It is a peculiar time in the world. The outside world has ground to a halt, the inside world is rumbled with tension and my favourite industry, like so many others, will be rocked by this COVID-19 business. We have yet to truly see the impact it’ll have upon both cinema and videogames. So, to distract everyone; Mount and Blade II: Bannerlord was released a week early, and what a week it was. With the extra time, I decided to sink it all into this particular game. It has been several years since the previous iteration; so it felt rude not to give the game a proper go.
So far, Bannerlord is enjoyable. It’s managed to suck the better part of 54 hours of my life at the time of writing this so it certainly has merits. I don’t know yet whether it’s really an improvement on the previous title. Currently it feels more like a reskin; a nice looking re-skin which runs smoothly with only the odd hiccup. Kudos to that, I suppose.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy it’s here, I’m enjoying the game and I am aware it’s still in Early Access. I’m just not feeling like I’m enjoying it as much as I should be. There seems to be a plethora of features yet to be instilled, especially dialogue, within the game.
Bannerlord is Early Access, and it does feel like it holds that title. Sure, it’s vastly superior in its’ current state to other games which launched into Early Access but there’s just something missing. Like a tea without sugar; the foundations are there but it’s just not hitting the spot.
No doubt the community will be able to greatly improve upon anything the game inevitably does patch in. The development team have championed mod makers for ages and mods certainly made the previous game a lot more entertaining. I hope some old favourites come back from the modding community; Clash of Kings, the Game of Thrones mod, in particular.
Amassing Children and Riches
So after my ineptitude of real life, what have I learned about the game that has taken up so much of my time recently? Well, dear reader, I shall tell you.
In an amusing attempt to mirror real-life, Bannerlord saw fit to have the women in this game swiftly reject any notion of being wooed by me. As if reality wasn’t harrowing enough, now I’m being hounded as uncharacteristic enough within virtual worlds. Alas, I eventually found one noblewoman who took kindly to my advances.
Since our meetings, I have fathered two sons and am currently awaiting them to enter adulthood so I can shower them in glory. I’m somewhat curious as to the limit on how many children one person can have. The process for them to grow old enough to be absorbed into my army seems to be taking a little while. Once they’ve matured enough to take an arrow to the face I’ll be sure to test them out.
In the meantime, I have managed to amass a small fortune; enough to buy any number of soldiers into my party or any equipment that I so desire. So much money that the numerals have merely simulated plaque upon my screen, it’s there but there is no way to get rid of it. At least I’ll have something to leave the kids.
I am finding myself wandering around aimlessly. I’m increasingly aware that any castle or town I take may be lost due to the puny efforts of my AI compatriots. This is likely due to me putting off the main quests and have done for so long that I no longer have the option to continue them.
I feel as if I’m in the circle of grinding; grinding money, grinding children and grinding fiefs to take over. What will I do with all of these things? I’m not sure. I’ve certainly enjoyed my time climbing this primordial ladder to be so untouchable that it’d take a few kingdoms to take me down. Perhaps next run I’ll actually focus on the quests to pass the time; maybe dialogue will have been given to them by then.
One aspect of the game I can completely praise is the sieges. Don’t get me wrong, in Warband they were great, but now they’ve been touched up with atmosphere. A lot of the siege maps are very picturesque…once you block out the sound of screams and PTSD-inducing showers of death.
In the map screen you get to choose what siege equipment gets built; battering ram, siege towers and a collection of onagers/ trebuchets. Then when you load in the AI will take charge and slowly push these beasts of war towards the target. You can spend your time pushing these engines or launching boulders at the castle at your behest. You can also take the kamikaze route and sprint up to the castle and raise some ladders by yourself.
Now, there are some AI which needs to be greatly improved to prevent cheesing. When you’ve rammed through the gates your party will attack those waiting on the other side. You, on the other hand, can simply walk around your men and theirs and start stabbing the enemy in the back, with very little defence. They just stand there and take it.
Apart from this faux pas, I am impressed at how the AI can take heed. I’m also appreciative that Bannerlord keeps some of the more immersive features that Warband had in these battles. Primarily, the fact that arrows and bodies don’t disappear during the battle, making the whole arena feel lived in.
Battles and Resolutions
The battles in Bannerlord have been some of the most immersive I’ve felt playing a medieval themed game. There have been times where I’ve experienced the notorious ‘Battlefield moment’. There have been countless times when I’ve felt like I’m starring in my own rendition of Game of Thrones’ Battle of the Bastards. That is a terrific feeling; one which I hope can be expanded upon and refined.
It’s still just as fun now as it was in Warband to take prisoners. Choosing to ransom or imprison other Lords still leaves a pleasant aftertaste even though it’s fairly futile unless you decide to execute them.
All of these points suggest Mount and Blade II: Bannerlord is certainly a step in the right direction for the series. I had read that the developers claim the game is roughly 80% complete, which I don’t know how to feel about. It’s taken several years for it to get to this point so would that mean another two years will be in early Access?
The game is a lot of fun; if you enjoyed Warband you’ll enjoy this. You might want to hold off until more features have been implemented, or until the modding community have really sunk their teeth into it. I don’t feel as if a whole lot has changed besides the updated graphics but I am excited to see where the game takes us.