Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword – Captain Smith, Part 1

To boldy shank where no-one has shanked before.

Every Sunday, we reach deep into Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s 142-year history to pull out one of the best moments from the archive. This week, part one of Quintin’s Mount & Blade diary, originally published May 2011.

I’ve been meaning to take a stab at free-form medieval RPG series Mount & Blade for years. YEARS. So it thrills me to say that I’m currently having an incredible time with Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword, the latest game in the series which came out last week.

Join me for the adventures of Captain Smith, the worst mercenary leader to ever roam Eastern Europe.

The Mount & Blade games are all about getting involved in the warfare and violent politics of medieval Europe in a very real way. The end game sees you leading your grubby band forth to siege cities, instigate rebellions, and even work with rightful (or pretend) heirs to out various kings and leaders to slot your boss in their place.

To start with, though, you’re placed at the very bottom of the ladder. You are a dude with a shirt and a sword. And I’m going even lower.

For starters, there’s an option in the menu, on by default, which causes your hero to take half damage in combat. I quickly correct that. Also, in character creation, I shunt all of my points into Intelligence and Charisma rather than Strength and Agility. I want to see just how bad a fighter I can take to the top.

If I listen very closely, I think I can hear the game laughing in my face.

As for looks, I spend some time wondering whether to give Captain Smith a haircut that looks like the world’s most terrifying leech-

– but eventually settle for something more scholarly. This, my friends, is the man who will come to be feared throughout Eastern Europe, where Fire & Sword is set. Men will learn to tremble under his milky gaze.

The game’s tutorial kicks off with your character arriving in a town beset by looters. A decrepid man wearing a dressing gown comes jogging up and starts beating Captain Smith like a carpet.

A dreadful turn of events! This is NO WAY TO TREAT A HERO and will not be tolerated. I begin waving my sword around in semaphore until the elderly criminal accidentally gets in the way of it and concertinas to the ground. A noble kill!

Down the road a band of French “adventurers” are preparing for an assault by even more looters, and ask for my aid.

This is going to be messy. Or is it? Captain Smith has a plan.

Once the melee begins, I boldly step away and circle round to the rear, where I can poke holes in the looters from behind, not unlike a man trying to hit a light switch with a broom, but I emerge from the fight unscathed. I am a man of wit and foresight, it is true.

Modest, too! I am destined for greatness. Is there somewhere I have to register for a castle? Because that should happen.

The Frenchmen hand me a pistol and instruct me to shoot a lock off the stable door, despite the fact we’re meant to be protecting the town from looters. Nevermind. Now, firearms is actually what I put all of my (few) weapon skillpoints into during character creation. They’re a new feature of Fire & Sword. “Watch this!” I think to myself, take aim and… miss.

With my new bloodstained French friends watching, I painstakingly reload the gun (it takes some eight seconds) and fire again. And miss again. For my third shot I walk right up to the padlock and shoot the lock off at point blank range.

This does not bode well.

The Frenchmen and I commandeer ourselves a horse each, ride out and slay the rest of the looters in a battle across a shallow river that probably would have looked really cinematic had I not been off to the side, taking potshots with my pistol. I think I hit somebody at one point but it’s hard to tell because when I’m holding down the aim button and my screenshot button at the sime time I expand the game’s console, unintentionally blinding and paralysing myself.

Oddly, there doesn’t seem to be an option to join up with the Frenchmen after the battle. Pfft! As if I would have asked them, if, you know, it had been an option. Sorry lads, but I’ve got this whole manifest destiny thing to take care of. The Frenchmen do, however, give me some tips, and I listen carefully. Apparently this whole region is rife with conflict between the Moscovites, the Polish, the Crimean somethingorother, the Swedish and somebody else. They also tell me that I might find work in the nearby town of Zamoshye, and the nearby castle of somethingsomething.

I bid them farewell and ride off on my stolen horse, impatient to become a legend.

The queasy-looking village elder of Zamoshye has a couple of things a man of future wealth and taste such as myself might help him with. First, the Mayor of the nearby castle of somethingsomething is taxing his village too much, and someone must persuade him to go easy on the peasants. Second, there are some bandits in the forest that need taking care of. No problem, guy, I tell him. This? This is easy. This is no problem.

My plans are threefold- (1) ride to the castle and have a word with the mayor, (2) hire some mercenaries while I’m there with my small pouch of change, and (3) profit.

(1) goes wrong because it turns out the “mayor” will not be persuaded, thanks to my persuasion skill of 2. I elect to pay off the villagers’ taxes myself, in secret.

