After spending many a day in the world of Calradia with Mount & Blade: Warband I was one of the many who were awaiting the long-awaited sequel. 10 years later, and we get the early access version of Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord, bringing back fond memories of sieging castles as well as managing your own kingdom to dominate the world. Seeing vast improvements in both graphics and gameplay, has Bannerlord been worth the wait, and will it be worth waiting even longer until it sees a full release?
Starting off similarly to Warband, Bannerlord has you create your own character with several backstory selections from your parents, childhood to adulthood and significant deeds. After your character has been made you will be given a brief introduction, your parents died in an attack, your brother escaped with you though your other 2 siblings were kidnapped. With a short tutorial segment, this story is dropped pretty quickly in favour of the Bannerlord storyline.
Finding an old relic, you must find the other 2 pieces to form your own, or back-up another, kingdom to either remove the Empire that has invaded or aid in their domination of Calradia. With a very background approach to storytelling, you won’t find much attachment to the characters or plot of Bannerlord, instead giving you a simple goal. The quests themselves are also quite split up, taking several hours and more of milestones than a real storytelling approach.
Regardless if you follow the pseudo story or not, the main goal of Bannerlord is to either take control of the land or help another kingdom do so. To that end, you start as a lowly peasant to work your way through the ranks of mercenaries and become a vassal of a kingdom or leader of one. Working through the stages of the early, mid and late game, Bannerlord’s gameplay style continues to hasten. In the beginning, you will be scraping money to gather to pay for troops and gear, whereas closer to the end you’ll have millions of gold.
Playing almost identically to Warband, Bannerlord is an action, strategy, role-playing strategic game. With so many genres rolled into one, it can take quite some time to learn all the mechanics behind the scenes. Starting off you will learn about the world economy, trading oil, sheep, wood and more between the cities to earn coin due to supply and demand. When your money reaches 15k you can invest in buying a shop to earn you passive income, set up trade caravans with your companions and eventually take over settlements.
Bannerlord is played on a large map, sprawling through forests, tundra and deserts, you will travel between all the cities to accomplish your goals. Each city has its own stats as well as unique items, alongside some base items that they all share at different prices. Cities are supplied via villages, so cutting so supply lines will hamper the well-being of the cities. Though the mechanics at play are a bit dumbed down, or underdeveloped, when compared to some aspects of Warband, though these features will probably be implemented in time.
When it comes to combat you will be placed on a small battle map, with terrain and obstructions playing a major role. You can control your units in groups of their type, melee, ranged, cavalry etc. Positioning your archers on high hills, spreading out melee in the front and charging your cavalry when the enemy approaches. Proper tactics can make battles much easier, though your character can have an active role in combat too.
Personal combat in Bannerlord is a bit more involved than other games in the genre of war games. You can move with WASD and attack with left-click, block with right-click, though you also have the 4 cardinal directions to move your actions in. Blocking a high blow will mean your lower body is unprotected, and going for the head for someone blocking their left will land you a hit. Ranged combat is relatively simple, with right-click to cancel shots, left click to ready a bow, R for first-person and shift to zoom in. Headshots are generally a 1-shot kill, though sturdier helmets can stop that.
As you play through the game, your actions will level up different skills on your character, from one-handed weapons and archery to trading and leading your troops in combat. Gaining skill points in these skills will eventually level up your character, granting you focus points to increase the cap on your skill points per skill and an attribute every 3rd level to improve your attributes that affect 3 skills at once to increase their caps and effectiveness. Levelling in Bannerlord is several leagues slower than Warband, having my companions only level once in about 30 hours. With the removal of experience points, all levelling in Bannerlord has slowed to a snail’s pace.
As Bannerlord is only in early access, plenty of the mechanics are missing, not functioning or even causing crashes. The core game is enjoyable, so much so I have spent some days with 11 hours straight in the game. It is sad to see so many faults with it, though is to be expected with such a large game in early access. Thankfully, the developers are known for fixing issues and adding content, as with their previous games, and this is shown even more so that the game has received 8 patches in the 9 days it has been out. While it is getting fixed, the amount of crashes is staggering, especially when each patch can fix anywhere from 3 to 20 crashes.
As an avid fan of Warband, Bannerlord shows a lot of potential to surpass the previous title, and it even does so in some areas. With some more months of work, I can see this easily reaching into my top 10 game list of all time. I would suggest giving the game a few weeks before purchasing at this point though, as the number of crashes and possible game-ending bugs can be quite off-putting. However, if you are also a fan of Warband, and save often with multiple files, I highly suggest supporting the developers to make this game even better.
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is developed by TaleWorlds Entertainment
You can purchase Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord right here https://store.steampowered.com/app/261550/Mount__Blade_II_Bannerlord/
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