A Hard Day’s Knight: Violent Trevor – Adventurer!

By Kieron Gillen on April 29th, 2008 at 6:43 pm.

Where's my mount? Bastard.

We’ve never actually explained Mount & Blade properly, in terms of what you do. I figured the best way to actually capture the random adventuring lifestyle was to narrate the adventuring life-style. Since the demo stops at level eight, it struck me as the right sort of length for a sample. You know – with the added advantage of showing what you can get up to with just clicking on the download link. So I make my character, choosing options to make Violent Trevor a gruff nobleman character out for trouble. Click create and…

Damn. It’s hit one of the latest version bugs where you start in the wilderness, unarmed in your underwear.

I decide to find out what I can do even when the game goes wrong. And it all ends up working delightfully.

While I’ve only got a shield and a pair of Y-fronts, the bug hasn’t hit me as hard as some others. I’ve got a little gold. Gods knows where I’m keeping it, but I’ll worry about hemorrhoids later. I check the map – I’m towards the North, in the Land of the Norns. I head North to the nearest city, avoiding a band of nasty looking Sea Raiders. Admittedly, everyone looks scary when your only protection is a thin sheaf of cotton around your testes.

I go to see the Lord and see if there’s any missions that I could possibly complete. Good grooming leads to him not caring about my disrobed state, and he points me in the direction of a murderer to hunt down. Since I’m playing on standard difficultly – so I’m a lot harder than the average combatant – I figure I could deal with this. I head to the shops, and see what my coins can buy. Firstly, some chicken, as a man’s got to eat. Secondly, a weapon and some armour. The only thing I can afford is a big stick and a woman’s dress. This is me, cross-dressing…

He's not really putting his heart into the transvestite thing

Sexy, I know. I head off the the village where the murder was rumoured to be hiding. I get there with no trouble. When I say “no Trouble” I mean “I met a rampaging group of bandits, was captured, dragged around the country for a few days, then escaped”, but since I only had a handful of coins, I couldn’t lose much. In the village, I question a few of the locals, then head up to the nervous looking guy near the windmill and beat him unconscious with my awesome stick of twattage.

Mission complete, I head back to the Lord who gave me the quest. He’s moved on, so I talk to another Lord in his castle who tells me where he was last seen. There, I discover this quest doesn’t actually pay – I get a reputation boost. He likes me, yeah, but not enough to give me some money. Fucko. Luckily, the other Lord he’s hanging with has a little tax-collecting duties he needs someone to perform. If I do, I get to keep a considerable fraction of the money gathered.

This strikes me as a good idea, so I march off, dodging bandits, to the unfortunate town and spend a week of in-game time collecting money. They grumble and I lose reputation – and I think their settlement falls a economic level – but I’ve got the money, which – clearly – I plan on using for my own gains and never going anywhere near that Lord again. I was going to drive south to hang with the pseudo-Mongol Horde guys, but it doesn’t quite turn that way.

I am Mr Cunt-o

So, I’m now rich and I plan a spending free. I head to the bar, and hire some mercenary crossbowmen and a hero-character called Lezalit. He’s a bit of a dick, but can train soliders and generally is a bit of a hard-case. I’d also be able to give him better equipment, but in practice never get around to it. I’m still in my underpants, remember. I get fancy Norman chainmail, helmet, greaves, gloves, a decent horse and – since I spent too much money to afford a decent sword – a brutal looking warhammer to split heads. Looking suspiciously like a proper knight rather than a bloke in his kecks, I head off to save a village.

I didn’t mention that, did I? When I was in the bar, I bumped into a villager who in true Seven-Samurai/Magnificent Seven fashion was looking to hire warriors to drive out the bandits who are persecuting his people. Yeah, I can give it a crack. I’m a little nervous about going into a full-size battle, and wander the countryside trying to recruit extra troops from nearby villages. These tiny hamlets are a useful source for useless troops, as clearly being lead into battle by an idiot is better than prodding at hay all day.

