Familiar with Henryk Sienkiewicz? Ever watched Quo Vadis? No? Ever heard about a mess in Central/Eastern Europe about Russia, Ukraine and Crimea? Interested? Then Sienkiewicz’s Trilogy is worth a look, even if, or because, it’s about this area in 17th century and not nowadays.
Ogniem i mieczem, “With Fire and Sword”, the most recent movie, is the adaptation of the first book. It depicts Khmelnytsky Uprising: a cossacks‘s rebellion against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth rule that, at some point led to the idea of Ukraine as autonomous state, which won’t really happen durably until 1917. The movie is kind of fast-paced. The little story is kind of simple though, it opposes two characters, Jan Skrzetuski and Yuri Bohun, in war, the later being a cossack, and for the love of some girl.
Potop, “The Deluge”, the second movie, way older, is the adaptation of the second book. As the title suggests, it’s about the period following Khmelnytsky uprising called in poland Potop szwedzki, the invasion of the Commonwealth by swedish forces of king Karl X Gustav. The main character, Andrzej Kmicic, will notably take part in the defense of the Jasna Góra monastery in Częstochowa. The story is much more subtle than Ogniem i mieczem. Even though Bohun isn’t all evil, Kmicic is a much more complex character, feeling always on the wrong side and forced to be for honor.
I haven’t watched Pan Wołodyjowski, “Colonel Wolodyjowski”, yet, simply because so far I did not manage to get an original version in proper quality. Even though it’s the first movie (1968!), it’s the last book of the trilogy nonetheless. As such, it should be about wars between the Commonwealth and the Ottoman Empire in the late 17th century.
And this leads me to Mount & Blade. Mount & Blade is a video game that mix FPS and RPG. You live in some sort of sandbox where some entities are always at war. You ride horses, do commerce or conquer castles and towns, steal for merchants or chase bandits. Take an oath to a king or support a claimant to a throne. Whatever you want. Until recently, I mostly played Mount & Blade: Warband. That’s the improved version of Mount & Blade. Mount & Blade: With Fire & Swords exists too. But it did not sound appealing to me at first, when I tried it a while ago: guns (why?), seems a bit more buggy, less available mods (especially not the diplomacy mod).
“With Fire & Sword” featuring a quest named “The Deluge” inviting you to go defend a holy site in Częstochowa? Ogniem i mieczem and Potop, yes, that’s it: this standalone transports Mount & Blade into the era and places of Sienkiewicz’s Trilogy. That’s definitely a good match, different factions in constant wars, with plenty of lords doing whatever crap, merchants in the middle, fights, Mount & Blade sandbox style fits the ambiance.
It should be noted that the default map and entities names (Polish Commonwealth instead of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, etc) are not satisfying at all so you’ll definitely want to download and use the Neo Native mod, which does not change the gameplay but fixe these. Sadly, regarding quests, many little bugs or counter-intuitive issues will probably force you to use “cheats” (in some case, it’s unavoidable), but the experience is nonetheless worth it.
Alike the rest of the M&B series, you can play for hours just to make little progress, collect some weaponry, improve your army. The FPS engine is kind of precursor to Chivalry: Medieval Warfare/War of the Roses: depending on your weapon, you can swing, trust, jab, etc in different directions depending on mouse moves. The engine allows also some kind of tactical approach to fights: you can give specific orders to calvary/marksmens/infantery -and I found in With Fire and Sword that the mix calvary/marksmens is overkill-, like holding a position/following you/charging, spreading in or out, etc. But in the end, especially when you are attacking town and castles, it’ll be more a matter of numbers than anything else – so when you reach the point where your army is strongest than any other else, fights get repetitive and dull. Especially since the interface is kind of clumsy when dealing with numbers (for example, when you win a fight, you can often make prisonners out of the still alive defeated guys: for each guy you have to click once, you cannot do multiple selections, etc) So you can play for hours, days, but actually that’s probably the first hours that are most interesting. Fäkta på och framåt gå, I slutna täta led…
June the 2nd Update: I managed to get a decent copy of Pan Wołodyjowski and must say I was a bit disappointed. The historical part is really secondary, the fight sequences are a joke. Not that it should not be watched, but it’s really not up to the level of the movies that followed.