Mount & Blade 2

So I completed Prophecy of Pendor and well, I must say that I don’t really understand the godhood it has…

Note: a rather long post because well, you have to explain why and what, but anyway:

As a person looking for a experience who went in blindly and always assuming that mods don't have wikis for obvious reasons, and to not spoil myself other than base game knowledge, I must say after putting my time and effort into completing it for once, and to see how well RPG additions like quests that have good vs evil element as opposed to player's decision to a game that isn't best suited for that. And yet, after playing other mods, that have better varied gear and weaponry and unit selection, on top of gameplay, it feels like people elevate it for reasons that well, just don't feel right in that genre – don't assume that I'm a bad player, especially because I completed it, yet it still feels bothersome and annoying when you have annoying features and bad design choices and still think that people must like it and "if you don't like it don't play it" mentality that just makes people dislike such creators.

Part 1: Difficulty. Its creators and people praise it for challenge. I do like a good challenge, but let's just say that challenge should be "difficult but fair", and "risky but rewarding" type, which Pendor is…well, a whack with it – some things are easier than usual but most things are made harder: take bandit patrols for example, instead of starting small and usually including small rabble that is a threat to 1 man party or fresh recruits, you instead have said stronger bandits mixed in with Swadian Knight equivalent units, which well, makes for a experience where you can get mid-high level gear right from the start, if you have a high looting and strong mercs, which is not that easy without a tournament victory early on, which you need to have 150 renown in the first place due to how its designed – and its harder because of 500 proficiency opponents, not 300-400 like many modules, but 500. If not for that, I wouldn't even go farther than just a small band of mercs trying to make a fortune and a name for themselves. Imagine if every bandit was a Rhodok Sharpshooter and/or a Nord Huscarl – those are most insane and yet "hardcore" modders and people cry for it. And even better, if you "befriend" them by fighting on their side before becoming a king yourself, you still get enemy encounter dialogue, which means that bandit factions are just bloat rather than just making them all part of outlaw faction but assigning different hostiles like manhunters. Those bandits are supposed to attack your peasants(as a king)and so on, not move around and act as nothing until you approach! Oh, and aside from deserters and certain very obscure groups, you cannot even buy your safety if you get chased by them, meaning you cannot let yourself be wounded or having too little people if you want to travel. And certain groups like Valkyrie knights that chase after you if you have negative relations with them, but without accounting your party strength is the first place – so yes, even if your army is like, 300 elites, they still chase after you and you get an option to surrender – which is pure nonsense, they don't chase stronger AI enemies but will for the player.

More on difficulty: The invading armies are powerful, but can be defeated with a large army of your own if you are an king or a marshal of a faction, but considering that vassals often patrol in search for bandits or enemy lords and NOT such things, on top of running away even if we have enough troops, it makes becoming a king or a marshal just to deal with it very, very often. It also means that factions that have those armies weaker than usual, making it less balanced. And they are all scripted as bandits, so that doesn't help much. The worst offender in this regard, however are bandit camps – both the "treasure map" and ordinary ones, because they all limit the amount of units you have to 7, scale the amount of bandits to your level, but most importantly, send mid-high tier units that Sea Raiders can only hope in swarms! This means you can't even take a single one without failure until you reach late game with Noldor gear, basically taking best companions and kitting them out – yet you can still fail, purely because they outnumber you with such units. And the lord's reward for such higher difficulty is still the same, while the treasure camp can be accidentally failed by leaving before taking the treasure chest – because again, its a bandit camp, not a special location where the player can enter and leave at will. On top of that, the bandit tracking quest – since those "minor factions" are scripted as bandits, well, they can be potential targets – while you obviously can refuse and many people do, that looks less like a side effect and more as nonsense, since if you do complete such quest, you usually get a rather underwhelming reward based on players level, not the bandit party difficulty, which is further disappointing. Makes doing what is supposed to be early-mid game quest into a late-game thing that matters less at that point other than occasional special gem item, which is powerful early on, then gets less useful because making your character 60 in all stats is too overpowered, yet include stronger enemies that you cannot even recruit to even the odds and having more fun potential they can create.

