Dark Ages in the British Isles were a fascinating, dismal time of constant wars, in which people fought for survival. A dark age with a deep blend of cultures. The 6th and 7th centuries were a time when invaders (Saxons, Angles and Jutes) tried hard to forge their destiny in a new world with the steel of their swords, shields and spears. The ancient peoples tried to resist, while they saw their kingdoms defeated and conquered by the “barbarians”, and sorrowfully saw how their beloved world slowly disappeared off the face of the earth. But other people must not be left unmentioned, like the Picts, who have always inspired great interest. Or to the west, another island as complex as Britain: Ireland in which many people were fighting for a piece of land, their clans, livestock and supremacy. In short, it is a world we know little about, yet a magnet for history lovers: a time of war and great deeds, where few kings (almost none) died in their beds.
Overall impression: The amount of work and attention to details is staggering. This mod is evidently the fruit of a labor of love.
Graphics: Passable but unimpressive. M&B WB desperately needs better graphics.
Sound: Similar to core game, but improved period music.
Gameplay: Simply too hard, and often also quite confusing.
Highlights: Convincing environments - towns and villages are much improved. Realistic and balanced equipment (except crossbows). Ships! Vast options for actions. Many minor improvements to game mechanics.
Let downs: No substantial improvement on general sand-box qualities of core game - No real campaigning possible.
Still totally unrealistic trading prices - You must loot thousands of corpses to afford some decent equipment for you and your retainers.
Elite sodiers will still get swamped by rabble.
Capabilities of bandits and other riff-raff totally outrageous.
Ridiculous salaries for top tier soldiers.
Still to many traits to pursue in character development, with very little gain for each step.
Exponential scale for exp.improvement too limiting - Needs moderation.
Morale rules mostly unnecessary - Leading a company of whiners gets boring quickly.
Still almost impossible to get by as peaceful trader etc, because of constant harrassment by elite raiders - No matter how much it tries, M&B can only be enjoyed as a war game (unless you are a masochist).
The temptation to cheat becomes overwhelming after some time and this in turn destroys the enjoyment of any accomplishments. With a few tweaks to the basic calculations, this could have been avoided.
Verdict: An excellent mod that unfortunately retains the worst flaws from the core game.
There's a difference between when a game is challenging and when it's so frustrating that it's unplayable. This, I'm afraid, is the latter. Granted, this is a wonderful concept and wonderful execution thereof, but this suffers from something I've seen a lot in mods that would be better than the vanilla, and that's the ridiculous amount of difficulty that, like a particularly bloodthirsty bully, allows you to think you'll come anywhere near enjoying yourself just so he can take everything you own and traumatize you more deeply. "Oh, look at your wonderful little army you spent the first few hours of the game working on," it says, "Let's see what happens when I throw a random group of bandits at it with three times the manpower." One needlessly complicated and ungodly frustrating fight scene later, your precious army with which you would convert the world to the love of Jesus Christ lies dead on the ground. MAYBE this is more realistic, and MAYBE the mod has wonderful features (everything about it, really, especially the naval batlles), but when it gets to this point, realism should be sacrificed just a bit and all those wonderful features will never see the light of day since you can't walk two steps outside a city before you're up to your neck in the corpses of everyone you love.
Bottom line: Recommended with extreme caution.
I have given this a 7/10 for now and here is why. For for starters, this game has the most unfair start I have ever seen. Why is it that both this game and the ACOK mod nerf your starting stats when compared to the vanilla game? The all the recruits you can get have a high upkeep cost right from the start and why, because they start at lvl 15 even though they don't act or fight like lvl 15s. They have a high strength but do garbage damage to everyone but player characters. Which leads me into my next point, because of said starting recruit levels the npc's do insane damage from the start, with rocks doing upwards of 40 damage at times. Next is the bandits and outlaws and what not, I spent the first 2 hours of this mod running from packs of 30-60 bandits! Why for the love of god did you allow them to spawn this many from the start, nothing a pc can do about them unless they join a military, which you should not be forced into. Now, those complaints aside, This mod is amazing, it looks absolutely beautiful and the map is great (although a bit more flatland would be nice for mount battles, though I understand why there isn't much flatland). The towns, villages, and keeps are all very well done and more interactions with npcs are well scripted.
I would give this game a higher rating but I will list all the reasons it is not higher rated.
-Player stats are nowhere near on par with anyone else in the game including peasants (leaders have and extra 20-30 points on the player of the same level).
-Recruited farmers have too high of an upkeep for early game.
-Bandits(and outlaws and all those types) are not only too strong from the start, but carry too good of gear most of the time (high end military gear for every one of them, come on), and they spawn in way too high of numbers.
-Bandit types should spawn in numbers from 1-10 for at least 2 in game weeks so that a player can get a chance to get a footing in the world without being roflstomped into the group from the starting city.
-Fix arena combatants so they don't zone in on the pc. Every time I do arena nearly all of the npcs go straight for me and ignore all other npcs until I am dead (this includes their missed swings not damaging other npcs).
-Give an option to see stats from starting choices, the whole random thing is awesome most of the time, but sometimes you'd like to see what stats you're starting with so you can plan a character from lvl 1.
-Prices on many items are way to high, and are basically out of reach unless you cheat to get money, and at that point what is the point of playing, I have seen a basic horse go for 25k and basic swords go for 14k, and those where just normal swords nothing special.
-FIX THE ECONOMY SO WE CAN ACTUALLY MAKE A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS. This is a problem in every single mod and I don't understand why no mod fixes it. I get that the economies are suppose to suck during times of war, but this is a war game with UBER bandits, there is no way for the pc to influence the world enough to where purchasing land for a business is worth it.
-Finally, fix pathing of npcs during sieges, If there are 3 ladders why are they all funneling up one, and then they stop at the top, or all try and go the same way up top, make them split paths to swarm the defenders rather than just standing on the wall being archer fodder.
I know a lot of this stuff was in vanilla too, but as a great modder I would expect that you had some of the same issues or ideas at some point. This mod is great in so many respects but if you're looking to just have fun fighting small battles, trying to do trading or anything not world conquering-wise its impossible due to all the fixable problems.
At the very least, could you make it an option for some of this stuff, like give us a slider bar on how often bandits spawn, and another as to how many troops they spawn with. It's options like that, that would make this mod a 10/10 for sure, but for now, its too hard for newer people to enjoy.