Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord Review
This Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord review will be non-standard. To collect the maximum experience in this medieval role-playing sandbox, you need to play a couple of hundred hours, and then digest what you see for a long time. On March 30, Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord appeared in Early Access on Steam and in the early hours tore the top of the Valve platform and skyrocketed to #1 in games on Twitch, with sales exceeding 2 million copies. I heard about the series started by the Turkish studio back in 2008, but I didn’t expect the sequel to be so explosive. Of course, seeing the hype around Bannerlord, I wanted to see her in person. I prepared for suffering – I received it, but not only.
Physicist-mathematician Armagan Yavuz and his wife Ipek put together the first part of Mount & Blade literally on their knees. The project was risky, so the publisher was not found immediately; at first, the developers just posted the beta version for open access right on their website. A fanbase quickly formed around the project, and after a while the Yavuz spouses were taken under the wing of the publishing house Paradox Interactive.
In 2012, the developers announced a sequel – Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord – and fans froze in anticipation. If they only knew how long it would take!
What is Mount & Blade
For those who have not played or have forgotten, let’s say a few words about the original. The first part of the action-RPG Mount & Blade and its add-ons have gathered a whole army of fans. Medieval setting without fantasy admixtures gave the player almost unlimited freedom. There was no plot at all: you were simply thrown into the open world, where you had to invent entertainment yourself. You could trade, traveling through the many cities of Calradia, you could build a career as a warrior or a mercenary. At the same time, one could either take part in large-scale battles himself, or send an army to a showdown, observing from the side. The player could even become a king, there would be a desire.
The battle for the territory was fought between 6 factions: Swadia, Vegirs, Nords, Rodoks, Sarranid Sultanate and Khergigit Khanate. The player decided to join one of them or go to war at all at once. Another bold plus: when creating states and armies, Turkish developers relied on real prototypes from world history. For example, Swadia has similarities with medieval Germany and the Holy Roman Empire, and the Nords with the Vikings. It was possible to collect and pump an army in different ways: each faction has its own unit development tree.
Modders deserve a special mention: what they have posted on the open spaces of the forums. Want to add a pinch of fantasy to your game? Please, there is such a mod, and not one. Lacking realism? Correctable. For the more sophisticated, there are even mods that turn Kalradia into the worlds of Naruto and Dragon Ball Z. Thanks to the endlessly refreshing game modders in Mount & Blade have returned again and again, and the developers have repeatedly expressed their gratitude to them. In general, the game received good marks, albeit with reservations: the game was criticized for the outdated graphics even by the standards of the two thousandth, but praised for the gameplay and realistic combat system.
As in the previous part, we start the game as a rootless ragamuffin: there is a sword, and that’s good. It is to them that we will cut the road to the top of the food chain. But where this very tip will end up, you decide, the authors do not set specific goals for the player. If you want – rob caravans and do not meddle in big politics, if you want – try to overthrow some monarch.
Alone, this, of course, cannot be achieved, but a large army like this, from the doorway, no one will give you – first you have to learn how to fight yourself. Fortunately, the leveling system in the game is quite flexible and thoughtful: if you kill fifty opponents, you will get a skill point that can be invested in one of the perks. It can be either a passive skill or an active one. Improvement also fills the progress bar – as soon as the slider reaches 100%, you will move to a new level and receive focus points. They, in turn, must be invested in skills: this way you will gain experience faster and, accordingly, get new perks.
But no matter how capable warrior you are, surviving in Calradia alone is quite difficult: soon you will need your own army. To do this, you need to establish relations with the NPCs in the settlements, completing their tasks, and beg for mercenaries from among the villagers. Several grandiose victories – and here you are at the helm of a small army, and there, you see, the king will give a fortress and a title.
However, Mount & Blade is a game about opportunities, so making a living honestly is not necessary: smuggling and robbery can also make a lot of money. Just remember that petty crimes are threatened with a fine, and for robbery you can also please the chopping block – in this case, the character is not reborn, but dies forever. True, if you managed to start a family, you can continue the game for relatives: the developers have added a dynasty system to the game. In the second part, the heroes will be able to start a relationship and acquire offspring that inherit the traits of both parents.
Rollback in time
This is still the same Calradia, only 200 years before we plundered Uchala and besieged Raivadin in Warband. As far as I have noticed, all cities, castles and villages have unique names. Consequently, in 200 years the world of the game must undergo drastic changes. On this and counting, because each ruler can change the names of their possessions at their own discretion. The map has remained approximately the same in scale. It looks nice, the detail has improved markedly.
As for the appearance of castles and cities, conceptually they are not much different from the previous part. Which is logical, because 200 years of development could not radically change the architecture. But at the same time, the fortifications and settlements themselves became noticeably larger, more interesting and more detailed.
The troops are also significantly different in appearance from those that ran in Warband. It is noticeable that there are no huge cavalry lances (instead of them only long spears) and there are no armored sets of armor from head to toe (even the most powerful armor is seemingly weaker than in the more modern Warband in terms of military development). But the types of troops remained the same – infantry, arrows, light cavalry and heavy cavalry.
