Mount & Blade: Computer Game Review

Written by Damien

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World Map & Environments
The world map is pretty impressive. It's relatively large, with many cities and towns to visit.Mountains, rivers, an different types of terrain abound. Movement rate on this map is dependant on many factors, including how many troops you have with you, how much you're carrying, and the rank of your Pathfinding skill. Probably the coolest feature of the map is that it is complete with the various terrain types. If you attack a group while on snowy terrain, then you will have to fight them in the snow, for example. Definitely a step up from many games which seem to have simply "grass." The world map also tells you what day it is in the game world since you started, and what time of day it is (which is further supported by varying degrees of light and dark).

Environments in the game are pretty varied, from hilly battlefields to small town centers to the chambers of a powerful count. Since the game isn't finished many of the cities simply include various text-based ways to enter different portions of the town, like the blacksmith or tavern -- all of which are relatively stark at this point. At some point the cities will be more filled out. The battlefields, on the other hand, are visually very impressive. Trees, rocks, rivers, and various other landforms (depending on where on the world map you are) decorate the fighting area. The only real problem, at this juncture, with the battlefields is that in any slightly hilly world map terrain the battlefield maps tend to be extremely strange -- that is, entirely too hilly and even incredibly mountainous. Some of the terrain is like fighting on the side of Mount Everest. This will no doubt be fixed in later editions of the game, as it can severely hinder your ability to even find your enemy, let alone fight effectively. On the other hand, extremely thick forest terrain is excellent for keeping the horsemen at bay if you are an archer or simply prefer to fight on foot.

Character Generation & Advancement
When starting a new game you must choose between a male or female character. Based on your choice you get further choices about your past. A male character, for example, can choose between having been a novice priest, a squire, a hunter, etc. It's important to note that this choice affects the beginning or your character, but does not affect how your character advances later in the game, it is simply a background decision. After you make your choices and name your character you must choose to alter your statistics (Strength, Charisma, Dexterity, Intelligence), and assign skill points and weapon proficiencies. Skills have a maximum rank associated with their prime attribute (such as Charisma for the Leadership skill) and your maximum rank in any weapon proficiency (one-hand weapons, two-hand weapons, polearms, archery, throwing weapons, crossbows) is dependant on the Weapon Master skill.

Advancement is dependant on experience points, which are gained mostly through combat, but also from completing quests assigned to you by leaders from the various cities. Each time you raise in level you are allotted 10 weapon proficiency points, 1 skill point and 1 attribute point to distribute as you see fit (placing your attribute point into Intelligence yields an extra skill point). This may seem like a rather slow way to advance, but the difference even between Leadership 3 and Leadership 4 is pretty impressive. Due to the limited structure of the advancements you must decide pretty early on what direction you want your character to take and stick with it. A primarily infantry-style concept will not benefit from wasting skill points in Ride or Horse Archery, for example. So it's best to plan your character from the start and go from there. But you should not be discouraged. Once you reach a certain level it becomes easier to branch out beyond your main focus. A 30th level character can afford to be both an infantry two-hand swordmaster and a horse archer!

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