Released (on Steam): 30 Mar, 2020
Genres: Action Games, RPG, Simulation, Strategy, Early Access
Developer: TaleWorlds Entertainment
Publisher: TaleWorlds Entertainment
Steam Price: £39.99
The horns sound, the ravens gather. An empire is torn by civil war. Beyond its borders, new kingdoms rise. Gird on your sword, don your armour, summon your followers and ride forth to win glory on the battlefields of Calradia. Establish your hegemony and create a new world out of the ashes of the old.
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is the eagerly awaited sequel to the acclaimed medieval combat simulator and role-playing game Mount & Blade: Warband. Set 200 years before, it expands both the detailed fighting system and the world of Calradia. Bombard mountain fastnesses with siege engines, establish secret criminal empires in the back alleys of cities, or charge into the thick of chaotic battles in your quest for power.
Strategy / Action RPG
Explore, raid and conquer your way across the vast continent of Calradia, making friends and enemies along the way. Raise your own army and lead it into battle, commanding and fighting alongside your troops in the thick of the action.
Singleplayer Sandbox Campaign
Play the game the way you want to play it! Plot your own path to power in a dynamic sandbox adventure where no two playthroughs are the same.
Extensive Character Creation and Progression Systems
Create and develop your own character to match your playstyle. Progress skills by performing actions as you gain access to a selection of perks that represent your mastery of a talent.
See the availability of goods ebb and flow in a simulated feudal economy, where the price of everything from incense to warhorses fluctuates with supply and demand. Turn anarchy to your advantage by being the first to bring grain to a starving town after a siege or reopening a bandit-plagued caravan route.
Multiplayer Game Modes
Put your tactical prowess and combat skills to the test against players from all over the world in a variety of different multiplayer game modes, ranging from small-scale skirmishes up to huge and epic sieges with hundreds of players.
Skill-Based Directional Combat System
Vanquish your foes using the game’s deep and intuitive combat system that is easy to learn but difficult to master.
Take to the field of battle and experience the brutality of medieval combat in first or third person perspective with hundreds of on-screen units, each with their own detailed AI.
Extensive Modding Capabilities
Customise the game to experience an entirely different adventure of your own creation. The engine and tools used to develop Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord are being made available to the community, so that modders can re-interpret Calradia or create their own worlds!
Completion: On initial playthrough. Clan level 3, ruling own kingdom with 4 fiefs.
Playtime at Review: 65.8 hours
Total Playtime: 69.4 hours
My rating: 7.8/10
You can create your own custom clan banner, with more options using https://bannerlord.party/banner/.
Town and cities are much larger, giving more options and a better feel to them.
Tournaments have an item prize, an option for betting on yourself, along with the ability to watch rounds you aren't involved in (or skip/auto-resolve).
The whole clan and kingdom system is awesome, with lots of different options on how to rule and different policies to put in place.
The skill system has improved massively from previous M & B games.
Sieges are even more fun with the addition of siege weapons.
Enemies come ad go from their hideouts, meaning if they're too tough, you can potentially come back a couple of days later and have less enemies there.
Combat has more depth and is harder than the previous games.
Being updated constantly so far during Early Access.
Unable to rotate the view on the world map.
Seems to be many loading screens which take up more game time than I would like.
Performance has been poor for me, especially in battles (although improving somewhat as they keep updating).
No option to bet on rounds you aren't involved in.
Joining a kingdom destroyed my custom banner (it was a banner created with an external tool).
Before we start, I have to say I’m a huge fan of the Mount & Blade games. Warband and With Fire & Sword are both amongst my favourite and most played games (excluding MMOs). That can be taken as both a positive and negative before starting the review. While it could mean I go all fan boy, where TaleWorlds can’t do anything wrong, it could also mean that my expectations were so high that they didn’t meet any of them. Personally, I don’t think either applies too much with this review. There are some things I’ve loved, and things I’m not a fan of either.
The first thing I noticed was with the character creation and background picking for your character. While it has a very familiar feel to it with the actual backgrounds, the process you go through appears to have been improved and starts you off with a nicer feel for the game. It would be nice if the character displayed during the background selection process would change based on what you had chosen for your looks, particularly gender, but that’s a minor detail at the moment. The little girl also looked very creepy, as if she wanted to eat my soul, but I managed to push past that too, and I think I still have my soul intact.