Another point: The lords and their armies as well their garrisons have larger and stronger overall armies – while it can be a experience seeing 1k versus 1k battle, I must say that those battles last way, way too long, and most fun in M&B series comes from you know, fighting with your allies in a skirmish that will decide the rest – getting downed and then waiting for hours for a battle to end is just boring and better to auto-resolve than wait for ages. After a decisive battle, you can either keep fighting to hopefully win or retreat and try again in a better time in case of unwinnable odds – on top of being performance unfriendly with stutters and lags on such settings – it makes small battle size but a lot of reinforcements a much, much better option in literally all cases. However the worst offender in such regard is garrisoning new territory: AI will capture castles at their full size without putting their units in, which makes it cheating, but when a player does the same or for their vassals, it still gets a small garrison of units – and if you take it for yourself after leaving it to decide, the "free" units within it, even if you added some of them yourself – they will all disappear, but when AI gets it they stay – it makes taking its troops, putting your own and then upgrading them before putting them back and then deciding who gets it less rewarding. While I see why would they do that, because "player can easily exploit this", however it also makes that enemy AI will always cheat both when it comes building a army, especially in higher campaign settings and how quickly they reinforce them – which means if enemies leave small garrisons, they'll turn them into 300-450 castles or 600-900 towns within weeks, not month or so, so player has to tweak this to even have a solid chance of winning massive wars of attrition without expunging all hard earned money earned before that yourself on mercs, your knighthood orders and upkeep.

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Due to how the mod is structured, you pretty much have to invest into INT/CHA builds, because of how it really depends on them – tactics is still powerful but not as strong on huge battle sizes with no reinforcements, and pathfinding becomes from nice to have companion skill into a must have – you really need it, no questions asked. The persuasion is charisma now, which is somewhat weird, because often the smart people convince others, not the pretty ones, though I prefer where it takes the skill from INT plus whatever CHA you have.

The bandit ambushes are worse – you can get lucky and get low level rabble of normal ones that still give 50 money for each bandit that was attacking you, or literal knight assassins even if you are level 1 and trying to become stronger, which again, just unfair and unrewarding later on because again, no reward scaling for that one of balance.

Part 2: Extra features, writing and quests. Knowing that it really circles around a certain prophecy, I decided to take on "quests" it has, and well, while I do like extra quests to spice up default ones, like escorting peasants, however, its all done in a way that I would rather say annoying, so let me explain:

The peasant escort one has peasants that don't accompany you, instead you have accompany them, which isn't possible if you aren't faction member of those peasants, and while you cannot accompany caravans you agreed to escort that are not quest based, at least those were understandable, here the peasants are likely to die or run away to a very far place and still fail due to their stupidity. Oh and farmers claim its special and cannot be found in towns, but let's just say that bread is overall rarer here so its not that special.

The save "virgin" daughter of a elder is well, is just basically persuade lords to make peace mixed with ransom kidnapped girl quest, expect you want to take a daughter from remember, a random lord, can be anyone excluding kings, and unlike the persuade lords one, where anyone but kings and upstanding/good-natured lords can be your targets, here, the upstanding and good-natured lords who didn't even raided that village can have a girl to have "fun" with…which just screams of lazy writing and coding. And reward is a named cattle that peasants somehow say its of high value, but really, you would rather buy more cattle on top, which results of a named cattle party consisting of multiple normal cattle.

It has extra mercenaries, that while nice to expand on their flavor, sadly it also makes that those mercenaries are higher priority than ordinary units – notably, the non standard mercs like Mettenheim ones not only have better overall capacity than just faction recruits to top tier of same type, but also they are not paid mercenary wages, which makes them the best choice – but it also means that recruiting normal mercenaries is only good short term rather than both short and long term usage.

