Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord, heroes and villains of the new frontier

It has cost. eight long years since the announcement by TaleWorlds to develop an ambitious sequel to its great success Mount & Blade, one of those iconic games of the indie revolution that allowed an unknown Turkish studio to conquer the world with a proposal full of ambition and ingenuity , imperfect but irresistibly suggestive: an authentic role-playing and open-ended experience in a medieval world, in which the player is master and lord of his destiny. No predefined plot, no magic or dragons, just a man in search of survival, wealth or glory, writing his own legend in an indifferent, rough and savage world, always on the move with its power wars between kingdoms and families in which the player can take part, or not.

Mount & Blade is one of those games that the term sandbox is not for him. It is certainly an adventure of its own, different in each game and in which we are not limited to any predefined path. A vast world made up of distinct kingdoms moves to the rhythm of their leaders and their armies, as the player must decide how to navigate the waters of history and establish their place in the world, from insignificance to leaving a lasting mark for generations. . That is the original charm of the saga and on which all the sequels and spin-offs have been built, each one with its own characteristics and additions, but respecting a base that is also a pillar of the success of the franchise: the flexibility to modify the game and therefore the ability to transfer those mentioned virtues to scenarios known as The Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, creating convincing interpretations that fulfilled the desires of many to live those worlds freely as individuals, forming an active part of the deeds of the books, movies and series but forging their own destiny alongside or against their iconic characters.

A new Calradian

Presentations made for those who are not familiar, Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord is the ambitious sequel with which the studio has sought to set a new playable and technological foundations. The original engine was not enough for more and a way had to be found to unleash the team’s ambitions, something complex given all the sticks that are touched here: a huge map with hundreds of independent entities moving organically according to the needs of the economy or the logic of power between the houses; an elaborate system of relationships with several layers of depth, great battles in real time with hundreds of soldiers on screen, a robust economic system in which we can actively participate to enrich ourselves and control trade routes… to name a few examples. The limitations to expand and improve all those facets were more than limited with Warband, so it was time to leave the home of the old engine and create another one that could host the future of the saga.

The initial character creation system is based on key life choices

Bannerlord is a technological sequel, but a temporary prequel, since it takes place 200 years before the historical period of Warband, in the same Calradia location where the saga has been developed. This time coincides with the decline of the old empire, a mix between the melancholy of the loss of the old and the dynamism of the growing power of the new actors called to take its place, although nobody thinks that it will be with the same glory and power of yesteryear. . This is just the context, drawn as loosely as possible to create context but at the same time enough room for any development to come up. We will be able to align ourselves with the different powers and be on their side at the time of their conquests (or in their defeats), or simply be mercenaries to the highest bidder, as well as being able to limit ourselves to being merchants, using our money as a shortcut to power. We can even found our own kingdom, one of the most ambitious goals you can set for yourself in the game. The scale from being a single insignificant person to becoming the leader of hundreds of men and a determining force on the map is one of the natural strengths and attractions of Mount & Blade 2.

Technically, the eight years invested are quickly noticeable in some respects. The graphic jump and the amount of detail in the locations is remarkablealso the variety of buildings and the construction of large cities, which are a pleasure to walk through (although the truth is that it is not necessary, since you can “teleport” and manage everything with dialogues and menus, but it is a pleasure having the option to actually visit the towns and castles you visit. It’s also noticeable in the landscapes where the battles take place and various other aspects that all together create an impression of clear progress. Still, we don’t forget (and the game doesn’t let us do it either), that Taleworld is still a relatively modest studio with big ambition, and that we’re talking about an Early Access game with several months of progress ahead of it. It’s playable, but there are issues of performance and some details – like the faces and expressions of the characters – are quite prone to improvements at some point in the future, although it is not so important for a non-narrative game like this.

A well established foundation

Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord, Heroes and Villains of the New Frontier

The truth is that in our first hours with Bannerlord, beyond the technological leap, we have felt like playing Warbands again, which is not necessarily bad, although perhaps it is not what was expected after eight years. The base of Mount & Blade has remained intact in all its iterations, incorporating new layers but respecting the core, and the truth is that the 8 years of development have not served (for better or worse) to create a fundamentally new experience. It’s all nicer and more detailed, but the principle remains the same, with new nuances but a recurring sense of familiarity for any veteran. The combat, based on physics and in which positioning is key, keeps its roots intact, although it seems that the impact of our blows and movements has gained weight and is more colorful. The missions are still self-generated and the principles by which we can climb the social ladder or become a public enemy remain similar.