The tutorial has much more to it than the previous Mount & Blade games, going with a training camp style, similar to that of Chivalry. Considering the changes to combat, I welcomed the tutorial. I think the main aspect I struggled with is that the combat seemed to be much quicker than the likes of Warband. Not that this is a bad thing, it just took a while to get used to it. It also became pretty clear that having a shield would make the game much more easier than playing without one, but that isn’t much of a surprise either.
I was a little worried that they may have made so many changes that it wouldn’t feel like the Mount & Blade games I know and love. Thankfully, I was worrying over nothing. While it’s clearly still a Mount & Blade game, they’ve made many improvements that I’ve been enjoying. The skill system has been changed massively. It generally takes more time to progress, which I appreciate in a game like this. The map and towns are much larger than the previous games, giving you a lot more to explore, and more options in battle. Enemies come and go from hideouts, meaning you could wait for a group of bandits to leave prior to taking them down, making it easier for you to get rid of them (forest bandits can be particularly tough in large numbers).
I’m really enjoying the whole Clan and Kingdom system. You have your own clan which you level up by getting renown. Levelling up allows you to recruit more companions (which there’s a large selection of) and it increases the maximum size of your party. You can also increase the number of parties you can have, allowing you to use your companions for other activities, such as leading a caravan. You get to choose your clan name and banner, something I particularly like. There’s an external tool that’s quite useful, albeit very fiddly, that can help create more customised banners: https://bannerlord.party/banner/.
Once your clan is level 3, you’re able to create your own kingdom, which is essentially a collection of clans (or just your own clan to begin with). If you already had properties with another kingdom, you can choose to transfer them to your new kingdom at the expense of reduced relations and war with your previous kingdom, or relinquish your hold on them. There are various tabs under your kingdom page to help keep track of clans, fiefs, policies, diplomacy, and armies in your kingdom. You gain influence from various policies, buildings, and combat, which can be used for different kingdom actions, such as voting for and enabling new policies, voting on who gets what property, or creating armies. You can also hire mercenary clans to help you and your kingdom, although they can become quite pricey.
Tournaments are one aspect I’ve always enjoyed, and I’m very happy with some of the improvements made in Bannerlord. Having the option to watch rounds that you aren’t involved in is simply awesome for me. I enjoy seeing how well (or not) my companions fare. The different look of each arena is also great. You can still be on yourself to make money from tournaments too, although I would still like to see the ability to bet on other rounds too. Perhaps with relationship changes based on whether I bet on my companions or against them. I do like that you get an item/equipment reward for winning tournaments though. Nothing amazing, so it can’t be taken advantage of, but good enough to equip your team with and make a good difference to what they start with.
One of the main things I don’t like is the number of loading screens involved with the game. For example, you’re travelling the map and decide to slaughter some looters. You go through a loading screen to talk to them, another after talking to them, then you select that you want to fight and go through another loading screen to the battle, and of course, another after. This all takes away precious time from the actual gameplay. I’ve seen a mod that does reduce loading screens, such as the one I mentioned though, but I don’t want to mod while there’s constant updates already happening. Also, judging from the most recent patch notes, they have reduced the amount of time spent on loading screens, so it may not be as big an issue now.
Unfortunately, I’ve also had some performance issues. The game, particularly in battles, run pretty bad, with large stutters or freezes. While my system is getting on a little, I don’t expect it to have issues like this just yet. I have to run the game with nothing else open to get a somewhat satisfactory experience when it comes to battles. This has been gradually improving as we progress through Early Access though, so I still have high hopes.
Overall, I’ve been really enjoying Bannerlord. TaleWorlds have made some great improvements to the gameplay and experience as a whole. They still have a lot to do in terms of performance and content, but they’ve been updating and patching regularly, so I have faith that Early Access will see to that. If they keep it up, I have no doubt Bannerlord will take the number one spot as my favourite game of all-time!
Posted on 10-05-2020