Review of Mount & Blade v.1.003:
Overall, I really enjoy this game. In fact, I've shelved Guild Wars and Titan Quest since I began playing this game again.
Let's get the negative aspect taken care of first. This game really needed a better Tutorial. Although there is one which teaches you different techniques such as blocking, archery, melee [single, 2-handed] combat, the tutorial lacks giving the player guidance as to where to start.
After plodding through various villages and garrisons [towns] and castles, I was able to figure out my options.
Once I understood gameplay dynamics such as the various components affecting 'Party Morale', I was able to feel more at ease. Perhaps the retail hardcopy version in stores include a decent Instruction manual. Yet, as of v.1.003, this game does not lend any in-game assistance for new players. This was a big strike against the game.
Yet, muster through this initial confusion and you will find a very rewarding medieval simulator with beautiful sounds,visuals and a well thought out 'Character' screen where every single point spent on an 'attribute','skill' or 'proficiency' has a very real effect on your characters advancement.
For example, archery. Initially I couldn't hit the broad side of a barn if I tried because my 'Archery' proficiency was very low. Over the course of leveling up, I discovered that my aiming became much more accurate due to investing points into 'Power Draw','Horse Archery'[Skills] and 'Archery'[Proficiency].
Simply by using a weapon, you will become Proficient in the use of that weapon over time as well.
Game dynamics as follows: You begin as a Mercenary with 1 of the 5 Factions. Eventually you may wish to chose a Faction and help them defeat the others. By choosing a Faction, you are eventually rewarded a village and castle, both of which you should protect from invaders.
From tournament battles to castle sieges, from trading goods to upgrading equipment. This game has it all. I especially enjoy the real feel of the horse you ride and the clash of swords hitting each other. Or the sound of a 2-handed axe smashing through a shield. Better yet, rushing forward on your horse while holding your shield up, just in time to hear 4 arrows thunk into the shield.
Ok...you get the point. I'm having a blast with it. It's one of the most enjoyable games I've ever played.