The Mount & Blade series has a long and storied history among the PC gaming community, with the first game releasing back in 2008. Since then, there have been a few expansions but never a true sequel until recently in the form of the early access release of Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord.
For those of you who might also be in the same situation as me, particularly not knowing anything about the series, let me do my best to explain what the game actually is. In Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord, you start off by creating your own medieval warrior and filling out their history to determine different buffs and abilities you’ll inherently have. From there you’re tossed into a combat tutorial that teaches you the basics of ranged, close-range, and mounted combat.
Combat so far has felt unwieldy and difficult to control. If you’ve played games like Chivalry or Mordhau, combat generally feels the same albeit less impactful overall. By aiming in a direction and clicking the left or right mouse button, you’ll attack or guard respectively, in that direction. It’s a lot of wiggling the camera around in the hopes that you land a clean shot on an enemy. In my opinion it’s serviceable, but never actually felt like I was in control of combat, but I’m sure with time you can get a good feel for that.
After the combat tutorial is completed, you’re launched into the tutorial for the other part of Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord, the RPG and strategy stuff. I arrived at a small town in the hopes of tracking down the people who kidnapped my younger siblings (I think?). There are a couple of layers here, so let’s start from the top.
On the world map was the village my brother and I were heading to in an effort to find answers. I clicked on the village and was presented with a menu that prompted me to either walk around, buy supplies, or recruit soldiers. Being the tutorial, I chose walk around, which hit me with a quick loading screen and then I was into this pleasant little village where I had to find someone who could help me. After finding the right NPC and talking to them, I was told to buy supplies and recruit mercenaries. So I had to back out of the village, hit a loading screen, and buy buy the supplies and soldiers from the world map. Then I had to go back and talk to the same NPC to further the quest. You see where this is going, right?
It was truly wild to me that I couldn’t complete these tasks while still in the village. Instead, I had to ping-pong between loading screens and menus to complete objectives that should have just taken moments. But whatever, it’s early access and I’m sure these things will be addressed over the course of development.
After fumbling through this portion of the game, it was finally time for me to get out there and do some hacking, slashing and looting. I was tasked with tracking down three raiding parties that might have a lead on my missing siblings. On the world map, I saw a raider running away from the village and I pounced upon them. Once my character finally reached the enemy on the world map, we were bounced into a skirmish in an open field. I had all of my mercenaries on horseback with me and charged the small group of soldiers on the ground. It was only after I had charged in that I realized that my soldiers were not following me.
Thus, another layer of Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord was uncovered. In the midst of combat, you can open a menu with several troop actions on it. From basic commands like telling the party to stay, follow or go to a position, to more in-depth strategies like defensive formations were all available. Unfortunately, time was less abundant and I just kited the enemies back to my troops where we utterly demolished them. A victory screen showed up, and I was prompted to take prisoners. I took all of them cause I literally don’t know why I wouldn’t.
Upon the third and final cycle of this, one of my prisoners approached and had a conversation with me. He said he was a doctor and that raiding was not something he wanted to do, but was forced into. He gave me the lead on a bigger bad guy who might know something about my siblings, and went on his way. It was around here that I decided to stop playing for the time being.
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is an awfully ambitious game that tries to blend all of these mechanics into one cohesive package. I think it’s still very rough around the edges, but that’s to be expected from an early access title. I’m extremely curious to see how the story progresses, not because it’s a great narrative, but because I’m interested in seeing how player choice plays into the game. I’m eager to see what situations I can put myself in, and what choices the game offers me in return.
But there’s a lot of things that I haven’t seen in Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord. My understanding is that battles can get massive, with dozens and dozens of troops clashing as you grow your army. There’s also the multiplayer component, which I have no clue about, but I think it allows players to build their armies with other players, putting them in specific roles and positions, pitting them against other player run armies. All I know about Mount & Blade multiplayer is that it’s utterly wild, and primarily the reason that people have stuck with the series for so long.
I am super interested to see where the development of Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord goes, but in the state it’s currently in, I might step back from it until it gets a few more layers of polish on it, as well as some better tutorialization. Full controller support wouldn’t hurt either.