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Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword Preview

Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword is a forthcoming stand-alone sequel in the Mount & Blade series. Based in 17th Century Europe, the title is based on a period where early gunpowder weaponry clashes with the older ways of chivalrous combat.
Peter Parrish saddles up and embarks on a week-long jaunt across the Polish Republic, taking on bandits, drunken bar patrons and troublesome bags of salt.

Day One

Moments into the game and I’m already impressed at the range of moustaches on offer. It’s a marked improvement on the original Mount & Blade. While crafting the rest of my handsome face, I’m aware that the range of facial modification sliders could make even the most in-depth Japanese girlfriend-sim jealous.

Immediately after dumping my stats into some vaguely useful looking skills, I’m set upon by men with clubs. That’s quite an introduction. I dispatch a few and find myself talking to a foppish fellow who thanks me for helping out. Ok, firstly, I didn’t have much choice. And secondly, I hope our conversation has halted time because otherwise the rest of the mob are still wailing on us with sticks.

Lord Foppington hands me a pistol, with which I conspire to miss everyone and everything. He’s a gentleman, so he commends me for my shooting anyway. Better yet, he gives me a horse. What a guy. As we ride away from our scene of carnage, he tells me he had to flee France because he had a duel with D’Atagnan. This all seems very unlikely, but whatever. I’m still awestruck by the free horse.

After dispatching some more bandits, Les Foppo Grande offers me some exposition about Eastern Europe and the current political situation which I half pay attention to. Turns out I’m in the Polish republic. Sounds good to me.

Parting ways with my French pals, I visit the local village of Zamoshye and agree to solve a bandit problem for them. Hey, I’ve just been slaying bandits, how hard can it be? Quite hard when you don’t have professional French soldiers helping you, apparently. I attack single-handedly, get my horse shot from under me and am taken prisoner.
Perhaps my tactics could do with a little work.

Day Two

After fleeing my captors and somehow magically acquiring a new horse at the same time, I hire some hardy looking mercenaries from the nearby city of Smolensk. We head back to where the bandits have been skulking about in the forest, and, with my pals backing me up with muskets, I take a few out. Then I get over confident, launch a full frontal assault and get hacked to pieces. My comrades carry me from the field and win the day themselves.

I’m wounded, but not hurt so badly that I’ll forget to loot the corpses. Back at the village of Zamoshye I claim my reward of goods, cash and experience points. Realising there’s only one true way to celebrate, I lead my men back to Smolensk for a marketplace spending spree and buy a fetching purple pimp hat. My career as a pistol-for-hire is well underway.

Day Three

Feeling suitably pimped out, I decide to ask the elder in Zamoshye if there’s anything else they want. Apparently they need salt. No problem. We’ll be back in a pinch. A pinch, geddit? Oh, you need three sacks of the stuff. Just ruin my pun why don’t you.

After a bit of aimless scouting around, I locate salt in the village of Krivichi. The down side is, they’re charging an arm and a leg for it. Bloody peasants. They’re capitalist bastards to a man. Living the high life in their mud and their poverty.

My boys only know one way to raise money for goods – stealing from the bodies of the fallen! After bringing death to a few travelling ‘looters’ (hey, they knew the risks) it seems we have enough rags and threadbare boots to raise the required capital for my salt enterprise. I also pick up some wheat and honey at the market, figuring those peasant swine would be in need of them.

They aren’t. And in fact they offer considerably less than the asking price for my investments. Guys, you’re peasants, how on earth can you get away with paying less for this stuff than I did in a major city? All you own in the world is some clothes and a hut. The free market’s going to catch up with you fellas. Oh well. After gritting my teeth and selling at a loss, I buy the necessary salt.

But what’s this? The map shows that Zamoshye is now under attack. We ride bravely to the rescue, only to discover an army of more than 100 Muscovites laying waste to the poor villagers. God damn those Tsarist monsters. I don’t want to get involved in politics, I just want to make an honest(ish) living. Calculating the odds to be somewhat against us, my hardy troop of, er, seven decide to hang back for a while. Alas, the aftermath is not pretty and the bloated corpses are in no fit state to reward me for bringing them salt. Given the grievous nature of their wounds, that’s probably the last thing they want to see right now.

