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Old 04-20-2012, 08:01 PM   #1
Li-Ion
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Mount & Blade

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.

Great.

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).

Great.

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.
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Old 04-21-2012, 11:42 AM   #2
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Re: Mount & Blade

Ha ha, it's amazing you haven't given up. I didn't realise that the start of the game was so unhelpful, But I guess there's a lot to discover. For example you could have sold that beer, raising funds for mercs, and bought them back later in the game when you were stronger and richer

At the start you're very weak, so some of the most helpful attributes are pathfinding and spotting which mean you can outrun or see distant enemies on the map - remember these are party skills so you don't need to set them as your own attributes if you recruit companions from bars.

Once you get to grips with the combat and issuing orders in battle, the game really blossoms.

I only played the original M&B for two weeks before turning to mods. It's a bit early to talk about these but you'll definitely want to install the battle sizer mod which increased the max battle size from 150 to whatever your rig can handle, and one which allows you to continue the battle after you've been knocked unconscious.

The funny thing about M&B mods is that they actually improve the game by massive amounts.

That all depends if you get that far. You can cancel quests just by letting them expire, though your relationship with the quest giver suffers.

Be careful accepting mercenary service with Kings or Lords because you can't quit out of that for thirty days, so if they get embroiled in an unwinnable war, your troops will suffer. However if you accept vassalage, then your endeavours may be rewarded with a fief.

That's the real delight of this game - I think it's one of the purest RPGs ever created. You can play as a peasant leader, a general commanding your troops from behind the lines who never sees a splash of blood, or as a violent Viking warrior on foot in the front lines.

Not only is fighting with your troops fun, fighting battles strategically with your archers on a nearby hill, your infantry ready to charge behind your crossbow men, and your cavalry flanking the enemy and preparing to lower lances is fantastic as well, not to mention planning sieges and defending them.
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Old 04-21-2012, 04:57 PM   #3
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Re: Mount & Blade

After the initial problems I spent some time in the desert hunting down bandits, realizing that they are often much faster than my bunch. I also got my first hero, a disgraced knight looking for redemption.

In the first battle he joined he ran straight in front and got himself almost killed. Once he was back on his feet he did it again. And again. He gets beaten to a pulp in every encounter. He takes the redemption-part really seriously...

I also found out that herding cattle from A to B sucks. And that it's not a good idea to just take on every mission like I would in any other RPG. One village elder wanted me to bring him 7 heads of cattle. He failed to mention that a head of cattle is really expensive and that he would pay exactly zero in return.



At various points I wasn't sure how I should pay the wages of my ragtag group of mercenaries. With only 2 days until payday and only half the money I'd need for the wages I stumbled into a city with a tournament running. Reluctant I participated in the tournament, expecting to get my face smashed to pieces by much better knights than me. I realized I can bet on myself winning. Odds of 13 to 1? I put half my money on me winning. I figured if I can't pay the wages anyway, it doesn't matter if I fail by 50 or 75%. I managed the first two rounds without problems, but was getting worried because of the random nature of the weapons I got every round. In the third round I got a crossbow, which was relatively bad news but at least I was in the winning team. Next two rounds I got two handed swords each time and whacked away the opposition. I was getting my hopes up for the final round.

As the final round started I had bow and arrow. My skill for bows is essentially non-existent. My little warrior princess can use a bow more effective if she uses it as a club. The knight facing me charged at me with sword and shield, my arrow missing by about half a mile. I imagined the knight chuckling and laughing, as he continued to charge at me, swinging his sword... I switched to my secondary weapon, which turned out to be a knife. To my own surprise I managed to parry the incoming attack, stabbed the attacker and got some good hits before he could regain his posure. He swang again, again I managed to parry and got some more hits. It's worth mentioning that I'm really good with one-handed weapons. I won my first tournament I went in, earned a lot of money that not only secured the wages for my mercenaries but also allowed me to finally buy new shoes.

I went here and there, chasing down bandits and deserters, freeing villages and hostages, who in turn joined my group. Every time I deal with nobles I kinda expect them to mention I should get back to the kitchen. As one particularly dickish noble was asking me, if my husband knows that I stole his weapon and armor, it was just once too much. I told him in harsh language to mind his manners. He replied that he usually doesnīt challenge commoners - let alone women - to a duel, but in my case heīd make an exception. I gladly complied and in the subsequent duel I wiped the floor with him. That was immensely satisfying.

