There comes a point in every soldier’s life when a question comes to mind. Are our actions justified morally? Are we doing this for the greater good? In short, are we the baddies?
One of the frequent criticisms levelled at the Mount and Blade series is at its lack of direction. Unceremoniously dumped into a medieval landscape, the player is abandoned with very little advice in what to do and where to go do it. Whilst some players applaud this freedom, others, myself included, are left at a bit of a loss as to what they should actually be doing.
That’s where The Freelancer mod comes in. It’s not a huge all-encompassing total conversion. What it does is simply provide you with the ability to offer your services to any lord as a mercenary soldier. Sign up for a reasonable wage, and all your decisions are made for you. You are guaranteed a weekly income in the early game and a reasonable set of equipment to see you through. It’s a very simple addition that in all honesty I’m surprised Taleworlds didn’t offer as part of the vanilla game.
So that’s how I ended up under the command of Jarl Gerlad. I’d picked my commanding officer by simple virtue of offering my services to the very first lord that galloped past. He seemed like an amicable enough chap, and was more than willing enough to pay me a decent wage to join his band of soldiers. What was there to lose?
It wasn’t until our third attack on a simple trade caravan that I began to start questioning his motives. Every battle, he’d charge ahead of us on his war-horse and set about slaughtering the relatively defenceless peasants with relative glee. On several occasions, by the time we reached their position the enemy lay dead, victims of Gerlad’s viscious blade. Covered head to toe in the blood of men and women alike, he would hold his axe aloft and cheer for his accomplishments.
Oh, and did I mention he dresses like this?
As we spent our third night toasting marshmallows over a burning village the penny finally dropped. Oh god. We’re the baddies, aren’t we?
So as night fell, I grabbed my equipment, a few loaves of bread from the quarter-master, then legged it as fast as my legs would carry me. A deserter I may be, but at least I’m not the one running down young women with a horse. Next time I’d be a little more selective about whose army I join. I’d find a man of honour, a man of integrity, and ideally not a man who burns down villages to stay warm on a cold evening.
This I found in Jarl Knudarr. Despite his ridiculous name, he is a man so renowned for his good deeds and nobility I had to practically beg him to let me join his army. I’m guessing he knew who my previous employer was, and ‘pillager’ doesn’t look too good on any CV. After a few favors though, he finally agreed to take me aboard at a much reduced wage. So began my second stint as a mercenary. This time there’d be no slaughter of the innocents, no evil for me. I’m done being a baddie.
Then, just when I was congratulating myself for my clever move, the Vaegirs invaded. Now I’d finally get to see some justifiable action. This time we were the brave soldiers, standing firm against an unwarranted invasion. Finally, I’d get to fight with the goodies.
Eager for battle, Jarl Knudarr led our army straight to the front line and it wasn’t long before we encountered a force of Vaegir horsemen. Our opponents were a heavy cavalry force situated at the top of a steep hill. We were outnumbered, but as long as we kept our position on high ground we would have a chance. A slim chance, but a chance nonetheless.
Our orders came through. We were to take up an apparently tactical position at the base of the steep hill, standing ankle deep in a presumably equally tactical river. The very same hill that the enemy were to come thundering down in less than a minute at full gallop.
“Erm, boss?” I said. “Are you sure this is an entirely sensible idea?”
Moments later, the cavalry crashed at full pace into our ranks. As the screams of my companions filled the air around me, I thought to myself, at least we’re not the baddies.