The big news is either not fully implemented or its effect is not noticed until later. The new dialogue and persuasion system is promising, with more options, but it still needs a lot of polishing to make it believable and begin to bring to the table the advantages and depth that it is presumed to have compared to the dialogue system of previous games. Mount & Blade is a systemic game, in which the AI ​​has to keep in mind numerous ever-changing factors so that the player feels that he is really participating in the world and that his actions have an effect, so establishing a lot of detail in each of its multiple sections is complex and we trust that good results will be achieved in the future. Also in the pending progression section is the dynasty establishment system and practically the entire diplomacy system, which should present a much more robust aspect when the game reaches 1.0.

Better aspect presents the economic systemor, which is more established and in which we appreciate some of the improvements present. Those who are interested in this facet will be able to see how the supply and demand of the great variety of goods present in the world follows logical criteria, responds to the specific needs of cities and is consistent with their context. From the first steps, making simple exchanges looking for benefits, to more profitable (and dangerous) adventures such as creating your own caravans with large quantities of merchandise that we can manufacture in our workshops to maximize profits. A greater degree of sophistication is noticeable and should be more noticeable once the system of relations and diplomacy also take a few steps in the desirable direction.

Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord, Heroes and Villains of the New Frontier

A beta with a long way to go

There is a wide range of aspects to analyze, but it is not worth putting too much effort into it when it is obvious that the game is destined to change a lot in the coming months. In the first few days the first patches have already appeared and it is clear that the efforts at the beginning will go towards stabilizing the code for a greater variety of equipment and configurations, chasing the most serious bugs. In the most immediate “must” chapter, apart from what has already been mentioned above, it is of vital importance that the mission system be provided with content immediately, since the variety of them is ridiculous for a game of so many hours. Yes, the grace of the sandbox is to create your own fun, but it helps to have as many and as many variety of toys as possible for it and the missions are repeated too much in form and substance. It also seems that there must be changes in the global AI system, right now too much given to creating “snowball” effects whereby a kingdom that begins to stand out quickly begins to accumulate favor and resources, creating scenarios in which by the time we’re in a position to be influential in Calradia, there’s nothing to do.

On the other hand, it should be noted that the base is very promising. It may not immediately reflect those years of development, but the impression is that we will see the effect of the same in the longer term. One of the priorities of Bannerlord, for example, was to create a much easier and more versatile game to modify, something that was not so easy with the previous ones, despite the fantastic work done by the community. With the new engine, once the game starts we will surely see much more impressive works given the new possibilities and tools. The base of the combat system is also very good, both the most immediate and personal as well as the tactical aspect of controlling our soldiers. It’s still very impressive to engage in field battles with hundreds of horse and foot soldiers, especially when we feel the impact of the initial shock – being charged on horseback is a bit creepy thanks to the improved physics, which is all. a plus-.

Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord, Heroes and Villains of the New Frontier

Am I interested in the paid beta?

Bannerlord will be in Early Access for a good season yet and It’s not exactly a cheap game right now (€44.95). Although it still has a long way to go, the current one is very playable and very enjoyable – a nicer version with some improvements over Warband, but less stable and without all the impressive modding work behind it, yet. The game is being a resounding success on Steam, to the point that it has become the platform’s biggest release so far this year, leaving behind colossi like Doom Eternal, and that can be a good claim for more people is pointed out It is certainly a unique experience and the campaign will take us many hours of adventures while we unleash our ambitions, but it would not hurt to wait a bit for the changes to stabilize and consolidate.

Many of those who have bought the game are veterans with hundreds of hours in the previous titles and eager to try the new features, but for a new player there is little point in disembarking now. If you decide to go for it, you will find in this paid beta the qualities (and flaws) that have made Mount & Blade such a renowned saga: its freedom, its ability to surprise, the pleasures of its battle system based on the skill with the controls, the number of objectives that can be developed and the “wild” air of a constantly changing world where anything is possible. All of these are the facets by which Taleworld has earned its own place in contemporary video game history.

We would like to say thanks to the author of this article for this remarkable material

Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord, heroes and villains of the new frontier

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