Rumors of Mount and Blade

Last month Dither at Rumors of War wrote about a quest idea he was impressed with in Mount & Blade.

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A year or two ago, a friend gifted me an extra Steam key that he had picked up of M&B: Warband, saying that he thought it would be up my alley. I gave the game a very cursory investigation, and it did indeed sound like something I’d like. There have just been so many other forms of entertainment crowding my queue that I never got around to it.

Reading Dither’s blog post gave me the nudge I needed to finally get around to it, and so far I’m pleased.

There seem to be a lot of mechanics and aspects to the game that aren’t really explained; the only tutorial I came across was for basic combat. The character creation is pretty standard fare – choose a name, customize your appearance, distribute some points into various attributes, skills, and weapon stats. I did like the part where you craft your character’s background from a series of choices. It’s enough to give you a sense of who you want your character to be without nailing you down.

As far as I can tell, there’s no real story beyond a short series of quests that you pick up after beginning the game. It’s an open-world sandbox, where it’s hinted that your ultimate goal is to build up power and become a king.

I created my character to come from humble beginnings, so I’m working my way up as a stationless mercenary captain at the moment. I’m not sure what the differences are, but you can choose to be from a noble family, or to be a woman (which may influence some aspects of the game?). NPCs have told me that one can gain favor with lords and kings to be granted titles and fiefdoms, and that some vassals grow in power and go rogue, declaring themselves to be kings. I suppose this will be my path.

Thus far, the dynamics are pretty fun and the different mechanics of the game mesh in a comfortable way. When traveling over land, you see a world map of sorts, and when they’re within your vision you can see other units moving around the map in real time. Your party moves as one.

When you come to a town or castle, you are presented with a context menu that gives you several options; usually to explore the area or else use a shortcut to visit a merchant or recruit soldiers without having to physically go into town and walk there yourself (I do like this time-saving mechanic).

Battles are quite interesting. A number of your stats determine how many people you can have in your party. Right now I believe my max is around 55. As you gather money, you may travel about recruiting volunteers for your band. These soldiers are attached to your party, receive a salary, and require you to carry food to sustain them. As you bring them into battles, they receive experience. When they reach certain thresholds, you can pay to promote them to stronger varieties of soldiers, with improved stats (?) and gear.

There are also named characters you can recruit, who have special stats and can perform special tasks for you.

Anyway, when you enter a battle, your party comes with you. Basically you’ve got a mob of NPC’s grunting and yelling and waving axes, hammers, swords, and other implements. They charge the enemy and do what damage they can. They can be wounded or killed, like the enemy.

It’s actually quite amusing to watch. Dither compared it to the Total War games – mobs and blobs of somewhat blocky little guys just having at one another. It’s kind of like zooming all the way in on one of those miniature battles. Of course you don’t just watch – you can get in on the action, as well.

This is just scratching the surface, but one more tidbit to share. As Dither observed, some of the quests are pretty interesting. One of the first I picked up was entertaining to say the least. I was charged with training the peasants of a village that was being harassed by bandits, so that they would be able to fight back (a ‘la the Seven Samurai). This “training” consisted of several recurring sessions in which a half-naked peasant would charge me with a quarterstaff and I would beat him to unconsciousness (two whacks with my own staff usually did it).

MB Training

M&B has certainly gotten one thing right: it’s hard to be a peasant.

-Bushi

bushi

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Rumors of Mount and Blade

9 thoughts on “Rumors of Mount and Blade

  1. It’s gratifying to watch your freshly-trained militia beat up a bunch of bandits once you complete the N rounds of half-naked stick-fighting.

    Have you run into the problem of quests “running out?” The first few times I played, I thought I was doing something wrong when peasant villages stopped giving me quests to do. I was so lost. It took me a while to realize that the game’s designed to encourage the murder-hobo lifestyle.

    Quests don’t appear to refresh (at least, not that I noticed), so you HAVE to rove around looking for work to pay your soldiers, take on odd jobs, and occasionally . . . murder some dudes and take their stuff. Of course, the bigger your own mob, the more you have to murder to pay your hobos.

    –Dither

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  2. Hahaha…”murder-hobo lifestyle” – I’m going to remember that one.

    The first time couple of times I did the villagers vs. bandits battle, I charged in ahead of my peasants and got wrecked (I’m doing the weaksauce mode where you can save and reload). A little bit of trial and error showed me that you need to wait for your mob to engage.

    I haven’t been playing that long yet, so I have only done a few quests – train the villagers, collect taxes for a lord, kill some bandits. That’s definitely worth noting. I wonder if turning down quests lets you do them later or basically just uses them up. Interesting that they went that direction; I guess it will force you to choose whether to be a bastard or try to earn some spoils through (legitimate?) warring on other kingdoms and bandits, if that’s even lucrative enough. Once you get some holdings, can you levy taxes?

    Also I wonder if there may be mods to add/recycle quests, or if any of the expansions address that issue.

    Definitely an interesting combination of mechanics and design choices in play, at any rate.

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    1. One of the things I found enjoyable/entertaining about the companions you can recruit was their affinity/annoyance with each other. After a half-dozen or so restarts, I stopped trying to recruit peasants who were just draining my gold. Companions can’t die.

      So what I did was bounce from tavern to tavern, gobbling up dangerous-looking companions and taking them into fights with me. Over a period of several days (and battles), they’d either warm up to one another, or get on each others’ nerves.

      Once I figured out how to manage them, I developed a “core” group of companions whose moods and opinions I valued most — newbies would have to either put up or shut up. I used my companions as a “compass” for taking or breaking quests, since they would voice their opinions based on whether I completed or failed particular quests.

      Finally, after hours of building up this party, I started taking on mercenaries and recruits sparingly — then it became like a tidal wave. If you pass a certain point and build a stable party of companions and mercs, then you can STEAMROLL a lot of stuff. At least in the post-“broke nobody” stage, leading into the “sworn sword to a lord” stage.

      I have to warn you though, if and when you swear an oath to a lord and he calls you to battle — DON’T WAIT. Drop everything and go find him because he’ll demand that you follow him around. He will then wander all over the place. Try and pace yourself in the fights, and don’t get your guys so hurt that they get killed. You have to serve him several days at a time over at least 3 months.

      If you DON’T follow him, it’s really hard to find him. You have to go from castle to castle, asking wives and stewards and allies where the warparty has gone, and that can get you in trouble with him FAST.

      –Dither

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      1. Thanks for the tips! I only have two companions so far, and they haven’t interacted with one another yet. Maybe that means they get along fine?

        What happens if you don’t help your lord out (or you only minimally contribute to fights)? I assume you lose favor?

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    2. My most-stable party was 4-6 companions. I stopped looking after a point because I got caught up in the larger-scale conflicts and would forget to check taverns.

      You lose favor . . . I admit I forget what else. He seemed pissed enough that I backtracked to a save and lost several in-game days of progress. It might have been interesting to see the drama play out, but at that point I was really invested in seeing where it was going.

      It’s been a month-plus though, and I haven’t looked back. Well, I haven’t really had time to look back or play much of anything. When I’m inclined though (and not trying to sleep), I’m playing Alpha Centauri. Well, trying anyway.

      –Dither

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