Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord – Impressions Early Access

When Mount & Blade first launched in 2008, it already offered a nearly complete simulation of a lord’s life during medieval warfare. We could gather troops from villages to fight epic battles, help or oppress the weak, raise our name and gain more and more power, be the vassal of a sovereign or even finally get our own territory. Although the title was rather crude, it became one of the most memorable medieval experiences.

This title was later followed by Warband, which gave us new approaches like becoming our own king and many other features that have persisted until the sequel that just came out in early access on Steam, Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord.

Like its predecessor, Bannerlord will take us back to Calradia, a vast medieval land filled with hostile kingdoms. Set 200 years before Warband, we have eight factions to play as, each with unique units and equipment. However, there are three factions (the Northern Empire, the Southern Empire, and the Western Empire) that have similar units. Being a sandbox, we can do whatever we want. Become champions of war and tournaments? Why not. What about a rich merchant with an army of bodyguards? Of course. Or how about we crown ourselves as the king of this war-torn land? This will cost a little more, but it is possible. Marry a nobleman and have children? If it’s what we feel like… And why not all at once?

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Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord
Mount & Blade II: BannerlordMount & Blade II: Bannerlord

As a first impression, we could say that Bannerlord has seemed quite familiar to us. We started in a training camp and got familiar with the controls, which were more or less the same as before. After a short tutorial (which we can skip completely) in which we will have to attack a bandit headquarters, we are released into the open world of Calradia and the rest is only up to us.

At first we were overconfident and tried to fight the bandits using our old strategy which was basically attacking solo first, Rambo style, to try to reduce the number of opponents. However, it turns out that the AI ​​has improved, and although our troops won, our character, who still had only thin armor, spent part of the match out cold. So we had to lead our army from a stretcher while thinking that although the title was very familiar to us, we would also have to learn a lot.

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Mount & Blade doesn’t provide any clear guidance on what to do or where to go, or even the objective of the game. In fact, although in Bannerlord there is a line of main quests that guide us towards certain activities, it is not necessary to follow it in order to enjoy the game, although it does make the experience a little more enjoyable. For example, one of the first quests is to find and ask the nobles, who are scattered everywhere, about a valuable Neretzes relic. This will make us explore, meet new people, recruit troops from the towns and learn about the trade system among many other things.

However, finding the necessary nobles to complete the quest was not easy. We spent the first eight hours doing it and it wasn’t much fun, so every few minutes we’d stop to chase down looters, trade, play board games, complete side quests, and take part in tournaments. All this without mentioning that to find the nobles you have to use the game’s encyclopedia, which for some strange reason cannot be seen in the main interface, we must access it through the N key, although we must say that we got to that conclusion after seeing it in the configuration. Luckily, we have a very active community, so the answers we’re looking for may be out there, although some we’ll have to find for ourselves. Bannerlord has so many hidden features that if the developers would introduce them better, the experience would be much more enjoyable and fun. We must also take into account that the title is in early access, so we can still see several improvements, especially in the tutorials.

Of all the elements of the game, one that stands out is the trading system. We will hear rumors about the market when we go from one city to another and we will be able to see the prices of certain products and compare them with those of the other cities that we have visited. This way we will know which product we should buy which place and where else to sell it. However, at first we will only get some small change, since we will not have much capital either; once we have more funds and a larger inventory, profits will increase. In the end, trading ended up being our greatest skill, as it is the activity we do most often.

Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord
Mount & Blade II: BannerlordMount & Blade II: Bannerlord

However, money is not the only important thing in Bannerlord, there are other “currencies” in the game that we will have to pay attention to, such as renown and influence. Renown points are important when building our clan and act as a kind of experience points for the level of the clan. By accumulating renown (through battles, tournaments, or even winning table games against nobles), your clan level will gradually rise and you’ll gain various stat bonuses for your group. The level of the clan will also determine whether or not we can build our own kingdom or become a vassal of another. On the other hand, there is also the influence. If we have a lot we can, for example, claim a fief that we just took with our allies as ours. There are several ways to increase influence, although the most obvious is to fight enemy royal forces or bandits.

The title offers many battles, although veterans will notice that the combat system is quite similar to the previous ones. Obviously there are changes, the most notable being the improvement to the party AI (one-on-one combat is still relatively easy), so players will need to play more with strategy and commands on the battlefield. Unfortunately, the game only allows us to practice solo combat, so we have to learn the different commands for the troops during the battle. If you have played Mount & Blade before, or even the Total War franchise, you will have an advantage, but if not, you will be on your own.

Fortunately, if combat doesn’t bother you too much, there is an option for the game to simulate battle. TaleWorlds has paid more attention to simulation thanks to an ability, strategy. Thus, the higher level we have, the more advantage we will obtain when simulating a combat, which in turn will give us more experience for that specific skill. With this in mind, we think Bannerlord is opening up to a more simulation-focused style of play, which is great for those who don’t want too much action (although we still think the combat is still very interesting). Something we have not mentioned is the political system, which also offers us new alternatives to consider and new political mysteries to consider.

Mount & Blade II: BannerlordMount & Blade II: Bannerlord
Mount & Blade II: BannerlordMount & Blade II: Bannerlord

Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is a sprawling medieval sandbox RPG, and we haven’t even seen it all yet. With so many hidden features, visuals may not be a priority for TaleWorlds during Early Access. Sure, it’s much prettier than its predecessor, but the easy animations and other graphical details are arguably below today’s standards. Also, if you think the soundtrack sounds familiar to you, make no mistake, they’ve recycled the old songs albeit with different arrangements. Although it brings a sense of nostalgia, we would have liked to hear something new, especially on the campaign map.

Our adventure in Calradia has been fun so far and it looks like it’s only going to get better. We have already liked several features, in addition to the new aspects that make it a worthy sequel. It’s clear that, being still in early access, we see a lot of things that should improve. For example, we ran into a few bugs, one of which required us to restart the game (since it happened during the tutorial phase and we didn’t have a save file yet), but overall our gameplay was fairly smooth. Yet for all the splendor of it, Bannerlord could be compared to hitting a piñata: we keep hitting while trying to hit the target until we finally hit it. When this happens, we get various rewards, but have little to no clues as to where to aim. So if TaleWorlds better appeals to new players, hopefully we’ll be able to sample the many delights that Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord has to offer sooner.

Mount & Blade II: BannerlordMount & Blade II: Bannerlord

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Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord – Impressions Early Access


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