I kind of get most of them killed by a skirmish with some heavily armoured Sea Raiders, which pisses of Lezalit enormously, before my luck turns. I come across a relatively small group of foot-bound Looters dragging behind over a dozen prisoners. If I can win the battle, I double my forces at a stroke. And in the first proper rout of the game, I do so, charging across the battlefield and slicing my sword satisfyingly into the small of their backs. We free the slaves and stomp off to rescue the villagers.

And here we are, with our villagers forming a nice little lynch mob.

Get 'em!

Frankly, between us and them, it’s a bit of an agreeable slaughter. The Villagers try and shower us with extra stuff, but I decide to turn it down and become Mr Popular. I figure it can’t hurt for one village to like me. It later turns out it’ll be the only village who likes me.

Anyway, here’s us celebrating and about to presumably sacrifice all the surviving bandits to our dark, Nord gods.

It's build an enormous wicker man time, methinks.

With this victory, I figure it’s time to go off to War. What I didn’t mention that while doing this – as well as getting ambushed by Bandits when I was trying to go into a town, which I brained with my warhammer – was that I pledged my service to the Norn army for three months. The King has summoned me to join their forces attacking the Rhodoks. I figure they probably deserve to die just because of their unfortunate name. Dragging my forces across the map, I reach the massing armies around Ibdeles Castle.

The numbers say how many soldiers are in each regiment.

After waiting around for a bit, he orders me to go and gather some cattle. He doesn’t care where from. That’s a Proper Regal for you. I end up raiding the local villages, stealing their various trade goods too, as I figured if you’re going to be unpopular, you probably should really go for it. I drive most of them back to camp, discovering the Siege has actually kicked off. I figure I should probably join in, it being a war and all.

The battles in the open field can have even more soldiers in.

So, I have we storm the battlements and there’s three of us left when the enemy – who are also re-spawned in until they’re exhausted, which isn’t the game’s strongest point – crumple. Sadly, it’s not enough for us to storm the final stronghold. Troops battered, I get back to the castle-rustling to give my characters a chance to heal. And lo! We’d weakened them enough for the Citadel to collapse in the next attack, and the armies march off to the south. I follow, driving the slow moo-cows before me.

I’m dragging behind when I spot something – a Rhodok Lord heading a force of troops only a couple of men bigger than mine, with a healthy number of prisoners. I do the maths, realise I’m reaching the level cap, and go for a dramatic conclusion. The problem is immediately apparent – his troops are soldiers and mine are footbound militia. I’ve only a handful of crossbowmen to his good dozen or so, and my fighters are armed with things like hoes while his are armed with things like bazookas. Okay, halebards, but they may as well be nukes.

But we win!

This isn't actually the battle in question. I forgot to press the grab key then. Man!

It’s mainly down to my superior horsemanship (and, really, fairly superior horse), harrying their missile troops and allowing my foot soldiers to press their numerical advantage over the Proper Grown-Up Soldiers of the Rhodoks. The bit where the Lord is cornered by a mob of my glorified Norn peasants and I run a sword through his back is immensely satisfying. He manages to escape after the battle, but we get enough prisoners to fill in our losses and a few captives into the bargain.

Heading off in the direction I thin our army went – there’s a fog of war based around your characters skills – I bump into a group of bandits and… well, at which point I hit the level cap and the demo ends.

So, in the hour-and-a-bit of play, I went from underwear to an officer in a full blown war between two nations. I was involved in a siege. I freed a village from raiders and raided freely other ones. I killed a man with a piece of wood. That’s what Mount & Blade is about. It’s quite the game.

And when I stopped, I found myself turning to my Paypal account and paying Taleworlds for a Serial Number to carry on.

If you want to know what your eight levels are like, go get the demo. Feel free to share in the comments.

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50 Comments »

  1. Therlun says:

    As I said elsewhere:

    Great combat simulation.
    The actual world map game is not very fun in the long run though, because most world interaction features are implemented in a very basic way, broken or simply not fun after encountering them dozens of times.

  2. Biscuitry says:

    I haven’t played this yet, (downloading it now!) but from your description, I have to say that this is what a demo should be. It shouldn’t be a sales brochure; it should make you want to play the game.

