Mount and Blade: Warband is (aside from being easily confused in conversation as “Mountain Blade”) a very straightforward game. It offers no tutorial, has no campaign, and does not take well to strategy . It is, essentially, a very pretty version of everyone’s favorite card game - war - and it would not have been misleading to simply contract the title of Mount and Blade: Warband to “: War”.
The premise of the game is simple. Roving bands of warriors (warbands?) swearing allegiance to a smattering of warlords wander the game map, repeatedly smooshing their armies into one another as they go. The game itself offers no overarching objective or purpose to the time you spend on the Calradian continent, but I’ve come to accept over time that it is my duty - nay, my divine right! - to conquer absolutely everything and bring a decisive end to the war. Jordan, noble vassal of Swadia, will not rest until every denizen of these lands lay slain at his feet - er - until everyone is united under a common banner, free at last from these shackles of war.
Two hundred and fifty earth hours into my campaign and the entire population of Calradia slain four times over, it seems that I am not destined to rule these lands. The enemy’s numbers are too great, and my supposed allies too daft for any real advantage to be had on either side. Great bastions of freedom - those shining cities at the forefront of the war effort - have traded hands dozens of times. Defenders who, upon besiegement from an enemy force that numbers just six more than their own, have scattered on the wind, leaving the battlements empty but for the twenty odd farmers who live nearby. Conscripted troops that, upon seeing their leader felled in combat become like wheat before the scythe, falling at a rate of fifty for every one enemy killed. And friendly heroes who bicker with each other as if they were imported straight from “The Sims 3: Moody Teens” expansion.All of these damning factors considered, I am no masochist. I’ve enjoyed the Sisyphean struggle of my time in Calradia. I’ve groomed my hero from a beggar in rags riding what may as well be a swaybacked donkey into a loathsome angel of death, outfitted in steel plate mail atop a steel plated horse with a filigreed steel shield and a wicked curving steel sword. He can shoot a routing peasant from 100 meters on horseback at a full sprint. In the head. He stands fearlessly at the top of the siege ladder, eyes clenched tightly closed as he swings his sword endlessly, willing his now-defenderless castle to hold, an assortment of projectile weapons protruding from his bloodstained body. He is, in short, pretty awesome.
Which is why I play Mount and Blade: Warband. It’s not fair, it’s not sophisticated, it’s not balanced. But it is a hell of a lot of fun.