The ghost girl quest, well, I got it by accident from rumors, and while it's not really hard, just lots of travelling back and forth until realizing a suspiciously armed person is the culprit, is rather annoying when you get it – you cannot interact with target lords/ladies until you complete it, like taking tasks if you are not king for them or just even asking what they are doing, forcing the player to do a specific thing rather than just doing their own stuff. Oh and it also eliminates the lady, which screws up family lines if you were married to its relatives or something. But writing where your character calls others pricks or sluts in case of women is just screaming of edge.

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The general story overall is rather amateurish, sacred elves that are strong and could easily become a powerhouse, yet rely on some mere nobody to help them, bandits that instead of being lowlifes have rather high tier equipment and create a lot of troubles for their owners, knights that all want to eradicate the evil yet only fight each other and outlaws, e.t.c. During certain dialogue, like when talking to certain knighthood knights of their orders, some of them have lines so long that they don't even fit the screen, which again, just doesn't account for game's limitations and feels off-putting.

Now the writing. It's even worse than story, like when engaging enemy encounters your character constantly makes stuff like "brothel" and other dumb jokes, which I don't find funny. The characters, instead of saying things normally, instead have lines like "you need stuff(insert requirements here)" and so on, rather than just suggesting. The worst offender is well, where a character says that you need a gem or some pottery to hire their people, but instead, its gem plus pottery, not either – yet they refuse to fix it after it has been suggested many times because "your fault". I do like a good story, and I played one that has an actual campaign, but this just feels rather weak and hidden behind applause. Oh, and vassals like upstanding/cunning/pitiless claim that I'm a trickster for defeating their members, and arrogant remarks every time I greet them, which makes it worse instead of ambiguous assumption whenever that was a compliment or a threat. Hearing slut or whore in a supposedly medieval world is rather off-putting, unless it was supposedly mature story from the get go, which due to how dumb things look in here, I can't relate to.

The hidden camp you can acquire and its special horse are rather underwhelming I must say – the camp has a weekly demand of dinars even if its empty because of how limiting it is as a garrison and normal hidden camps can be programmed to have a set limit, yet here it just punishes for doing the obvious – while having a special garrison with unlimited space before owning a fief is rather overpowered, I would rather just not have such garrisons in the first place as to not annoy people. The horse while powerful, is unfortunately slow, has high requirement that pretty much demands grind or specific point allocation, and there's a faster but still strong overall horse for less requirement. And the horse healing feature, is by far the worst – you can already heal your own via wound treatment, which you should have by that point.

Part 3: Voice acting and music in general. Well, people praise it for voice acting and music, which while you can see the effort, I cannot say the same for quality – the lines are incredibly boring, like someone who says my captain in a bored tone, or someone who speaks a line over and over again each time you interact in a very, very low quality voice – or when someone speaks over a conversation in a rather amateurish emotion, and bad acting. Yet people praise it – but I, being person who knows that certain things should be left alone don't agree with "more is better" thing. And it would be better off without, especially when I talk to lords, some woman tells me that they are all bastards, or says that you should always enslave them, even if they are honorable. And encounters that produce sound of blades e.t.c. can become annoying really fast as a result. Just annoying to hear companion voices over and over again on minor things, the females are the worst offenders because of how annoying they are with exception of ones without voice.

On music – while its nice to see fitting and good music, again, I cannot say for quality – the faction battle songs last shorter than 2 minutes and loop instead of changing into another combat theme, and when it does, it loops the new one instead of rotating – which is disappointing, I played native and liked how engaging the combat music was, can't say the same in here because of either how short they are before reverting to default, low quality music or just unfitting like epic singing on a small skirmish rather than a hall/town music. The village music while a nice touch, due to fact how the game works and how short the people stay in villages when not on a quest, and how in conflicts with normal music as a result, changing the system like lets say a variation of a town theme would work better. But again, it sounds off-quality compared to vanilla and other mods.