Full Customization Option: 100% Your Hero
At the beginning, we are again offered to create our own hero and are given a flexible character editor, in which the craftsmen have already managed to make the witcher Geralt, Keanu Reeves, etc. We also need to choose the origin of the hero from the six available factions. This will give certain permanent buffs: for example, creating a caravan for aserais will be cheaper, and kuzaites will move around the map 10% faster.
Next, we select the backstory of the character. As in the first part, we are asked who our parents were, what we did well in childhood, what we were fond of and how we solved problems. The answers to these questions determine the initial characteristics of the hero, skills and upgrading speed.
There are six characteristics in Bannerlord: strength, control, endurance, cunning, sociality and intelligence. Each is responsible for mastering certain skills. Strength – for possession of melee weapons, control – for throwing and missile weapons. Endurance for blacksmithing, athletics and riding. Cunning for fraud, tactics and intelligence. Sociality is responsible for trade, charm, and leadership, while the mind is responsible for management, engineering, and medical knowledge.
Each skill has five slots. The more you fill, the faster you swing. With the receipt of new levels, we are given points that you can scatter at your discretion. Skills, by the way, are pumped like in Skyrim: if you want a one-handed weapon, fight them. Upon reaching a certain level, you can choose useful perks like reducing damage from opponents or increasing movement speed.
Main Campaign of the Game
There is a plot in the game. It seems like some kind. But, in general, in 30 hours he led to one thing: choose whether to return greatness to the Empire or burn everything to hell. At the end of the tutorial, you find a part of an ancient artifact, which you need to ask ten noble lords of different factions about. This makes you travel all over Calradia, learn the customs and mores of each nation.
And this is a cool idea, but the world around is not static. Trade caravans scurry from city to city, cities are conquered and recaptured. Lords are not waiting for you at a certain point, you have to naturally hunt them down. It’s good that in the encyclopedia you can view information about the heroes: in addition to information about the clan and the size of the army, there is infa in the corner where he was last seen. The location can be tracked and fixed on the map, but this does not facilitate the situation.
As a result, when you see that the lord you need was last noticed on the other end of the map, you just wave your hand at this matter. You can, for example, earn some dinars and collect a decent army. Of course, the initial money is not enough for this. A great way to raise money initially is to play in the imperial taverns.
In every big city there is a drinking establishment, and there is a gambler in it, ready to enrich you by a tidy sum. You just need to furnish it. Each faction has its own games: somewhere these are classic checkers, somewhere – rearrangement of pawns, but the easiest way to farm gold is from the Imperials. They have to either, playing for black, surround the king from both sides, or, for white, they need to reach the end of the board. By playing defensively and moving pawns back and forth, it’s very easy to win.
Apart from the improved visuals, there are not many innovations on the strategic map. Caravans, guarded by impressive armies, can still be looted. But they were also allowed to trade with them. And if you follow the trade development branch, you will have access to creating your own caravans.
Mini-missions for which gold is issued, the level rises and relations with different characters improve, and have become more diverse. Plus, now you can immediately see if there are available quests in the village/city/castle. We’ve added a forge where you can improve weapons if you have enough materials – not a bad thing for those who are not ready to give away thousands of coins for one sword.
Join a clan!
Before going to free bread, we have to choose the name of our clan, its colors and emblem. Initially, the clan is just us and the brother, but over time the situation changes. Future companions can be found in the same taverns. They will tell you their story, and then you decide if you want to hire one. If everything is ok, you are welcome. Companions can also delegate tasks. You give them some warriors, and in a few days they return with a completed task.
The clan has a reputation and a progress bar. The higher the level, the more you can hire companions and recruits for the army. This scale is pumping over for an unrealistically long time: in 30 hours we did not even reach the third level. Reputation points are earned for killing bandits and completing side quests, of which there are enough in the game. They only give points that are obscenely small: one at a time, at best two. And in order to upgrade a clan to the third level, you need 350. By the way, one more reason to play in the arena: for a victory they give three points at once.
Remember how the original Mount & Blade was scolded for quests of the same type? So, in this TaleWorlds remained true to itself. We firmly decided that we wanted to join the Battanians – they have very tough archers. And in small settlements on their territory, over and over again we were given the same quest: to return the missing daughter to the father. Several times the daughters even had the same names. They are always in the same part of the settlement, the dialogues are always the same. The only reason we completed more than ten of these was that they paid well for them.
And this is far from the only example: deal with the thieves, collect such and such units and deliver them to the garrison, escort the caravan, clean up the bandits’ hideout. And so on in a circle to build a reputation. And up to the third level of the clan, your army is limited to 75 warriors, which makes it impossible to siege the fortress or full-scale battles.
However, we still managed to take part in a couple of powerful 200 vs 200 battles. When we swore allegiance to Kaladog, the leader of the Battanians, it became possible to unite our army with the allied one. And here, from what was happening, it took my breath away: a cloud of enemies crashed against a cloud of allies, Caladog was giving orders … It was just great, the spirit of war literally oozed through the monitor. However, what do you think? In less than a couple of days of playing time, our faction made peace with everyone. That’s it, the end of the holiday. And, yes, in the game you can create your own independent faction, but there is a condition: clan level 3.
