Every now and then a game comes along that is so good at what it does, you really don’t want it to change. But as time passes that game eventually starts feeling a bit dated and the sequel arrives. Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is a game just like that.. Read on for our Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord review.
In 2008 developer Taleworlds Interactive and publisher Paradox Interactive released Mount & Blade to mixed reception. On display was a classic “Eurojank” game. Incredibly innovative with the gameplay systems, complex where it needed to be but not without its problems. Apart from the dated graphics, which were dated even at launch, critics’ main gripes were the repetitive dialogue, locations and that parts of the game lacked the depth seen elsewhere.
A culmination of experience
Two years later, the standalone expansion Warband released and while the graphics were as dated as ever, a lot of the complaints were taken care of. One spinoff, some DLC and lots of success on the modding scene later made it clear. Mount and Blade Warband was a hit.
The announcement of the sequel, titled Mount and Blade II: Bannerlord was announced in 2012. With it came promises of improvements to things like sieges and better graphics to follow in the years to come. After a few years of trailers and gameplay footage at events, as well as more and more regular blog posts, the game finally entered early access in 2020. The full release followed just a few weeks ago at the end of 2022.
Mount & Blade 2.0
Somehow they managed to provide what they set out to do. A more streamlined, polished and improved game from Warband. Both in terms of graphics and gameplay. While still being more of the same gameplay wise. The same gameplay loops, the same combat system and the same sandbox is here. And that’s a good thing!
But there are also a lot of changes and improvements made. Quests are slightly less repetitive, the diplomacy features have been expanded. Commanding your army is easier and more fleshed out. And many more features have been added. But if you’re entering the game fresh, with no prior knowledge, here is what you need to know!
With the world at your feet
After a robust character creator that can make anything except good looking characters, you define your background and through that, some starting stats. You’re then placed on the map with a horse, some basic clothes and basic weapons. Enough to challenge a measly looter, but nothing to take on armies with.
This overworld map is where the meat of the strategic aspects of the game takes place. Here you have a strategic roleplaying game where the entire world is simulated while you move around with lords and armies marching about. Either having tournaments, skirmishes or even outright sieges and wars, with or without your involvement. Villagers produce goods and travel to nearby towns to sell at the market. Caravans trade for profit in between the cities and bands of bandits roam the map looking for easy prey. You are just one person, in a new and unknown clan with your brother. A single pawn on a massive board of chess.
Build your legacy
So you start traveling the world. You talk to notable people in cities and villages, help them out with their troubles for coins. You fight bandits and sell the loot. Ransom the prisoners and engage in tournaments yourself. In the villages and cities you pass, you trade, recruit young men and train them on the battlefield. Your nameless party members die, but you find others to take their place until suddenly you are notable enough to find employment as a mercenary of one of the 8 realms.
After gaining renown and building your relationship with the lords and ladies, you may even be granted the opportunity to join their ranks as a lord of the land, take control of your own fiefs in the world and maybe one day even break free and create your own kingdom, possibly uniting the world of Calradia under your banner!
The possibilities of how you can play the overworld gameplay is very much up to you. The path described is just one of many you can take. It truly is a strategic RPG on this level and one you can shape as you like. In my main playthrough, I’ve married the daughter of the empress of the Southern Empire and am building my clan into one of the most notable ones in the Empire. Next campaign, I’ll be creating my own viking tribe and conquer the world. In another, I might try a more trade-focused approach. But at the end of the day, running around this map is merely half of the game. For the other half, we need to look closer to the ground and find an enemy to fight.
A time for blades
Once in combat, you control yourself in a third or first person view, depending on your preference. You bring the mount, armor and the 4 weapon slots with you into medieval combat. Along with the rest of your army of course.
The army is doing its own thing, but you have a surprisingly robust, if a little clunky, way of giving them orders. You can send your archers up the hill, place your pikemen and infantry on the bottom of it and ride around the enemy with your cavalry following you around. Hole down or just plain charge head on and anything in between. Orders are carried out directly, but some require time to execute. So the management of the armies is almost as deep as most real time strategy games, if a little clunky due to the first/third person view.
Practice makes perfect
At the same time, this is an action game too. You can ride or run up to enemies and smack their heads in with your warhammer, split skulls with axes and swords or fill enemies with bolts, arrows and javelins. Blocking and attacking uses a directional system, enabling feints and makes timing imperative. It’s a robust, deep combat system, but you can do decently by just hacking and slashing on the lower difficulty settings.
And this is a common theme for the game. It is what you make it. Battles can be auto resolved if you want a break from the combat, quests are aplenty and varied. Although it could do with more variety. Most systems can be easily learned but are hard to master. Bannerlord is one of those games that can stay with you for years to come should you want it to, or you can scrape the surface and enjoy a single playthrough.
Held for ransom
The game is undoubtedly great. But it’s not perfect. Quests, while less repetitive than in previous iterations, are still not as varied as they may need to be. Some gameplay systems are lacking in depth, whereas others are maybe a little too complex at times. Graphically, the game is decent, but it’s not up to the standards of a lot of other games of 2022 even in the indie segment. Especially character models! The writing can be a bit lackluster too.
But as with everything, this game makes up for it in scope. Yes, the graphics aren’t better than decent, but that means the game can handle up to 1000 troops on the battlefield at once. Each one of them trying to follow orders and take down their foes.
Standing in a field with your archers, seeing 200 knights charging at you on horseback is a sight to behold. And scaling the walls of a big city during a siege never gets old. If you pick up just one game this new year, you could do a lot worse than Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord. No game is perfect, but the shortcomings of Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is easily overlooked thanks to the amazing game that is here. A must play! The controller support is decent, but you’d probably want to play this on mouse and keyboard. That was it for our Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord review.
- Deep strategy and simulation of the whole world
- Combat is satisfying, fun and easy to learn and hard to master
- Proper sandbox RPG
- 1000-man battles never get old!
- Very high replayability
- Some aspects lack a little depth
- Lack of mod support on cloud
- Graphics are decent at best
- One full game can take a long time
- Lacks a storyline that’s more than bare bones.