Part 4: Weapon variety. On one hand, you have fast and strong swords, great axes, and powerful bows/crossbows as well the firearm that is used only by 1 unit, however, since weapon proficiency usually means specialization, normally you would include multiple weapons in its class to make it fair – sadly, its not: the firearms has only 1 weapon, and while its powerful, its DPS is worse than bows and crossbows, and its just too rare to have – only 1 exists in hands of companion that is better off crossbow, and bullets have to be found/bought/looted making it just useful on yourself and sacrificing weapon variety. When there's multiple weapons of that proficiency, it gives a choice between class of style like a long range musket or a short range pistol, but here its disappointment aside from that.

Other gripes: Achievement system. While its nice to reward the player for their efforts, I would rather just do things on my own leisure and consider that an achievement, but those are upgrades, because many of them increase an attribute, which I have nothing against, but a good amount does improve skills – which again, work like books, expect you CANNOT choose when to get it – the game suddenly decides you got an achievement and its boost, however, if you had the skill already at max or beyond what it could otherwise give, like 9 tactics while achievement gives 2, well, goodbye wasted points because you went in blindly and maxed a skill too early thinking only books and random events boost it. Since getting a proper skill investment is a main objective to become powerful enough and to stay on field, I'd say just giving bonus intelligence instead of a skill is good enough, not disappointing people with things they expect the least. You know what and when to read a book, but with achievements you cannot and can very likely end as empty reward. Its better to either award attributes, bonus honor/renown/whatever or just recognition.

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I could say more, but let's just say that its praised for things that I don't find really good, in fact, I'd prefer Diplomacy/Gekokujo/whatever because they understand the proper flow and stuff, not where AI cheats 150-300 man stack of mid-high tier units within a day as opposed to just 3 or more, while doing anything that makes the player angry even if they put effort in.

But of course, its not without good things, let me explain:

The combat. It feels just great when you have an army and yourself in a mix, which, considering how you can build your army, it becomes the heart of it – just not fighting a massive army in a single skirmish, that's way too long to fight lower level rabble after fighting most important enemy leaders.

Special items. Now I said about those items not fitting right because of player focus, and because a fair amount of them have poor quality sprites, but having special interactions with them aside from books feels somewhat similar to quests that require items, like food or trade goods, and here, the focus on them is higher than average, whatever that's a plus or minus that is for debate but I think having special trade goods alone is good enough, but not too many.

Well, was it enjoyable? It was, but not the standard people elevate it to. I'd say decent enough, but not a legend or something many will enjoy. A grinding one, if I could say, lots and lots of grind. Not to mention other minor gripes like lady in waiting bandit parties that spawn as soon as fortification is captured, or a D'Shar Baheshdur replacement that enjoys slavery and calling women whores, and likes female Rolf called Riva. And not getting any, even 1 right to rule as a vassal/mercenary unless you spread out companions for your claim, which means you literally must recruit every companion from time to time and as soon as possible because well, it nerfs everything believing it is a huge advantage for the player, like 10 honor for 1 relation with honorable vassals(they wont join you anyway unless they hate their liege or their faction is destroyed, though taking them prisoner and convincing them that way seems to be a weird choice, because well, it doesn't give right to rule and also taking them prisoner makes them hate you even more), defecting lords requiring land right away instead of talking to them in a court and deciding who's who, or losing renown when retreating from a siege, not because you exploit/cheat/abuse, but because you were overwhelmed and trying to save your life, and it punishes you for that – including losing other lords relations, even if they didn't partook in a siege.

Is it better than its competitor, Persino? Much, much better, because that one is even worse – I took troublesome bandit quest, after seeing 50 man party high tier deserters and seeing farmer mercenaries in a tavern, and at least expecting Swadian Knight/Nord Huscarl bandits like in Pendor, well, I got a lord army sized stack of enemies and well, that ends right there. Don't know why people ascend "hardcore" mods to highest elevation when they are the example of unbalanced. I, and many of you would agree, would rather prefer hard but fair, where its balanced but not too focused on rapid enemy spawns and giant bandit armies right from the start. Or buggy/nonsense interactions with "factions".


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