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Day Four

But enough about the pillage of innocent villagers, where the hell am I going to offload my salt now?

Smolensk is a no-go area, because now they’re being besieged by Russians too. Poland just can’t catch a break, and neither can I. The men are getting antsy because I’m down to my last 11 coins and their services cost 40 per week. Curse this sudden recession.

It’s time to get back to what we know: killing looters. My party heads south and comes across a battle between some of these wretches and the mysterious ‘Marksmen of the Secret Department.’ After we slaughter the rogues, the Department thanks me. Everyone in this game is so polite. I mean, I’m pretty sure you guys could’ve handled eight poorly armed and malnourished looters, but thanks anyway.
Triumphant, we hoof it over to a nearby Muscovite city and I have a casual chat with the man in charge. He seems unphased when I tell him my name is Astronaut Mike Dexter and ask about the war. Apparently they’re fighting Poland, Crimean Khans and the Kingdom of Sweden too. Well, good luck I guess, but could you maybe hold off from ruining my blossoming salt enterprise? No? Worth a try.

Day Five

We leave Russian territory and travel to the Polish city of Polotsk, noting the burning villages that surround it. Maybe Poland isn’t the greatest place to be right now.

Inside the fortress, I spy a lady in a sexy hat and pitch my finest woo. Apparently Lady Olena Whatsherface “has no need of a champion right now.” Fine, fine … you don’t know what you’re missing, baby.

The military commander (who’s been standing dispassionately by while I make a tit of myself) wants me to do a spot of debt collecting on his behalf, but only offers me 1/5th of the total as a reward. I politely telleth him to shoveth it.

For some reason I automatically take off my hat when I’m indoors. Some curious sign of respect I suppose. Unfortunate though, because I’m pretty sure that hat would’ve sealed the deal with Lady Olena.

Day Six

With prospects unclear, we set off to the promising sounding city of Slutsk, but find nobody in the tavern except mercenary musketeers I can’t afford to hire. The cash situation is getting a touch desperate, so I accept an offer of 150 thaler (the game’s currency) from the mayor to deliver 11 barrels of beer to a place called Reval in the next seven days. Hey, a job’s a job. How hard can that be?

Looking at the map …  it’s hundreds of miles to the north, deep in Swedish territory. You swindled me, Mayor. You swindled me.

We stop in a place called Riga on the way, and find the tavern packed. There’s a guy in there claiming to be related to the great Ghengis Khan but frankly his tale seems fishier than the rations I’m carrying around in my pants. There’s also a disciplinarian Spaniard who seems like he’d be useful, but he wants too much cash before he’ll join me.

Spying a “pub visitor” in the corner, I’m able to offer him outside for a fight. Better yet, it’s a fight for money. I’m not going to pass this up. As luck would have it, it seems this fellow doesn’t know how to use his legs. This tactical advantage will cerment my victory. I kick and pummel him into submission in return for an easy 50 thaler. Hurrah! God bless antisocial violence.

Finally giving up the salt mission as lost, I relent and flog it in Riga for a small loss.

Day Seven

Our party arrives at Reval, and we deliver the beer to the chap behind the bar. Sadly there’s no “what, the deal was for *hic* 9 barrels not 11” dialogue option, but we can’t have everything. The pay may have been pretty poor, but 600 experience points for a simple delivery will do very nicely. I level up and plonk a few more points into riding and firearms. Better yet, I’m informed that my “relationship with Slutsk has increased.” That’s what I like to hear.

A shifty looking character in the corner of Reval’s pub identifies himself as a slave trader. Naturally I’m horrified, but we have been dragging a captured brigand around with us for a while now and he looks as though he’d love a free trip on a boat. Seriously. Plus, 161 thaler can’t be argued with. My mercenary chums are happy in the knowledge they’ll be getting paid this week

Just as we’re about to leave, I notice another hapless pub patron in the corner. His dialogue box identifies him as ‘tipsy.’ I read that as ‘lamb to the slaughter.’ Forget lugging bags of salt around, maybe I’ll just take up street fighting full time.

Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword is due for release on PC later this spring.

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