Now I have an enemy, but I got tired of the desert anyway. I just feel like Iīm in an awkward spot with my unit being too large to keep chasing after bandits, but too small to take on bigger challenges...

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Originally Posted by Pedro View Post
Ha ha, it's amazing you haven't given up. I didn't realise that the start of the game was so unhelpful,
I had worse starts to a game. Today for example the ongoing Diablo 3 beta-weekend, which is so utterly boring that I had to force myself to play until level 7, where my wizard is stuck now anyway, because I got thrown out of my singleplayer game because the servers are full.

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For example you could have sold that beer, raising funds for mercs, and bought them back later in the game when you were stronger and richer
I could have done what, what and what?

Quote:
Once you get to grips with the combat and issuing orders in battle, the game really blossoms.
That's one area where I still struggle a bit. Isn't it possible to have the default for my troops to not charge straight away at the enemy but to stand their ground and wait for my orders first?

Quote:
The funny thing about M&B mods is that they actually improve the game by massive amounts.
Apart from the battle size mod other essentials? I was downloading the diplomacy mod but it warned me that the M&B version I have is too new, so I'm not sure if I should install it.

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Be careful accepting mercenary service with Kings or Lords because you can't quit out of that for thirty days, so if they get embroiled in an unwinnable war, your troops will suffer. However if you accept vassalage, then your endeavours may be rewarded with a fief.
I would like to get some land at some point, but currently I don't want to ally myself with either of the houses since the nobles are mostly dicks towards my character. What is the deal with those claimants for the throne? I assume that's something to deal with once I have roughly 500 men and women at arms?
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Old 04-21-2012, 09:06 PM   #4
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Re: Mount & Blade

Hmm, I may have been wrong about the ale - the game may mark it as a quest item that you can't sell. It's so long since I played vanilla, some things may only be possible in mods.

The only other vital mod I'd recommend would be the one that adds more siege ladders; you'll see how useful that will be shortly!

It's always the interesting part of the game where you get too big to chase bandits and too small to attack anyone else. You sometimes have to take risks at this point. You could always become a vassal and screw over that faction later. Alternatively you could stay on the periphery of an existing war and wait your chance - help or attack an army who have been disadvantaged in battle. Otherwise you could hone your troops into a lean fighting machine and chance it all on striking out as an independent warlord by attacking one of the factions yourself.

The Claimants stuff is up to you really, but it is essentially you fighting a war and then handing power to the claimant as your king. If you're going to go to all that trouble, why not just press your own claim? The most fun to be had with the game is in forming your own kingdom and trying to keep the others at bay!

The first thing you should do in battle is press F1 and F1 immediately (I think) to tell your troops to hold ground. Then ride out and figure out the enemy and then you can order different groups to do different things).

As for 'total conversion' mods, which are copies of the game but with a vast amount of features added, you need to look at those features listings and decide what works for you. Prophesy of Pendor is probably the most polished, and has tons of features, but it introduces fantasy elements. Native Expansion also has lots and lots of stuff that makes it a much more pleasurable game to play, but both it and PoP are much more difficult than Native. I also have to declare an interest in NE as I did a little work on it in the past. That's a while ago so it may not be one of the better mods any more. Check the feature lists.

Anyway, you have a bit to go before you start considering mods, I think.
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Old 04-23-2012, 10:51 AM   #5
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Re: Mount & Blade

I continued to hunt bandits, before I realized that I can open businesses in all the major cities. I started with a brewery in Sargoth, followed by ironworks in Curaw. Currently I look for new locations to open more breweries, or maybe a vineyard? The weekly profits from my enterprise go directly into funding my army, with the goal of my army upkeep being paid by my businesses. I also started with trading, buying cheap silk on one end and selling it with 300%+ profit on the other, returning with ale which also makes 200%+ profit when I return. Adding some furs and oil to the portfolio.

I start to get some decent cavalry. I already have 4 Sarranid Marmelukes, a Sword Sister and a Swadian Knight plus some Men at arms. Those guys are mental! I don't want to know what they do with me if I'd refuse to pay their wages...

