Gamers are not known to be the most patient group on Earth. However, in this case, most of us have waited patiently for a decade. Ten years to be let loose on Calradia, to wed a lord’s daughter and plunder another’s town to the fullest. I am talking, of course, about Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord. The much-awaited sequel to 2010s Warband. How does the sequel fare in comparison to the original? Is it a worthy sequel or just a tacky retread? This is supposed to be a preview since the game is still in Early Access. But after waiting 10 years, the tag is not going to save the game from gamers. So, let’s take a closer look at this game and find out if it’s worth your quarantine time and money.
Is there a story?
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is a true Sandbox simulation. Whether you want to rule the land or fight as a loyal vassal is up to you to decide. However, unlike Warband, there is a prescribed path that also serves as a tutorial. You start off creating a character and picking his backstory from childhood to adulthood. Aside from gaining pre-determined stat bonuses from various backgrounds, you also get a chance to manually assign skills and stats. After going on a quest to find some bandits at their hideout and capturing their leader, the game-world is pretty much open, to do whatever you want.
Missions can be accepted at towns or can be received from wandering lords. Owing to the sandbox nature of the game, though, these can get quite repetitive. Granted, there is a variety of quests, and they’re not all “Go to point A, kill B, find C”. But at the end of the day, the variety is limited, and one can find a lost family member only so many times before getting bored. A bit more variety would be very much appreciated.
How does it play?
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is basically split into two modes – The Campaign Map and the Battle Map. Let’s take a look at them independently.
This is where most of your game time will be spent. Visiting villages, accepting quests, and trading, to name a few. The game also has a smithing mechanic for when you get bored of adventuring and want some quiet time alone amid smoldering embers. You can craft swords of varying kinds, and then either sell them, give them to your followers, or use them yourself. This is a fun side-activity to make some money. Speaking of money, the game has a simulated, realtime economy. Buy too much of something, the price increases. On the other hand, selling 50 horses to the same city is asking for a monumental loss. This adds a layer of depth to the game and makes smithing all the more valuable. It also pays to ask traders and caravans about the current trade situation to find the best deals.
With money comes another aspect of the game: Leading a band of mercenaries. You form a clam, recruit soldiers. Starting off with a modest 5 members in your party, grow it into a huge army. Level up your soldiers and your character (and heroes in your party) by fighting and winning battles. You can challenge basically anyone you want, from wandering villagers to the leader of a faction. As your clan rank increases, you can found your own kingdom, claim land and rule it should you so wish.
The other aspect of the game is when you start a battle. You jump in as the commander of your forces and can order your soldiers in the way you feel is right to win the battle. Will you charge headfirst and let your weapons do the talking? Or will you let your infantry hold while you flank with your cavalry? The choice, as always, is yours.
The combat in this game is outstanding. And I’m not exaggerating. To attack, you select the direction of the swing with your mouse and click to swing. Same for blocking. This opens up combat and makes it feel fast and fluid. Archery is fun as well, with having to take distance and your movement speed into account. Firing a longbow in a long arc is extremely satisfying, especially when it one-shots a crossbowman on the enemy wall.
Oh. Walls. Yes. Sieges are in this game. Unfortunately, they’re not as fun as open field battles. The AI tends to clump up and become easy targets for enemy archers, and unless you’re personally moving a siege engine to the gates or walls, be prepared to wait a dozen years while the AI slowly chugs along. This problem, of course, is a single-player only but is still mildly annoying.
Visuals and Sound
Don’t get me wrong, the game is beautiful, but it looks a few years out of date. The textures pop in weirdly at times and there are a few low-res textures here and there. Especially on the grass and foliage. Yes, these are nit-picks and don’t detract from the experience as a whole, but they deserve a mention.
The game’s performance, however, is spot on. At launch, there were a couple of memory leak issues and crashes, but the developers were quick to fix them. In the current state (e1.1.2), the game purrs along at a solid 60+fps on high on a GTX1060 at high, even in dense battles.
The game’s soundtrack, just like it was in Warband, is excellent. Just waiting on the campaign map listening to the music is worth the time spent, with the music ramping up in battles. The sound design is on point, and accurately captures everything from swords striking one another to the twang of the bowstring. Overall great job on the sounds.
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is a good game. There’s some meaty single-player content to chew through and the multiplayer battles are hectic as ever. However, it still feels unfinished even after being in development for the better part of the decade. There are random places where “Filler text” is inserted and there are a few crashes here and there. Additionally, the launch price of ₹2200 is a bit too high. The game is worth the money, don’t get me wrong, but my recommendation would be to wait a while and maybe get it on sale or pick it up once it gets out of EA. As always, we’ll do a full review once the game gets out of Early Access.