Developed by TaleWorlds Entertainment, Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is a prequel to Mount & Blade: Warband, the popular expansion for the original Mount & Blade that was published in 2008. The game excels at many aspects even in its Early Access form. With addictive gameplay, realistic combat and battle, dynamic politics and world events, impressive graphics, and a true form of roleplaying that is missing from most RPG video games, Mount & Blade II will be one of the best games of the genre when it comes out of Early Access.
In Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord, you can truly play the game any way you like. You decide your backstory, decide how to interact with the world and how to behave in each situation. The game allows you to roleplay your character without many limitations. It also provides one of the most challenging and engaging battle simulation in this genre. You control large armies of different kind of troops, and decide their position, their stance and their movement at any moment. Mount & Blade II has a lot of roleplaying elements to offer, and it already meets many expectations of its fans.The game is supposed to be in early access for around a year, hopefully the finished version of the game can only get better.
Mount and Blade II: Bannerlord is available on Steam.
The main storyline of Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is missing from Early Access. We start the game as our brother tells us we need to find our little siblings that were kidnapped in a recent raid. We don’t follow this story in Early Access; instead, we are told to establish and improve our clan, and participate in the civil war by becoming a part of another kingdom, or establishing a new kingdom.
These goals seem vague at first, but this is what a real roleplaying game should be. While we still see the cliché fetch, kill or escort quests that plague every roleplaying game, these main quests let you play the game in any way you want. You need to collect some money? You can do it by trading, doing side quests, taking prisoners and getting ransom for their freedom or raiding caravans and villages. You can go through the game and become more powerful by doing good or evil deeds, and the game lets you be whoever you want. You don’t need to be a noble hero that helps finish the war (even though you can); you can be an evil conqueror who takes advantage of the current state of the war, you can be a manipulative adviser trying to influence other clans to get your way, or you can be a simple trader who is making a fortune by trading essential goods between settlements that are at war.
There are many ways to tell your own story in Mount & Blade II. There is the foundation of a main storyline in Early Access, and if this story can still be adoptable to the character that you are playing, it will succeed on what many other roleplaying video games fail at: letting players tell their own story.
Another aspect to this story is the ongoing civil war that dynamically affects the world. The state of war is a realistic simulation of politics and battle. Some kingdoms might be completely defeated before you even choose which side to support, or you might be able to take advantage of a long term peace until you get powerful enough to wage war on other kingdoms yourself. While the player can have a powerful influence over the world, if you chose to stay out of the war, it goes on without you.
There is a lot to talk about regarding Mount & Blade II gameplay. The game doesn’t get repetitive even after tens of hours, and this can only get better after the game is complete.
Mount & Blade II has a great character creation and it’s not just about the way your character looks. While you have a lot of options to customize your appearance, the most exciting part of the character creation is creating a backstory. You can choose what kind of family you were born to, how you spent your childhood, your teenage years and your early youth. Each section gives you multiple options and each option improves some of your skills. This allows you to have a more meaningful start to your character’s story and it helps you find out how you would like to interact with the world.
The character creation isn’t perfect, but it is definitely a step in the right direction for roleplaying video games.
Unlike most roleplaying games, the decision making and roleplaying aspect of Mount & Blade II isn’t just about the dialogue options. In fact, there usually aren’t a lot of options in most conversations. While this might be improved in the final version of the game, not relying on dialogue options changes the focus of roleplaying on your actions instead of conversation choices, another innovative aspect of Mount & Blade II. You have many options on how you want to interact with the world around you, and this lets you define who your character is.
Mount & Blade II has realistic and challenging combat. It takes a while to learn how each fighting style works and mastering each fighting style takes a lot of training. Melee combat doesn’t feel as smooth as ranged combat, but there is an easy solution for it: a visible crosshair. It matters where you are aiming when you are fighting with melee weapons, but the game doesn’t have a crosshair unless you are using a bow or crossbow. This simple change, or at least having an option to turn the crosshair on or off for melee weapons, will make this fighting style a lot easier to learn.
The main focus to gameplay is strategic battles. While you can have heroic moments that can change the battle in your favor (and they feel so good when they happen), if you don’t learn to control your army, you can rarely win against stronger enemies. On the other hand, if you can’t fight at all but you have a good control over your army and know how to plan for each battle, you can win battles against armies that have twice as many troops as you. Learning how to arrange different troops, when archers need to shoot, when the infantry needs to charge, when the cavalry needs to flank and when to give up and retreat, is the most important part of gameplay.
While the art of battle and controlling armies seem to be the focus of Mount & Blade II, there is no tutorial for it in the game. At the start, these options seemed way too complicated to me, so I put the difficulty at its easiest mode and just charged my whole army when the battle started. But soon I realized I was missing out on a lot of fun and strategic decision making. If there isn’t a way for new players to learn these mechanics, they won’t experience some of the most enjoyable aspects of the game.
If you play a character that tries to avoid combat as much as possible, you might find a lot of mini board games when you visit nobles and leaders of different kingdoms. These are simple board games that don’t impact the story, so they seem pointless at the moment. If playing these games had a more significant impact on your relation with different NPCs, they will be a more meaningful part of the game.
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord has an online PvP multiplayer mode as well. There are 3 gameplay modes, with the siege mode being the most popular among Early Access players. In siege mode, two teams of 100 players face each other, with one team sieging a castle and trying to take control and the other team defending it. It’s chaos if you are new to the game, but it feels somewhat like the popular battleground games, except in a medieval setting,
The multiplayer mode is a fun addition to the game, and it can attract a lot of players who enjoy online matches more than the single player campaign. But keeping it fun and balanced for everyone to enjoy requires a lot of focus and work, something that doesn’t seem to be a priority for the game at its current state.
Graphics and Audio
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord looks very realistic. There are a variety of different battlefields based on the location your battle takes place in, and cities and castles look unique and well-designed based on their culture. The game runs smoothly most of the time, but in large scale battles, when you are fighting against big armies with hundreds of troops on each side, there are a lot of glitches and lag. This is understandable due to the immense simulation that these battles require, but at the same time these lags ruin the most fun moments of the game. Hopefully this won’t happen as much in the completed version of the game.
The game has a great soundtrack for different moments of the journey. From the smooth medieval style music that you hear while traveling, to the epic battle tracks that make fights more exciting, they don’t get boring even when you play the game for a long time.
The game doesn’t have voiced NPCs, and this can make the game feel too quiet at times, especially if you play a diplomatic character instead of a battle thirsty warrior. There are a lot of different characters in the game and it is understandable that having voiced NPCs require a lot of effort, but for a roleplaying game, voiced NPCs will have a significant impact on the gameplay experience. It isn’t clear if voiced NPCs will be added to the game later, but it is missing from Early Access.