Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword has two major flaws.
The first is the hats. They are just ridiculous. No one looks good in them and the necessity of wearing protective headgear ensures that most of the time you are looking at your character, any elegance they might have in their design marred by a goofy fucking hat.
The second flaw is perhaps a bit more serious - too much of the game is gated behind your renown totals. It won't even let you join a faction until you're already famous from winning a large number of battles. Which is especially annoying when you consider that you don't get renown if the enemy force is significantly smaller than yourself, and thus it's incredibly easy to build up a force where none of your random bandit encounters is large enough to earn you fame.
I suppose you could deliberately keep a small band in the early game in order to have your battles be more glorious, but it seems more likely to me that the intended way of playing is to either grind away on dozens of side missions until you attract the attention of a lord or to just pick a fight with one of the factions preemptively, so that you can face larger and more powerful enemies and then ally with your punching bag's rivals once you have a few battles under your belt.
What makes the second course hard for me, emotionally, is that none of the factions ever seems to go out of its way to hassle you. You can cart goods from one end of the map to the other and the only people who ever pose a threat are bandits, raiders, and deserters. The nobles are even gracious enough to let you into their castles mid-siege.
I guess I just have a hard time with my only justification for aggression being naked ambition. If I could intervene to stop the looting of villages or challenge unchivalrous nobles to a duel, that would be something. As it is, I just have to wait around staying out of everyone's way until I'm finally famous enough for a king to order me around.
Or do I? For shits and giggles, I cheated myself up a maxxed-out character with a ton of money and learned that it is possible, with a well-armed entourage, to start your own faction by assaulting a random castle. It's still a case of just randomly stealing shit, but at least it's honest in its unjustifiable greed.
All I want to do is buy my way into the gentry and then expand peacefully through well-developed infrastructure. Is that too much to ask?
I mean, yes, clearly it is, because the name of the game is "Mount & Blade" and not "Accounting & Negotiation." Still, my brief time as a renegade feudal lord did teach me that you can improve your territory with money and thus, presumably, expand your wealth with reinvestment. If only I were famous enough for someone to give me a chance . . .