  3. Nimic says:

    You know, this article has actually persuaded me to go buy it. And that’s after I had originally decided I wanted to try it out, but then decided I wasn’t sure if it was worth it.

    Also, it’s my birthday tomorrow. Oh, and I get a homeexam tomorrow, so I need an excuse not to study.

  4. Okami says:

    Admittedly, everyone looks scary when your only protection is a thin sheaf of cotton around your testes.

    There was no cotton in the middle ages!!! And you call yourself a journalist!?!?

    (Sorry, I’ve spent too much time on rpg forums lately and the madness there is kinda contagious. Please don’t ban me!)

  5. Dinger says:

    There was cotton in the Middle Ages. Feel free to look it up. Maybe it wasn’t the most popular cloth in medieval Britain, but in the world, cotton existed, and in the Mediterranean, the plant was cultivated and used for cloth. There’s tons of documentary evidence, and only particularly brain-damaged SCA freaks would suggest otherwise.

    Yeah, and RPG forums ain’t a good place to study medieval history.

  6. Okami says:

    I feel extremely stupid now. I guess I’ll just play Mount&Blade now. Great write up as allways, by the way. Really made me want to play the game. Which I’ll do now. To hide my shame.

  7. Kieron Gillen says:

    I did actually think about the cotton thing, but decided it’d be funnier to do that rather than something more common like woolen.

    KG

  8. Michael Short says:

    I notice you say that the respawning of the enemies isn’t the games strong point, so allow me to point you to the direction of http://forums.taleworlds.net/index.php/topic,8058.0.html.
    Battle Size Changer! Up to 1000 men at once (though you’d be suicidal to do so).

  9. Arnulf says:

    Great write-up. Had to chuckle several times, and laugh once, or twice. … But we win. :D

    Somehow I had to think of Myth: The Fallen Lords. Don’t know why, though.

    Does the game have tourneys with jousting? I recently re-read A Song of Ice And Fire by G.R.R. Martin.

  10. Snofeld says:

    Initially when I downloaded this I was a bit confused about what to do, but after some false starts I hit my stride after finding that, armed with a lance and a horse, you can take on units of looters and deserters on your own. So I did this for a while, it was like bowling for barbarians.

    And that’s when I decided to buy.

  11. dartt says:

    In the 10 minutes before breakfast this morning I traveled to a small village where the elder asked me if I would train up some villagers in to a militia.

    I agreed and spent the next few days drilling them (thumping them atop the head with a stick till they understood – I’m the Pai Mei of the Middle Ages).
    Immediately after completeting the training (what are the chances?!), bandits attacked and my brave young boys sprung in to action. And were slaughtered in moments.

    I rode off in to the sunset as the village burnt to the ground, another tale added to my legend.

  12. Jonathan says:

    Kieron! Did you just use a C-bomb without warning? You pushing the boundaries too far now.

  13. Kieron Gillen says:

    We’re English, man. To steal Ellis’ line, it’s punctuation.

    We promise never to put it in a header. Unless it’s really, really funny.

    KG

  14. Janek says:

    Now that you’ve bought it, you totally need to do write up a continuation of the Epic Saga of Violent Trevor.

  15. Ghor says:

    This game is slowly getting closer to giving you the feeling you’re in the middle of a grand strategy game played by the AI, whose outcome you can alter slightly or not so slightly with your actions. I see this as a good thing.

  16. Vollgassen says:

    i really wish they had some decent art direction and animation. I enjoy how detailed everything is and the way the combat system works but when it looks so bad it prevents me from getting into it

  17. Marcin says:

    Does the game have tourneys with jousting?

    Not technical jousting in lists per se, but there are tournaments, and you can have a lance in one. Depending on the city, there will be free-for-all melee tourneys, team “deathmatches”, and in some places 4 team matches. It’s quite good, but since it’s consequence free it doesn’t quite match the rush of the battlefield.

    So Sieges work in .95 then?