(2) goes wrong because I no longer have enough money to hire a large amount of dudes. I only have enough to hire five bearded drunks who call themselves “pikemen”.

(3) goes wrong because when I return to the mayor he gives me 100 thaler as a reward for getting the taxes lowered. I paid the mayor 200 thaler to make it happen.

Still, early days yet! I head into the forest to find the bandits. And I find them!

Oof, six of us versus six bandits. This one could be close… but you don’t go down in history for not taking risks, says Captain Smith. CHAARGE!

This time around I do an excellent job of fighting, almost certainly killing a man. Basically with my pikemen in the fray, I’m free to sit high on my horse and oversee the proceedings like Hell’s own tennis umpire, and instead of calling shots I’m taking shots. BANG! Reloadreloadreloadreload BANG! Miss! Swear. Reloadreloadreloadreload

The final tally when the smoke clears is six dead bandits and three dead pikemen. My first proper battle is a success. Nothing for it but to ride back to Zamoshye and collect my reward in oh wait shit hang on what

WHAT?! NO NO NO

About two hours into the six hour ride back to Zamoshye my party is ambushed by bandits. Specifically, the “Zamoshye Bandits” who I was sent to get rid off. I’m left wondering who in the shit I just ordered my men to kill.

The Zamoshye bandits ask for money. I have none. I say this hoping my men don’t overhear as it’s payday in a week.

Three of us versus seven bandits. This one could be close… but you don’t go down in history for not taking risks, command Captain Smith. CHAARG– OH JESUS MY NECK

I haven’t even loosed my first pistol shot when one of the Zamoshye bandits, who it turns out are marginally better equipped than the paupers I just brutalised, pegs me in the chest with a musket shot. Captain Smith goes tumbling off his horse like a sack of potatoes.

…my… my men… you must fight… for… me.. you don’t go down in history… for… oh, balls.

Oh, this can’t be good.

The remaining three parts of the Captain Smith saga can be read here.

18 Comments

  1. Keymonk says:

    Oh man, it got my hopes up that the series was being continued. :(

    • WiggumEsquilax says:

      There may yet be an episode 5. I doubt that RPS would bring back glorious Captain Smith just to taunt us.

      • demicanadian says:

        Your faith in humanity amazes me :D

      • Premium User Badge

        Aerothorn says:

        Yeah, I’m sure Quinns will ditch the board games and get right on that.

        (but I do also like your optimism!)

  2. Drake Sigar says:

    Hehe I loved this one back when it was relea- May 2011? No, that can’t be right. I have not been here THAT long.

  3. jasta85 says:

    I’m a huge fan of mount and blade warband. the issue with fire and sword and pretty much most other mods that include fire arms is that a lot of firearms are perfectly capable of one shotting you and in many battles I end up losing because I get snipped out of nowhere and instantly killed. Ensuring victory usually means sitting on a hill way in the back and just watching the battle, which is zero fun.

    • phanatic62 says:

      That was my experience as well. I bailed pretty early on Fire & Sword and went back to Warband. It was just way too annoying getting picked off at random from great distances.

      • briangw says:

        So no mods or tweaks to lower that dmg down or make it hard to kill someone with one shot?

  4. Mrice says:

    Mount and Blade has both a fantastic series of published games as well as some bloody amazing mods. RPS should try and cover some more of them before Mount and Blade 2 comes out and everyone forgets about M&B1

    Viking Conquest, Caribbean! and Napoleonic War are the three properly published ones, of varying quality and development stage, but anyone reading this should also check out “The Last Days of Middle Earth” because its bloody brilliant, something that definitely deserved to be published if it was not sadly an issue of copyright. Its just really incredibly well done.

    Also “Star Wars Conquest” which i don’t like so much as find bloody hilarious.

  5. Halk says:

    Does your captain look like a young Karl Pilkington on purpose? Or was it the daftness of his deeds that moulded his countenance.

  6. Earl-Grey says:

    I don’t suppose there is any chance of Quinns tiring of his board game fetish any time soon?
    Come back, all is forgiven.

  7. Wowbagger says:

    Went and found the other parts of this – The massive hat bit had me in stitches.

  8. cpt_freakout says:

    So funny – great series!

  9. thesundaybest says:

    I love me some RPS, but this series remains my favourite read. I keep hoping for more like this. I don’t play every game, and these story-based articles are what I want from those unplayed games. Less reviews, less “journalism”, and more highly subjective playthroughs by the Quinns of the world. Maybe RPS isn’t the place for a Lapham’s Quarterly of games writing, but I can’t be the only person who’d want such a thing.