It's currently on steam sale again (75% off!). I got the whole series of games some time ago, but never got around playing any. Now I put my toe into the waters of M&B Warband. Is this medieval sandbox a dodgy action game with a dated graphics engine or all things to all men?
It is not the most welcoming of games. I went through the combat tutorial just to realize it's bloody difficult to hit a not moving object with bow and arrow from horseback. Creating a new game I was warned that M&B societies are very old-fashioned and that playing a woman is making many things more difficult. It was also put to my attention that playing a noble man makes things easier for the start. Obviously I chose to play a woman. And of course I took a commoner.
Some text which was misplaced on the upper left side of the screen (instead of being in the center) explained my backstory in choose-your-own-adventure-style. Before long I found myself in a Viking-inspired town attacked by some scoundrel. Disposing of him was rather straightforward. Then a merchant came along, offering me my first job. After taking the quest I pressed TAB, as it was indicated on the screen just to come to the overworld map. Accidentally I clicked on some random location and my character raced south, directly into the arms of 12 armed and angry bandits that said I shall surrender or die, beating me up within seconds, stealing all my money and capturing me. So my first game was over before it really started, since I had no money to hire anyone and all alone a hard time to beat up any of the free roaming bands of bandits.
Second try: this time I was smarter and instead of running alone into the wilderness I went to the local tavern and hired some muscle. Now I just need 3 more people with sticks of sharp objects and can hunt down them filthy bandits the mercant wants found. Travelling to the nearest village I asked for volunteers for my cause, found 1 more. Next village 2 more volunteers! Wait, what? I don't have enough money to take them with me? As it turns out: the hired swords in the tavern were not really meant to be hired straight away (being way too expensive for starting characters to take around).
Take three: killed attacker, talked to merchant, travel to village, get volunteers, travel to more villages, get more volunteers, help merchant, rise up to oppressive evil person: finally some success! This game could really benefit from a proper tutorial.
Looking for Jobs I talk to the local guild master, he asks me if I can take my newly raised mercenary force and transport some goods to some presumably nearby town (after all I'm a starting character and all) for some amount of money that doesn't really say much since I have yet to understand the value of the ingame currency. I leave the town with 7 barrels of ale and look where this funny sounding town might be...
It's on the other side of the world.
I don't find how I could cancel the quest, hence I start my long march across all the kingdoms of this continent, just to deliver 7 barrels of ale. Along the way I get ambushed by bandits. Bandits like barrels of ale, after all. They tell me to either surrender or die. I'm tired of surrendering, hence I order my people to attack. Actually, I don't know how to order an attack, but my people run at the enemy immediately anway. The encounter of 7 versus 11 is brutal and bloody. In the end only 3 people survive. Luckily me included. I loot everything I can carry and crawl to the next town, where I sell all the loot to buy some food for me and my 2 still breathing men and stay some time to heal up. There was a little money left, so I went to some more villages to gather volunteers.
A village elder asks me if I can train some of his farmers to protect themselves from raiding bandits. Teach someone to fish... I agree and with my miserable training skill of 1 I shout at farmer boys in a for them foreign language while waving a stick. One by one the farmers get ready to fight. I have a practice fight with each of them. They are awful. I pat them on their shoulder while they collect their teeth, fearing the worst for when the bandits might come. I manage to train 5 people, as the bandits indeed attack. The 5 freshly trained villagers with sticks and pitchforks and my handful of mercenaries against a party of nasty bandits. To my surprise we wipe the floor with the bandits. The after battle-screen shows that the villagers had no less than 5 casualties. There goes my newly trained village defense force...
The village elder seems oddly satisfied, considering I just grabbed 4 of the villages' sons for my mercenaries and got 5 more killed in the attack. He thanks me for beating the bandits. I leave before he realizes he has not much village left to be elder of and march towards the end of the world, where I bring my ale to the tavern and earn some money. Along the way I battle bandits, recruit new troops, free hostages, level up and notice how my bunch get's more diverse and powerful.
The whole experience so far has been strangely compelling. I think I got hooked and feel I didn't even scratch the surface.