I also released some mercenaries from my services now. They proved to be too expensive in the long run and now I have enough elite troops that I'm ok without them. I also encountered the first time infighting between my heroes in the party. Matheld started a fight with Jeremus. Matheld can 'only' fight, while Jeremus is my surgeon and scholar. When it came to decide between them it was not really a decision. Especially since Matheld thinks that her noble birth makes her somewhat more important than the rest of the unit. My ragtag band of mercenaries still consists almost exclusively of commoners taking up arms, no wonder the noblewoman feels a bit out of place. Jeremus also goes along better with the other heroes in my party, especially Firentis, the disgraced knight. The two of them have quite a bromance going on. Firentis is still getting wounded in each major battle (even in some minor ones), so I assume he had ample opportunity to talk to Jeremus in his function of unit surgeon.

I continued to join and win tournaments. They are enjoyable as long as I don't end up in jousting tournaments. I still have huge problems hitting anything with my lance. I also start to get noted by nobles. I ran across two battles already but when I show up I don't have the option to participate. Do I need to ally with a kingdom before I'm allowed to participate? Also interesting is that the noble with whom I have the best relation so far is King Ragnar of the Nords.

But I start to wonder: how do I actually get siege weapons in this game? Do I have to learn engineering all by myself?
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Old 04-23-2012, 05:33 PM   #6
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Re: Mount & Blade

You may be a bit disappointed with the siege weapons - basically you hire a companion with high engineering skill (or not) and that skill determines how long you take from starting a siege until the ladders and towers are built. So it just saves you time, but is useful when you see a large army coming to prevent you taking their castle!

I found that a good way to keep your fragile companions out of battle was to equip them with crossbows as their primary weapon. They then proceed slowly towards the enemy, stopping to fire and reload, and get there just in time to mop up after the main force, so gaining experience points. They may even kill someone with the bows.

You know that if Jeremus is knocked out in battle, his surgery skill isn't as effective and you will lose more men? Give him a crossbow.

In order to be able to join fights in Native, I think you need to have a -1 relation with that faction. This isn't enough for them to declare war on you but will allow you to attack them. You can achieve this bythreatening some peasants (you can walk away without killing them).

You can also initiate sieges at -1 relations. Best to pick a castle which has already seen heavy casualties your first time though!

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Old 04-24-2012, 05:08 AM   #7
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Re: Mount & Blade

I have Jeremus equipped with a crossbow and I have him stand with the archers but even then he manages to get wounded more often than he should. Now I put him in the heaviest armor he can carry. Letīs see if that keeps him safe. But the guy who falls off his horse the most by far, Firensis, is not supposed to be squishy but my best fighter.

Well, I am not friends with the Khergit Khanate anymore. I'm beyond -1 relations with them now. What happened was that I was running my main trade line, when about half a dozen villages I usually stop by, buy stuff from and have a chat were looted. When I ran into the ongoing raiding of another village that was too much: I attacked the Khergit troops. The villagers supported me, resulting in the overall fighting units being roughly even in manpower. As it turns out Khergit horse archers are rubbish when fighting in the confined space of a village and my troops were victorious. I lost 13 people with 37 wounded and 7 farmers died, while the Khanate army got decimated by 57 and with another 40 wounded at an original strength of 118. Looks like we're not friends anymore. But that's ok for me, the Khanate is the only region with which I hardly did any trade.

Meanwhile I opened my seventh brewery. Together with my ironworks they now not only pay the upkeep of my troops, but I even get a little extra.

I tried to get to a siege a couple of times but by the time I show up the siege is usually over
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Old 04-24-2012, 03:55 PM   #8
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Re: Mount & Blade

At least now you have an enemy that you can fight instead of chasing sea raiders. Not sure I would have picked the Khergits though, as they can be annoying to fight in the open.

You just need to build critical mass now and attack one of their castles, preferably not a siege tower one as they are also quite handy as ranged troops. Or stick all your shield men on the front line.

A whole second phase of the game is about to open up now. It's a pretty cool game.
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Old 04-24-2012, 07:31 PM   #9
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Re: Mount & Blade

I beat now the fourth army of Khergits. The last one consisted of quite a lot of Swadian troops. I was so puzzled by seeing charging Swadian men-at-arms, I missed my first swing. I also captured the first time an enemy general, but released him. Rules of warfare and so on.

The Khergit troops were so far not so difficult to beat. I engaged them in terrain with quite a lot of hills, where their horses were not much of an advantage and their archers didn't have a good line of sight. My heavy infantry consisting of battle-hardened Nords and Vaegirs beat the snot out of them. The worst casualties I had against those Swadian undercover-troops marching under Khergit flag.

