|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: TaleWorlds Ent.||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Paradox Int.||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 16, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
If there is any reason at all to ignore the bulk of Mount & Blade's crappier moments, it's the game's highly advanced combat system. A shining beacon of excellence awash in a sea of gray, medieval haze, the battle system is simply awesome. More often than not, you'll find yourself recruiting local peasants into your militia and steering the whole lot head-on into encounter after encounter just to split some skulls. It's that fun. Combat occurs both on foot and from the back of your trusty mount. In either case, there are some particularly interesting elements at play. Most encounters are against large numbers of foes, and you'll ride into battle with you own A.I.-controlled troops to clash on the fields in a bloody mess.
In on-the-ground melee, you'll go at your opponents with an array of grisly weapons, including bows and crossbows, axes, swords, maces, staffs, spears, knives, throwing daggers, and much more - depending on what you have equipped. The trajectory of each attack is determined by where you mouse is located in relation to your character when you click it. With well-timed right-clicks of the mouse, you can also block incoming attacks with your weapon or hold up a shield if equipped. The latter is great for deflecting incoming arrows and other projectiles, which will lodge themselves into your shield or your body with a hefty thunk and remain there for the duration of the encounter.
Foes aren't typically very hard to dispatch, but they do put up a good fight and block your attacks frequently. They'll also try to take advantage of moments when your guard is down, or they'll fire off missile weapons in your direction if you move far enough out of melee range. Mounted combat is even more interesting, as your attacks increase in effectiveness depending on the speed of your mount. Fighting from horseback is a lot of fun, and it's particularly satisfying to violently cut down a troublesome opponent while passing by at a full gallop. Though it brings some level of guilt, cutting enemies' horses out from beneath them is a surprisingly efficient tactic as well. Battles can range from relatively small skirmishes to large-scale sieges involving dozens of troops. No matter how much other areas of Mount & Blade disappoint, I kept finding myself returning to the battlefield for more guts and glory.
Mount & Blade's strong RPG elements, in-depth army management aspects, and amazingly addictive combat system balance out its mediocre quests and half-baked sandbox gameplay. The lack of a story is unforgiveable, but it's hard to not concede the game is still worth playing after all - even if only to repeatedly brightly stain your swords with the blood of your fallen enemies.
CCC Staff Contributor