Who knew being a Cossack would be so much fun?
A couple of weekends ago, I was on Steam deciding which game to play, when I noticed that something called Mount & Blade: Warband was free to play for the weekend. I vaguely recalled seeing the title somewhere else and thinking it might be interesting, so I downloaded it. I had so much fun with it that I bought the complete set of Mount & Blade titles before the free time was even up.
Warband is fun but it takes place in a made-up land. The newest title in the series, though, Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword, takes place in Eastern Europe in the 17th century. The Cossack Hetmanate, led by Hetman Bogdan Hmelnitski (Bohdan Khmelnytsky if you look him up on Wikipedia) and situated in the area of modern Ukraine, had risen up against their rulers in the Polish Commonwealth. At the end of that uprising they signed the Treaty of Pereyaslav (Pereiaslav … spellings differ because all of it is translated from Cyrillic Script which is a completely different alphabet than what we are used to in the Western hemisphere) which allied them with Muscovy, although in reality they ended up being their subjects rather than allies and did not obtain actual independence until the fall of the USSR. The game starts in 1655, right after the signing of this treaty. This is a chance for the player to either join up with one of the large powers and bring the Cossacks under their control, or to change history and give them the autonomy they so desperately wanted.
Ok, that was all probably WAY more history than any of you care about, but I spent many hours playing Koei’s historical simulations, have a degree in history, and spent most of jr. high and high school on the back of a horse, so yeah … this game is SO right up my alley.
The game drops you off near Smolensk in Polish territory, and you are instructed to go around and do little jobs like take out bandits and protect trade caravans while you get to know some of the lords and decide who you would like to support… if anyone. You can totally play as a neutral mercenary if you so desire. Eventually, my dude was given a quest that took him to see Company Commander Les’ Gritsenko of the Cossack Hetmanate and as soon as I met him I knew I was going to dedicate my service to the Cossacks.
Why him? I dunno, I just like him. All of the NPCs use the same lines, so it’s not like his personality is any different or anything. He’s just my favorite guy. So of course, I made a second game with myself as a female character. This does change the game somewhat, but not like I was hoping … it’s not the Sims.
As a dude, all I had to do is get on favorable terms with Hetman Hmelnitski and I could pledge my sword to his service … and be named a noble and awarded my own village. As a chick, I have made friends with damn near every single noble in the Hetmanate (to the point where my relationship with Les’ is 100/100 and with Hmelnitski is 97/100) and won enough battles to get my renown well over 100, and still I am stuck being a neutral mercenary. Maybe if I can get my relationship with the nation itself up higher … we’ll see. I know I could just look it up but that ruins it for me. The discovery is part of the fun.
As a noble, you get to do things like develop your village and train your peasants to defend themselves …
participate in votes to determine who will be the Marshall and lead the next military campaign …
as well as be asked by that person to come and join their campaign …
After riding around for a bit they decided to lay siege to one of the Swedish castles. (Sweden and the Crimean Khanate make up the rest of the factions for a total of five.) They’ve been determined to take one of these castles far from our home territory and I don’t know why, because in the meantime, the Swedes and Muscovites have taken two of our fortresses, right next to Kiev! Personally, I would be taking back my home territory first but whatevs.
You can see some Swedes to the right there coming to check out our siege. Obviously a battle is forthcoming! They gather more forces and we hit the battlefield. Now, there are many options for weapons and weapon skills. They give you a firearm and a saber to start out with with. I dislike the firearms because hey, it’s 1655, we’re talking muskets with a 6-10 second reload time after each shot. Booooooring. But using just a one hand sword seems, well … it’s ok but some guys have pikes, and bows, and throw javelins or something, so getting your horse in melee to actually hit anything with it is dangerous to say the least. You can win loot off of your enemies after battles, or buy new things at the market in any fortress. So I experimented with many options before finding THE weapon for me…the lance.
Your character holds it up when not moving or after a charge.
When charging, it is couched, like so …
At first I was trying to thrust with it, but once I understood that the best way to use it is to couch it and basically ram things with it, like a knight at a joust, I became a deadly force on the battlefield. I was nothing more than a field decoration with any other weapon. With this … I basically one-shot anything that I do couched lance damage to. Oftentimes I just get the other guy’s horse, but once he’s on foot he’s a sitting duck for my troops … or for another charge by me. There were multiple battles where it came down to me vs. half a dozen opponents, both mounted and not, and I patiently picked them off one by one and prevailed. So now every time I suffer defeat and get taken prisoner (hey it happens, especially when I am accompanying Les’ and he rides right through the Poles’ siege of Minsk so it’s 500 to 200 in favour of them! Watch where you are riding, buddy!) as soon as I am released I head straight for a large fortress and buy a new lance. I’m downright useless without one. I also bought myself a very fine Courser … faster and more maneuverable than almost anyone else’s steed.
Ok, this is long enough. But now you know one of the main reasons I haven’t logged into WoW much lately. :P