  18. Kieron Gillen says:

    Marcin: They’re in there. They’re not as good as the open battles, but they work.

    KG

  19. D says:

    Don’t forget the moddability of this game. Tournament jousting will surely make a return for the newest version.

  20. Tox says:

    Vollgassen -

    Either you’ve running the game at ridiculously low settings, or with DX 7, or your standards are stupidly high. The game looks great. I’m not even going to add the caveat “for a game that’s been developed on a very low budget by an independent company for 3+ years”. The game just looks great, and runs pretty smoothly as well. The menu artwork is inspiring, the models are perfectly adequate and the textures have improved over time; and dynamic lighting and shadows work as well as I’ve seen in any other game. If you feel that you are suffering loss of enjoyment of the game due to its visuals, then chances are good that the problem lies strictly with your inability to immerse yourself in a promising virtual reality, not with the game’s more than impressive invitation that you join it.

    How the megacorps have spoiled us with their fancy graphics :’(

  21. whatnameshouldi says:

    Wow, good piece of writing, laughed many times.

    On m&b, its the only game ive bought in the last 2 years (been living on freeware, old games and demos since then) and i assure you its worth it. For good, plus you have a great modding community that can really twist the game.

    Fed

  22. Nahkuri says:

    Awesome read. And quite accurate as well. Getting this game is really worth it, as the native game destroys your other life for weeks, and then there’s an active modding community. As much as I’m waiting for the final release of the game, I’m waiting for the total conversion about viking invading Great Britain for an older version of M&B.

  23. Ollieh says:

    Yeah, this game is a must have for every self-respecting-gamer. Some Great mods also exist, The Last Days hint. hint. (although it hasn’t been ported for the latest version, yet)

  24. Malagate says:

    Started on this last night, I am very impressed by it and wish I had known about it a lot sooner! Riding down bandits with my sword is just so much fun, even if my little peasant army I spent 6 days training get mullered in 3 minutes whilst I bravely “fall back” leaving me alone with 20+ bandits.
    Do I flee the battle though?
    Never!
    Took me awhile, dodging arrows and cutting heads as I gallop past, even at one point hiding behind a rock and using fences to keep them away. I really should have talked to some lord first though, as I’m desperately low on coin. Still, might go to the next area over and see what could be won in those tournaments I keep hearing about.

  25. Okami says:

    Played it yesterday. I had pretty much the same experience dartt had. Trained a town’s milita and got them all slaughtered when the bandits arrived.

    I liked the game, but it has a very slow start. I spent a lot of time playing medieval fedEx, bringing letters from one lord to the other and built up a small force of peasants only to have them all slaughtered by the first band of deserters I ran into. Hmmm..

    I’m still trying to get the hang of the combat system, though it feels too much like Oblivion or Morrowind to me. I hate to see my character moving forward, left, right and backward all the time, just because I’m aiming blows. Aiming a blow should not result in you moving into that direction unless you want to.

    The mounted combat was pretty sweet though. I played a couple of skirmishes and it was a real joy to ride down enemy infantry and chase after enemy knights, sword raised and knock them from their saddles. Good times.

    I’ll play it again tonight with a new character and see if I’ve learned from my mistakes.

  26. Malagate says:

    Quote Okami:”I hate to see my character moving forward, left, right and backward all the time, just because I’m aiming blows. Aiming a blow should not result in you moving into that direction unless you want to.”

    At first I couldn’t get the hang of doing the different styles of attack, as I initially tried to time attacks with WASD movement but that didn’t change what kind of attack I was using. After I realised that it’s the movement of the mouse which choses the direction of attack it all became a lot easier, and quite intuitive as I didn’t have to change direction to do a thrust or an overhead swing, rather I had to look up or down a tiny bit. When I learnt that I became lethal in the melee area fights!

  27. St!gar says:

    If you had bothered to… you know, check the Options-menu, I think you’d find that you can (and should), use mouse-movement to swing your weapon.

    *EDIT*

    Malagate beat me to it.

  28. Kieron Gillen says:

    Don’t be mean, St!gar. It is a tricky game to get into.

