An anonymous commenter just posted a very positive review of Mount and Blade in the comments to my earlier post. They point out that once you struggle through the unhelpful starting phase Mount and Blade really is a terrific game. In order to balance my somewhat negative review I am bumping that comment up to the front page by copying it here in full:
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.