives a unique perspective with an RPG format, hopefully paving the path for future games and ideas.  I would recommend this game to anyone who is into modding and/or PC gaming and who want to expand their horizons, while opening their mind to new and better ideas.

1 Comment

    heh, mountain blade… the sword of the Andes.

    pretty good reviews overall. ^_^

Leave a Reply