    KG

  29. Kanakotka says:

    The naked adventurer glitch is cause some of the equipment for selections doesn’t seem to be set proper, or you’re gaining duplicate items and it glitches oddly. Every choice you make in the ”backstory” for yourself affects what your stats will be and what you’re wearing (obviously :P ) but i think it’s new to the 0.95…

    One thing confuses me though, does anyone know why i can only pick some people’s weapons from the ground, but not everyone’s? Is it a bug or is it relevant to the looting skill?

  30. Okami says:

    @Malagate: Thanks!
    @St!gar: Ok, ok, I’ll just go over and hide in that corner (again). And thanks for the tip.

  31. Nimic says:

    So I bought it, downloaded it and spent a few hours on it, and it turns out I was playing around on .903 or something. Which the “Download” link on their main site links to. Buggers!

  32. Riotpoll says:

    Mowing stuff down with a lance whilst on horseback was really fun, then the game crashed just as I was about to hit the level cap in the demo. :(
    Good fun though, especially if you find the tax collecting mission to get money at the start!

  33. astat says:

    Nimic, .903 is still the most actual “stable version” for public use.

    .950 is “beta”, can be downloaded from links in the forum and is not intended for unsuspecting new customers, as it could drive them away with its new bugs.

    i too wait a week or so before starting a new campaign, .951 should arrive soon.

  34. realcals says:

    I have had M&B for a couple of years; this update sent me back to the download section…
    I loved the bit where my level 3 postman tried to enter a town to recruit some postal-underlings…only to be attacked and killed by bandits!
    Or a mission to track down a murderer; to find a “Nervous Man” idling in a suspicious manner…when I call him out, he beats the #%$&* outta me…not much to be nervous about, I’d say…

    Yeah, it’s good. Still needs polish, but it’s good.

  35. Malagate says:

    realcals: poor you! Personally I actually like the random bandit encounters when you enter towns at night, I’ve only been successfully mugged once though and that was all my fault for trying to use a spear in very close combat.
    My issue would be the fact that if you randomly start in a nasty place then your game can be messed up pretty soon, for instance I start in the Nord place and 6 to 12 infantry raiders to fight isn’t so bad. I start in the Khejit place and there’s bands of 20+ all mounted steppe bandits roaming around at a much faster pace than I can run away from, a real pain when you’ve literally only just started playing.

  36. Biggles says:

    gah! It’s eating up my life again! Must stop playing this at some point…

    It’s one of those games that every designer should play, though. It may be a horrible broken mess but it’s got loads of great ideas going on. Looking forward to the high budget sequel, that’s for sure!

  37. Taklinn says:

    I had walked around, made a band of mercenaries (about 45) (most of them good troops, like Hired Blades, or Trained Footman) and chased bandits all over the place, ran from armies on the move (every army seemed to have like 300 troops), tried looting a village, but it wouldn’t let me raid the sorry souls (i could force them to give me supplies, but no looting and killing), being the lord of another (turns out i got to belong to an kingdom to own one of the villages, drat!), and I did a tax mission where i only took half the cash from the villagers and the lord got pissed at me, all in about an hour ’till i hit the limit (which was 6 for me).

  38. Janto says:

    I really must be a special case… I can’t master the fighting in this at all… I can do ok in melees, mainly by beating on people who’s backs are turned, but on horseback I just end up flailing wildly and hitting sod all.

  39. Daniel Rutter says:

    OK, so which of the starting character-selection options do NOT start you off in your underpants without even a sharp stick? Because I’ve just played three damn games that started out that way, and am insufficiently 1337 to achieve very much then.

    Honestly – the Guild Dude must just be a sadistic bastard. There he is, looking at a level-zero dimwit bearing the equipment he could afford with his starting money (one meat cleaver, one Van Halen T-shirt, one yarmulke, no food), and he says “Sure, man, I’ve got a job for you! Just kill those bandits that’ve been bothering us!”

