The Elder Scrolls games delight zero-to-hero fantasists by introducing you as a prisoner in every installment. Shackled on a ship, locked away in a keep, transported to the block on a prisoner’s cart. It’s a nice tradition, the reincarnation of the world-saving pluralist nobody, always in chains. But these games lack true resolve. They set you free immediately, after serving practically no time at all. And off you go to become the hero.
In Mount and Blade you spend days locked in a dungeon, getting kicked by guards.
This happens when you get captured during a particularly hairy battle or siege. Most of this odd hybrid strategy RPG is spent nattering to repetitive NPC lords or stabbing your feudal lessers in the belly from atop a fat horse as you gallop from battle to battle. But when you are captured, time passes without you. Little armies dart across the map in timelapse. The moon comes up and goes down. The guards come back into your cell and treat you to another story dialogue. Pay us all your hidden gold, they demand, and we’ll let you go.
You can pay them, sure. But if you wait it out, you might be freed by a passing computer-controlled army who take it upon themselves to finish the poor siege job you started. An in-game week might pass in this vague hope, the toy armies of the overworld map nipping around the hills and plains of the surrounding countryside like insects. You can become a lord from nothing in Mount and Blade, just like the prisoner of Elder Scrolls can become the Hero of Kvatch. But in this silly medieval sim, it’s more likely you’ll go back to being a shackled nobody.