Mount & Blade (PC)
System Requirements
PC with 512 MB of RAM
Graphics card with at least 64 MB memory
Windows 98/2000/ME/XP/Vista
700 MB of hard disk space

Role Playing Games are my favorite genre by far. Unfortunately, RPG\'s have long been tainted with magic and occult references, thus making it hard to find a good game to whole heartedly recommend.

Mount & Blade is breath of fresh air; it has no magic or religion references in it whatsoever. The game play is *completely* open ended and there is no storyline to follow but your own. When you start the game, you are asked some questions to help determine your character\'s story and starting attributes. From there, you are on your own. You can attack bandits, join them, pursue vassalage, become a merchant or a mercenary, be like Robin Hood, you decide. There are even tournaments if you want to pursue a gladiator career path.

Quests can be given to you by village elders, guild masters, Lords, their Ladies, and Kings. The quests vary from delivering a letter or cattle, being a champion to defend a lady\'s honor, doing spy work, kidnapping/escorting people, and more. When you complete quests, your relationship will improve with the person who assigned the task to you.  The quests usually have to be completed within a certain time frame. They\'re usually pretty generous, unless you\'re being summoned for a military campaign. There\'s a handy journal to keep track of your quests; the people and towns involved are linked to a knowledge base to help you find them easily.

If you become a vassal for a king, he will award you with a fief for a town\'s taxes for revenue. You will have the option to make improvements such as adding a mill, a school, or a messenger post (faster enemy alerts). I lost my town to an enemy kingdom once, and I had to release my oath to the king and when I re-joined I got a different town. I was pleasantly surprised that when I was re-awarded with a town I previously had, my improvements were not lost. Castles have the option to garrison an army and you can also build a prisoner tower. You also gain rent from a castle from people resting there.

You don\'t have to fight alone; you can recruit a war party from taverns and villages. The party size depends on your charisma and leadership attributes. There are disposable party members and hero party members. The hero party members will not die in battle; they will only get knocked unconscious. These members have attributes, weapons, and armor that you can customize as they level up. It\'s pretty easy to adjust their skills and equipping them is pretty straight forward too. You can\'t equip them with items that they don\'t have skills for. They also have personalities that like certain hero characters and despise others. If your party is mismatched, you\'ll get bickering and your morale will be low and someone will eventually leave. If a hero party leaves, you can get them back at a random tavern.

Battles are quite fun and don\'t get tiresome. The scenery and loot varies depending on who and where you are fighting. The enemies are challenging too, especially if you are out numbered. You issue battle commands and if you want you have the option to send your army to fight without you. If you\'re in a real pickle, you can leave a few men behind to help you escape. That doesn\'t sit too well with some hero party members.

The graphics are unique as there are two different views. There\'s a world overview where you can see villages, castles, caravans and war parties moving. When you go into a battle, village, or castle you switch to a third person mode. The graphics engine is a little dated but it\'s easy to look past that. The battle scenes look pretty good; the game considers the time of day, location, and weather conditions, so the battles have some variety. There are many character types and classes and similar class types look identical.

The artificial intelligence is pretty decent, as they are good about honing in on the enemies and fighting them. Obstacle avoidance is pretty good, though many get stuck behind trees temporarily. The biggest annoyance is that they don\'t often find the best path. I often see NPC\'s trekking up a big hill or mountain when there was a much easier path available.

The background music is pleasant and adds the appropriate mood. The battle noises are very realistic and are well done. I like the way the party cheers after a victory. When you talk to people in the game, it\'s all text. I guess I\'m spoiled by Oblivion. :)

The controls are pretty intelligent. Q brings up your quest journal, I brings up your inventory, P brings up your party configuration screen. Standard WASD and mouse controls are used for battles and walking around towns and castles.

From an appropriateness standpoint this game is pretty good, but there are some things worth noting. There is violence, however blood can be disabled. There are some language issues such as da*n and being called a wench by some bandits. (I played as a female character). As I mentioned earlier, there are no religious or magic references anywhere.

There is an active community supporting this game. There are lots of unique mods and enhancements available. This review is based on version 1.0 from gamersgate.com. There is a version 1.03 out as of this review, but the saves are not backwards compatible. Fortunately, you can export/import your character. The try before you buy download is pretty nice. You can get the full version of the game for free, but there\'s a level cap unless you purchase it for $30. Mount & Blade is well worth it.

Final Ratings
Game Play 18/20
Sound 7/10
Graphics 7/10
Controls 5/5
Stability 4/5
Appropriateness 42/50
-4 for killing in self defense
-1.5 for blood
+1 for allowing blood to be disabled
-3.5 Swearing
Overall 83%

About the Author

Cheryl Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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