Mount&Blade is a 3D, open-ended, single-player, third- or first-person computer role-playing game created and distributed by TaleWorlds, an independent developer started by a Turkish husband-and-wife team. Mount&Blade has a medieval setting, without any fantasy elements. Mount&Blade is notable for its emphasis on realistic cavalry combat, which was common in the era, but is largely absent in most RPG titles.
The player can directly control only one player character, which is created when a new game starts. A character class only serves as a template for future character development. Each "class" differs only in its starting attributes, skill points and equipment. There are no in-game restrictions on equipment or skill use based on class and gender. The maximum level of a skill and the use of certain equipment is linked to a related attribute.
The player character's facial features are customizable, similar to the system found in The Sims 2 and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. The face and hair can be changed at any time, should the player wish to do so. Some users have even modified the basic face "skins", giving themselves and the AI different options, such as warpaint. The newer versions (.800 and further) include a "randomize" button, which allows the player to instantly generate a random face. As of version .890, the player character may take sides with any one or none of the factions present in Calradia: The Swadian, Rhodok, Vaegir, Khergit, and Nord armies, or hunt down the various bandits and rogues that plague the region.
The gameplay is open, similar to games such as Elite or Darklands. The game currently has a skeleton plot and the player is free to do as he wishes. While combat is the main draw of the game, it is for the most part optional.
Characters can make money and gain experience by trading goods between towns. The game features a basic dynamic economy based on supply and demand.
The player's party can be formed by recruiting unique non-player characters (NPC), known as a hero or companion, or more generic soldiers. The player can increase his maximum party size by either investing in certain skills, or earning renown by winning battles.
The player can develop the skills of his character and companions over the course of the game. Certain skills affect the party as a whole, so companions can be used to complement the skills of the player character. Skills can be improved by gaining levels or reading and holding books.
As of version .890, recruits can be hired from friendly villages. The player can also own a fief, a faction-related village given to the player by the faction leader. Mercenaries can also be obtained at a tavern, and prisoners can be rescued from enemy parties. Prisoners that the player character captures during battle can also be forced to join the player's party, though they will often desert the player. As these generic soldiers fight, they will gain experience and can be upgraded into stronger, more specialized soldiers. Soldiers will often have multiple upgrade paths.
The player can siege enemy castles, towns, and villages. If the player wins the siege, his faction takes control of the territory. Occasionally, the faction leader will reward a captured territory to the player. In the recent version .950 the player also has the option of declaring seccesion from his liege and owning an independent state. This option comes after being refused control of a fief that the player captured.
No multi-player option exists, nor is one planned.
As of version .950, every kingdom also has a rival claimant to the throne. Should the player choose to back this claimant, then a civil war occurs between the rebels of that faction and the loyalists of that faction. The tournament system has been revised, the graphics overhauled, and the game rebalanced.
There are several prominent factions the player character can choose to align himself with. The player may choose to leave a faction if the faction leader refuses to reward a captured territory to the player. As of version .950, The player may also request that the King release him of his oath, thereby removing him from the faction.
The Swadians were one of the two original NPC factions in Mount&Blade. They focus in heavy cavalry and crossbow units, as well as well-armoured infantry. They are led by King Harlaus. Their claimant to the throne is Lady Isolla of Suno, the daughter of the previous king. They occupy the center of the map, focused mostly in plains. Their capital city is Praven, also possessing Suno, Dhirim and Uxhal. This faction is possibly based off the Teutonic Order or Holy Roman Empire
The Vaegirs are the other original NPC faction. They use exceptional foot archers and medium to heavy cavalry with more focus on axes than lances. They are led by King Yaroglek. Their claimant to the throne is Prince Valdym the Bastard, the son of a previous king who was usurped by Yaroglek's father. They own the east of the map and mainly occupy the snowy plains there. Their capital city is Reyvadin. They also own Rivacheg, Curaw and Khudan. This faction is based off the early Slavs, and Kiev along with other historical Russian principalities.