    What he didn’t tell me was that there were SIXTEEN bandits, and all of them had horses and swords. I put a few pretty nasty gashes in their horses before they beat me to a pulp, but c’mon, even on Easy this bug makes the game completely unapproachable.

    The combat system really is fun – I did quite well in the Arena. But if the only weapon I can afford in the rest of the game is one that won’t even let me parry, there’s little fun to be had.

  40. Daniel Rutter says:

    All right! I just picked some initial choices which I totally didn’t actually want, and behold, I then started with a horse and a sword and everything!

    And I recruited some dudes, and I rode around a bit… and then the first bunch of miserable random bandit footsoldiers I met beat the crap out of my party and then dragged me around by the hair for a while. I know that the actual downside of that is not very large – kind of makes you wonder why NPCs in this game BOTHER taking prisoners, when all they get out of the deal is taking SOME of the prisoners’ money and then waiting for them to escape – but it’s nonetheless kind of dispiriting.

    Still not really seeing the sexiness of this game.

  41. BaconIsGood4You says:

    I was nearing level 8 and really wasn’t doing to hot after losing my squad to a patrolling army who chased me from town to town. We had to surrender, we couldn’t have won it, and when I escaped a few days later I felt pretty guilty about leaving my men behind. But yeah, after seeing one of my allies loot a village I figured, what the heck, I’ll give it a shot. So me and my loyal Rhodock villager went for it. He died…real quick, and I had to finish it. Killing 45 peasants, well, I didn’t feel like a hero.

  42. Andrew says:

    Daniel, at low levels you want to keep your party speed high so you can escape from people. Keep to fighting looters at first, don’t try to tangle with bandits or deserters (especially Swadian or Khergit deserters!). Do ‘safe’ missions like tax collecting or courier duty to start with, as well as ones from the guild masters like dealing with looters near the cities. Try to hire companions rather than NPC troops at first, although Mercenary Crossbowmen can be very useful against looters, who have no shields, ever.

  43. Nallen says:

    I was certain this was an MMO you know.

  44. a-scale says:

    Unfortunately as much as I like the game, I can’t purchase it from Talewords. That publishing house happens to be based out of Turkey, and as an Armenian I find purchasing Turkish products to be morally objectionable. No Mount and Blade for me, I’m afraid.

  45. Poc says:

    If you don’t want to start your game with nothing at all, don’t pick the “seeking riches” motivation in the character development screen. It’s a bug, a rather ironic one at that.

  46. Cian says:

    That ‘publishing house’ is the people who make the game, a husband and wife who happen to be Turkish. I don’t see why that should be an issue, the profits almost definitely aren’t going to the Fund for Ethnic Cleansing.

  47. TwistyMcNoggins says:

    Although the taxes they pay on their earnings might.

  48. Malagate says:

    Depends if Turkey is still doing that, wasn’t the whole ethnic cleansing thing in 1915? It’s still tense from what I understand though, even if they’re not doing anything bad now I doubt he’d want to support their government in any way, no matter how small.

    Oh and I see the whole “seeking riches” bug as a gameplay feature, surely you’d be best motivated to seek riches by having nothing? Although it is perhaps a bit too hard if you start in the Kherjit area…

  49. phil says:

    The groans, shouts and random crowd noise in a large battle are fantastic – I could swear a crossbow man bellowed “bastard” at me as I lanced him up – a satisfying moment.

  50. Ian Mcael says:

    I had just been tagging along with my Sea Pirate buddies(Surrendered; they out number me 22/1) when I escaped; then I ran into a single river pirate that was dragging 28 men as prisioners… So I attacked him with my trusty 20 arrows bow, k the game is some what buggy when it comes to arrows and NPC seeing as 12 of my arrows passed right through him…and my character was at 100 of archery… but still a shot to the head and one on the shoulder…so I got a new party and we headed off to the sunset… only to find that one of the Norns Lord was out to get me…(Spent two days after him and killed the remaining army he had “5 Skirmishers LOL!”) Well he came back and with 87 men…Crap! Luckily the 30 day trial demo ended as he attacked me! LOL! AH! AH!