The battles are definitely a high point of this game. When the best laid plans stop to matter and complete chaos breaks out. People running all over the place, riderless horses stumbling around... all that while my battleaxe is drinking blood, that is when Mount & Blade really shines.

I still don't think I have enough troops to engage a castle. I guess I'll continue to be the bane of Khergit troops on the Sarranid front until I find a castle ready for storming.
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Old 04-25-2012, 04:19 PM   #10
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Re: Mount & Blade

Definitely a highlight, beating an army with a lot of prisoners, as they automatically join you side. You can also recruit prisoners you have taken, though there's a trick to it - of you try and recruit a single stack of troops at once - for example 10 men at arms - you'll have greater success than if you try and recruit a mixed bunch. Also you need to get them to a fief of yours before nightfall or they start deserting :-)

I noticed that about these in war and - even the steppe has hills. In the original game there was a lot more flat land and the khergs were horrible to fight.
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Old 04-27-2012, 08:45 AM   #11
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Re: Mount & Blade

I now specifically target bandits and sea raiders who have peasant women as prisoners. After a while they become sword sisters, which are excellent cavalry in plate armor for a quite low weekly upkeep. I now have 6 of them, which makes them one of the largest parts of my cavalry (next to 5 Mamlukes, some Swadian Knights, Khergit Lancers and even one Vaegir Knight). I refrain from recruiting prisoners I took myself. It's bad for morale and I don't feel like I can trust them.

Too bad the wars suddenly just ended. Now I can't use the troop movements of Sarranid and Khergits to my advantage anymore. Well, I guess I get back to trading a bit and doing some tournaments until the next war breaks out. Firensis and Jeremus start complaining when we do to much fighting at once anyway. So better have some change of pace. Also allows me to read some books along the way.

I hope in time for the next war someone wages against the Khergits I'll have enough able troops to take a castle. Jeremus, in his capacity of being the brainbug of our band of mercenaries, learned some engineering (1...). That should be enough for my first siege...
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Old 04-27-2012, 04:18 PM   #12
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Re: Mount & Blade

God damn it, now you have me playing it. I see Daniel W from the site is playing too, I saw someone had clocked up >30 hours in the Steam group and thought it was you.

Don't know how long I'll play for, I see it has steam achievements now so that's something to aim for I suppose. I am assembling a fierce Nord infantry force. They are mostly Hired Blades at the moment though.
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Old 04-29-2012, 04:26 PM   #13
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Re: Mount & Blade

Weird, I got notified of a reply by email but now it's not here!

I'll have to decline the multiplayer invite, I'm afraid; it's just not my thing.

Congrats on the first castle! That's a big achievement. I didn't realise how hard Native was, and I've become frustrated at how grindy it is to a) get enough troop capacity to be a threat and b) how grindy it is to get those troops to a decent level.

Bear in mind that I've just lost my castle and all its troops; was playing with one save so I'm back to square one, if you discount my honorary title of Dyeworks King of the northern lands!

So yeah, it's been good getting to grips with it again this weekend but I think I'm done with it now for a while (though the temptation is there to see if I can rebuild).

How many men could you command when you took your castle? My 81 wasn't enough against the thousand men who came to look for it back.

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Old 04-29-2012, 08:34 PM   #14
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Re: Mount & Blade

Hm... weird, where did my posting go?

Short version: got my castle! Got the following achievements:

Queen - As a female character, make your own faction.
Force of Nature - You and your army have killed or wounded 5,000 enemy troops.

Now I'm defending my keep viciously, trying to stay off the radar of the other factions. Keeping my land as it is is difficult enough (sometimes feels overwhelming), I don't need trouble with anyone else quite yet. I put my redeeming knight Firensis in charge of the castle. After some time I came back to my castle, to see Count Clais and his wife standing at my fire. He offered to be my vassal. I accepted and now his wife and daughter are safe in my keep, while one Khergit army after the other is trying to raid my village. I gave Clais (who was soon demoted to Lord) my so far only village as fief and he swore to protect it. Well, don't make promises you can't keep Lord Clais...

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Congrats on the first castle! That's a big achievement.
Thanks
I usually don't care about steam achievements at all, but in this game I make an exception, since instead of some BS 'achievement' like putting the disc in (Crysis 2) these achievements are insanely difficult to get!