The Khergits were, like the Nords, originally part of the "Bandit" faction. They focus on mounted archery. All of their units are mounted, and thus they are exceptionally hard to catch by melee-armed infantry; however, they have a major weakness in terms of siege effectiveness. They are led by Sanjar Khan. Their claimant to the throne is Dustum Khan, the brother of Sanjar Khan. They occupy the southern steppes of Calradia. Their capital is Tulga, and they own Halmar, Narra and Ichamur. This faction is based off the Mongol Golden Horde and Seljuk Turks
The Nord faction was a new addition in beta version .890. Historically, the Nords came from beyond the sea and were granted a small strip of coastline by the Calradian Empire that they might crew the Calradian galleys, and they used this as pretext to invade and start their own kingdom. They are an all-infantry force, specializing in axes and heavier armour; additionally, a good majority of their infantry will possess ranged weapons as they become more powerful. The Nords are a faction based on the Sea Raiders, who still exist in-game. They are led by King Ragnar. Their claimant to the throne is Lethwyn Far-seeker. They have settled mostly on the northern coast of Calradia. Their capital city is Sargoth, also ruling the cities of Tihr and Wercheg. This faction is based on the pre-christian Vikings
The Rhodok faction was another new addition to beta version .890. A mercantilist faction, their cities are capable of generating wealth immensely quickly due to their production of high-quality wine and velvet. Prior to the ascendancy of King Graveth, the Rhodoks would elect their rulers from a patrician class. They are another all infantry-force, comprised entirely of spear wielding troops and crossbow troops. Their claimant to the throne is Lord Kastor of Veluca, who won the election but was usurped by Graveth. The Rhodok's capital is Jelkala, also controlling Veluca and Yalen. This faction is probably based on mediaeval Lithuania or possibly Poland, as the Rhodok political structure (an elective monarchy) is identical to that historically used by the Lithuanians and Poles.
Most versions of the game had a neutral settlement, The Four Ways Inn. In earlier versions, the player could hire mercenaries and get quests from this settlement. This was later supplemented by Zendar, a full town with stores, an arena, training area, tavern and a quest which sent the player to hunt down river pirates. As of Version 0.950, Zendar has been replaced by neutral training grounds in each kingdom.
In addition to the main factions, the player will come across assorted looters, bandits, deserters, and pirates who provide a way for the player to fight without alienating any of the factions. In addition to these factional groups, players will also find groups of mercenaries available for hire in taverns.
The combat system comprises a mix of action and tactical elements. Combat takes place on a separate map from the world map. The battlefield features randomly-generated terrain and is influenced by nearby terrain on the world map. Random weather effects, such as fog, rain, and snow are present and affect combat. There is a maximum battle size of 100 units on field, but this limit can be increased with a community-produced battle size changer modification which is capable of setting the limit to up to 1000 units on the battlefield simultaneously. The amount of troops that you can lead, is limited by your level of leadership and charisma.
The player directly controls his character's actions. All other party members joining the battle, if any, can only be controlled through simple commands. A box containing the player's inventory is placed at the player starting point on the battlefield for player's access but there is always a limit of 4 "weapon slots" as well as slots for head, body, and foot armour in addition to body-enhancing gloves. Mount&Blade places special emphasis on mounted combat. Compared to infantry, mounted troops generally have higher mobility and inflict more damage. However, the horses themselves are vulnerable to enemy weapons, so a mounted soldier can be unhorsed by a skilled footman.
Another feature is the inclusion of prisoners. They can be captured when defeated enemies are knocked out instead of killed, and they can be either sold as slaves or recruited into the party.
Unlike most other games in its category, Mount and Blade has no form of fantasy in it, such as drinking from potions if the hero is wounded. The player also has the option to choose whether he can take full damage from blows from enemies, making his health level no different from anyone else unless his skill is raised to do so.
According to the published history, the Kingdom of Swadia was Calradia's all-encompassing monarchy. Under circumstances not yet revealed, the nation was plunged into infighting and civil strife. Despite this, Swadia can still be considered the strongest faction at the beginning of a Mount & Blade play through; it is common for Swadia to be engaged in wars on two or more fronts at any point due to their expansive territory.
This original breakdown of Swadian supremacy allowed the Nords an opportunity to invade by sea and set up their own kingdom from carved-out swathes of unguarded Swadian territory. This is similar to the history of the British Isles, where pre-Norman England fell victim to Viking raids and, eventually, settlement.
The Kingdom of Vaegir and the Kingdom of Rhodok were parts of the Kingdom of Swadia which declared their independence a generation before the events of the game.
The Khergit Khanate was formed by invading steppe nomads who settled in Calradia and became urbanised.
The cost of the game, although constantly increasing as the game nears completion, is not yet at full price. As new versions come out the price of the game increases. The current cost from Taleworlds ($30) is approximately 75% of the final retail price ($39) as listed on their site.