This is something you can only do on a PC. Having created a character, you find yourself sitting on a horse in a wide, green world with a blade in your hand. It’s the beginning of the last millennia or thereabouts. Off you go. There is no handholding save for a training field where you’re explained the controls. Very quickly you’ll find yourself with a warband. I felt like Xena the Warrior Princess, charging with my men into the sunset.
It is a roleplaying game in a very true sense, even though there is very little prescribed story. Everything that happens is dynamic. Even though the quests you’re given quickly begin to repeat themselves, you’re constantly thinking about your place in the world and the various factions. You’re trying to amass wealth, men and influence. The men you hire often begin to complain about each other to you and you need to play judge in their quarrels.
But it all comes back to the mount, and the blade. The thing that keeps you on edge is the thrill of mounted combat. This is an experience I haven’t got anywhere else. Because of its realism, you need to be very mindful of all the opponents, which is no easy task in massed melee with hundreds of combatants. You pick a target a suitable distance off, enough for you to get to a good speed, line up your enemy, draw your sword (or bow, or lance, or large blunt object) and head towards him, keeping an eye on your escape vector – you wouldn’t want to stop in the middle of a group of enemies. And then you turn around and head back. It makes each strike a very involved, calculated affair, somewhat like a turnbased strategy game, except in realtime and heated combat. It’s something of a physics game, really, where you’re trying to apply as much mass onto the tip of your blade as you can, meeting your foe at precisely the apex.
When my mount was shot from below me for the first time, I became absolutely terrified. It was horrible to be on foot in the middle of these fifty-odd mounted fighters. I was quickly overwhelmed and imprisoned. (I managed to escape some days later.)
The base game looks rather pedestrian, but runs well even on a laptop. It is easily expanded and enhanced with free mods. I recommend the colorful textures pack.