Try Different Battle Stages
In addition to strikes and blocking from four sides, we also added the ability for arrows to hit any unprotected parts of the body (before, they flew directly into the shield every time). Removed the autoblock, thus adding more control. And now you can protect four different sides with a shield – if you do not guess the direction of the blow, additional damage will take place on the shield and it will fail faster. Also, the shield has become a weapon – you can shove enemies with it.
The order system was improved for commanding the troops. Now it has more options – where the units go, which formation to choose, and so on. Unfortunately, the depth of elaboration of this system is pointless due to the fact that the battles themselves remained at the Warband level. Two crowds run at each other, cut in close combat for a couple of minutes and GG. Artificial intelligence hasn’t been improved at all. The computer does not protect archers, rushes forward with infantry, sends cavalry to spearmen, it turns out just meat.
Combat, despite the improved engine, remained clumsy. The character and his weapons have almost no weight. It waves with a two-handed ax, and it feels like it is made of foam. I ran into a crowd of three units with a horse at full gallop – stopped dead. Two opponents attacked you in hand-to-hand combat at once – you are a corpse. You get pleasure only on horseback.
Sieges have evolved the most. Previously, castles and cities could be assaulted with a single tower or staircase. Now there are noticeably more towers and ladders, battering rams and siege weapons have appeared (the defenders also have them). Catapults, ballistae and trebuchets not only damage units, but also partially destroy walls – it looks cool. True, they did not have a normal sight, so using them is not very convenient. The rest of the siege practically did not change – he climbed the wall, killed everyone, victory.
In general, there are very few innovations, but old problems remain.
Join a Multiplayer Mode
We got to the network modes. The first is capturing points. As for me, a pointless mode in which each player controls a squad leader and leads five units. The goal is to capture points and hold them. I played it several times and in each battle it all came down to a simple massacre and the complete destruction of opponents.
The second mode is an ordinary battle to the death. In fact, the same thing that I saw in capturing points, only you can run anywhere, without tying yourself to certain places on the map. In principle, it’s funny. A bit like the disastrous Total War: Arena, where, too, in each battle, players controlled small squads and tried to act as a whole. But since neither Arena nor Bannerlord has voice chat or sane tactical tools, everyone runs on their own and there is a lot of game on the map.
The third mode, “Siege”, turned out to be the most interesting. It has two teams, several dozen players each, attack and defend the castle. All participants have only one fighter under their control. It turns out team PvP. Of course, no tactics and logic are noticed on the battlefield – the besieged run out, the besiegers camper or break through. The cavalry is in the rear, the infantry is marking time in one place. Complete porridge. Some archers play their roles wonderfully – the besieged sit on the walls, and the besiegers hide behind cover and shoot back. Funny, you can drop by a couple of times a week.
The multiplayer experience is mixed. On the one hand, playing with real people is fun. On the other hand, the modes need serious revision. I’d rather play the campaign. And given that the online game sometimes exceeds 200 thousand people, and in the search for multiplayer less than 500 people, most agree with me.
Graphics and Optimization
Compared to the original, the graphics are noticeably better. Detail, textures, the number of objects on the map – M&B fans are pleased. But in general, the graphic design is far from modern standards. Therefore, the game still needs to be taken with the quality and variety of content.
Optimization matches Early Access – it’s so-so. The interface often freezes, loads between scenes in the campaign are sometimes long, many players complain about frequent crashes and drops of FPS even on powerful computers.
“Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord is what Warband should have done 10 years ago, but resources didn’t allow.” The game has become more detailed, more beautiful, some mechanics have been improved and developed. But the graphics are far from modern, the optimization is still lame, the artificial intelligence is weak, the combat system is outdated, the multiplayer is not very interesting. The campaign is good, but only because it was made very cool in Warband.
We waited a long time, drew gorgeous pictures in our minds, inflated expectations, but in fact we got a remaster of Warband. Average ratings for the game so far are good, many of them supplied by thirsty and enthusiastic fans who have finally been given access to the Holy Grail. But even among them there are already a lot of well-founded complaints and dissatisfied comments.
If the developers, having received a good financial boost at the start of sales, in the next six months do not bring the game to mind and add a bunch of new content to it, the only hope will remain for mods. After all, the project is clearly designed for the participation of the community in its development. Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord is not only a standalone game, but an entire ecosystem with tons of potential mods and a huge fan base.
- Processor: Intel Core i3-8100|AMD Ryzen 3 1200
- Video card: NVIDIA GeForce 660 2GB|AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB
- RAM: 6 GB
- Disk space: 60 GB
- Operating System: Windows 7
- Processor: Intel Core i5-9600K/AMD Ryzen 5 3600X
- Video card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 3 GB/NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Super 4GB/AMD Radeon RX 580
- RAM: 8 GB
- Disk space: 60 GB
- Operating System: Windows 10