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I didn't realise how hard Native was, and I've become frustrated at how grindy it is to a) get enough troop capacity to be a threat
The main problem is indeed getting the troop capacity. I pushed leadership (therefore charisma) as high as possible straight away. Still I struggle with the troop limit at all times.

Quote:
Bear in mind that I've just lost my castle and all its troops; was playing with one save so I'm back to square one, if you discount my honorary title of Dyeworks King of the northern lands!
Only one save? THIS IS MADNESS!
I am someone who generally just rolls with the game, but in case of M&B I make a rare exception, since it is impossible to play it 'perfect' anyway. The only point of reloading is to try to have an outcome which is not that bad.

Quote:
(though the temptation is there to see if I can rebuild).
Don't forget there is an achievement if you come back and beat the guy who caused your misery in the first place...

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How many men could you command when you took your castle?
My current troop limit is 105. As soon as I had the castle I left everything that's not on horseback behind as garrison. That enabled my resulting fast cavalry unit to grab new recruits and bring them back to the castle ASAP, as well as to attack isolated Khergit armies. And a cavalry force of Swadian Knights, Sword Sisters and Mamlukes etc. eats smaller Khergit armies for breakfast. Now there is also Lord Clais sitting in my castle with some troops. Now the Khergit attacks on my castle pretty much stopped, they just run by to raid my village at every opportunity.

Today I was doing a testrun of the With Fire & Sword expansion. I was skeptical, but the musket-warfare is extremely tense. Being used to all kinds of rapid-fire weapons in your generic modern military shooter, having to reload for a couple of seconds after each shot really came as a shock at first. Each missed shot means that the return fire can mean game over. Standing there for what feels like centuries while the musket gets reloaded, while the axe-murderer I just missed is charging at me... woah... or the glorious feeling of victory, when enemies run into the firing zone of my musketeers, which rain death upon them on my command...

However, some things have changed from Warband to the worse. One is the feeling of being weak compared to the forces that wage all the wars is even worse than in Warband. If you think the grind in Warband native is bad, you're in for a shock with fire & sword. Also the recruiting system feels less transparent to me. On the other hand: upkeep costs are cheaper.
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Old 04-30-2012, 04:21 PM   #15
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Re: Mount & Blade

Aha! I can post from my PC again, awesome.

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Originally Posted by Li-Ion View Post
Hm... weird, where did my posting go?.
Strangely, I got a mail with your full post, but no sign of it here!

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After some time I came back to my castle, to see Count Clais and his wife standing at my fire. He offered to be my vassal. I accepted and now his wife and daughter are safe in my keep, while one Khergit army after the other is trying to raid my village. I gave Clais (who was soon demoted to Lord) my so far only village as fief and he swore to protect it. Well, don't make promises you can't keep Lord Clais...
I think you'll have to give him more than a village to keep him happy.


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The main problem is indeed getting the troop capacity. I pushed leadership (therefore charisma) as high as possible straight away. Still I struggle with the troop limit at all times.
Me too, and I had to stop with Charisma at 15 because my character was so weak, she couldn't even train the peasants. The good news is for every 25 Renown, you get an extra man. But it is pretty grindy. I'm at 81 now and have just hired 21 Hired Blades in order to fast track from a position of zero men. The other bad news is my followers have dispersed when I was in prison and I can't find them again, so I lose all their bonuses too..

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Only one save? THIS IS MADNESS!
Yes, but I have played this game a long time. It adds a bit of spice to things. The downside is that you have to be extremely careful in combat, as if you're knocked unconscious you generally lose a few men. The thing I miss about mods is the ones that give you 10 men per Leadership point, and your men continue fighting if you are knocked out.

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Today I was doing a testrun of the With Fire & Sword expansion. I was skeptical, but the musket-warfare is extremely tense. Being used to all kinds of rapid-fire weapons in your generic modern military shooter, having to reload for a couple of seconds after each shot really came as a shock at first. Each missed shot means that the return fire can mean game over. Standing there for what feels like centuries while the musket gets reloaded, while the axe-murderer I just missed is charging at me... woah... or the glorious feeling of victory, when enemies run into the firing zone of my musketeers, which rain death upon them on my command...
Sounds interesting all right, but I don't have that one. I'd imagine that if you get 30 people with muskets the volleys must be very satisfying!

I have to admit, this game has sucked me back in to a good extent. Now I just need to grab that pesky Vaegir castle again...
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