The Riesling drinking wine buff scorns the masses who have not moved beyond Chardonnay. We gamers also have our precious snobberies. We have our secret games that are too complex or too ugly for mass appeal but which we "in the know" hold to be superior to the mass market commercial stuff. I guess Dwarf Fortress is such a game although I haven't played it. For several years now Mount and Blade has been my secret game.
I bought the game when it was in its seemingly never ending Beta. It was a perpetually half finished game that was missing big chunks of stuff that games are supposed to have. Yet it shone brightly because of its sublime horseback mounted combat. I fell in love with that combat. I fell in love with the thrill of riding down opponents from the back of a thundering war horse. The regularly updated beta earned a place on my hard drive and I would go back every few months for another adrenaline filled bout of medieval sword bashing.
I hadn't checked the developers website in a while. I didn't realise that the game was due for official release last week and I was surprised to find a review of the game in this month's PCZone. Surprised and indeed a little disappointed to note that reviewer Jamie Sefton had only seen fit to award the game 62 out of a 100.
You can read a shortened online version of Jamie's review here. To be honest it is a poorly written review and it is easy to poke holes in it. Jamie's comparison of the game structure with Total War is laughable. His reference in the printed version to a time when the game was freeware is factually inaccurate. The game was never free, there was a free restricted demo but even in beta you had to pay for the full game. His dismissal of the sublime combat model shows a complete misunderstanding of what the game is all about. It would be easy to dismiss this review and yet ... deep down I understand why the game only scored 62%.
To confirm my own opinions I downloaded the release version and started a new character. The game is a lot prettier than when I played last with beautifully constructed villages and castles aplenty. Nevertheless it does still feel unfinished. The gameworld feels lifeless. There is little direction to tell you what to do. The combat is hard, very hard. I struggled to complete the tutorial despite having been somewhat adept previously. Viewed a a commercially released game I can understand why this only rates a score in the 60's.
You can read a much better review of the game here from Gamespot's Todd Brett. Todd's review is more detailed and presents a fairly accurate accurate picture of the game but his score is still only 6 out of 10.