Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord 30 Hours Review

Mount & Blade fans had to wait, perhaps, too long for a new game from the Turkish studio TaleWorlds . A full seven years have passed since the announcement of Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord . During this time, many managed to forget what made them spend tens of hours in the kingdom of Calradia. However, on March 30, the release took place, albeit in Steam Early Access. And the second part is as addictive as the original: we spent 30 hours in Bannerlord in two days and we hasten to share our fresh impressions with you.

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 additions 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 on your own. 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. Join one of them or go to war at all at once, the player decided. 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. Do you want to add a pinch of fantasy to the 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, Mount & Blade has 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 In general, the game received good marks, albeit with reservations: the game was criticized for the outdated graphics, even by the standards of the two thousandth, but praised for the gameplay and realistic combat system.

With this level of graphics, only fantasy helped to immerse yourself in the game.

Primordial Calradia

The events of the second part throw us back 200 years in relation to the original game. There is still no Svadiya, no Vegirov, no Rodokov. But the fierce battle for the territory was still in full swing. The once mighty Calradian Empire split into North, South and West. The emperor died, did not leave an heir, and the carve-up began. The Northern was led by aristocrats, the Southern – by the wife of the deceased ruler, and the Western – by the war hero Garios. While they were deciding who should rule, freedom-loving peoples under the guise of squeezing out a part of their lands. As a result, five independent factions were formed.

Land map

Who is who

Vlandia is the forerunner of the familiar weddings and rhodoks from previous games. The Vlandians, mercenaries and adventurers, originally guarded the borders of the Empire. Their heavy cavalry was second to none, so the Calradians kept them on a silver frame for a long time. Until at some point they thought: maybe we should keep the silver for ourselves, and give the mercenaries titles and land? Economically! Yes, that’s just not very far-sighted: the Vlandians quickly settled on the lands and began to build fortresses, marry and breed cattle. As a result, the Imperials lost their capital and western territories.
Sturgia was the name of the kingdom of the Vegirs at that time. The harsh forest people, led by the cruel prince Raganwada, rose on the riches of their native land. The northern forests attracted merchants for expensive furs, and with the expansion of the Empire to the east, large cities grew on the banks of the rivers. The elders of the tribe entered into lucrative alliances, and with the proceeds of trade they hired warriors. A scattering of isolated principalities eventually united under a common banner and began to claim new possessions. Like the Nords of Mount & Blade, these guys are the best at wielding axes and shields. They are irreplaceable in foot battles.

Aserai are the distant ancestors of the Sarranid Sultanate. When the Empire began to fall apart, the ever-warring hermits united. Under the leadership of Banu Ulyan, the head of the richest clan, the Bedouins gained strength. No one in the game is so good at handling a horse: there is even a belief that aserai are born right in the saddle. Still, such distances to cross in the desert!
The Kuzaites are the forerunners of the Khergit Khanate. The steppe inhabitants, who for a long time danced to the golden tune of the Calradians, once changed their minds. Several clans united in a confederation and struck at the unsuspecting Imperials. The nomads demolished the legionnaires, seized the trading cities and declared themselves a kaganate. It is difficult to oppose their horse archers with something, and they actively use it.
And finally, Battania. The Battanians are consummate archers. They love to ambush and value cunning and resourceful intelligence most of all. Therefore, most often they can be run into the forest and foggy landscapes of northwestern Calradia. We spent the lion’s share of the time with these guys, but more on that later.

One hundred percent your hero

Now that we have dealt with the main characters, let’s talk about the game itself. The genre is unchanged here: it’s still the same action RPG with strategy elements. 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 and Igor Nikolaev. 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 pumping speed. Hunted a dangerous beast in adolescence? You will learn shooting faster. Showed attention to detail? Get an extra point to control.

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Choose your destiny!

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 ranged weapons. Endurance for Blacksmithing, Athletics and Riding, Cunning for Fraud, Tactics, and Intelligence. Sociality is responsible for commerce, 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. Some cells are filled in depending on your answers at the beginning. 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.

It looks difficult, but in fact it is easy

Learning is light

After we have completed the creation of the character, we are introduced to the brother. Yes, we have no parents, but we have a brother who becomes our guide in this extremely unfriendly world. First of all, he offers to undergo training. At the training ground, you can get acquainted with melee weapons, as well as understand the ballistics of small arms and throwing ones.

The battle has migrated to the second part without changes: you need to hold down the left mouse button and move it in the direction from which you want to strike. It is the same with the block, only the mouse button is already right. If you haven’t played Mount & Blade before, you will hate this system for the first time, but you will surely get used to it and love it. She feels very much alive.

Hard to learn, easy to fight

Yes, the second part introduces newcomers to the rules much more friendly, but it does not lead by the handle for long. We will be shown how to recruit warriors, where to buy food, in a nutshell, they will introduce us to the combat system, and then thrown out into a huge open world. Here, do what you want, and most importantly, as you want. If you want, attack the caravans, if you want, defend them. At the same time, they will beat you mercilessly in both cases. But it becomes especially difficult when the game begins to combine elements of strategy and action RPG.

Here you have a squad of 4-5 newly hired recruits. A crowd of bandits is running at you, and you have to pick them yourself somehow, and at the same time use the F1, F2 and F3 buttons to open the army command menu and give orders. I didn’t give it away – they didn’t fight, but simply stood next to me. However, we never managed to lose completely: if the detachment was defeated, you find yourself in captivity and wander with the offenders until the first opportunity to escape.

 

“Let go”

Plot? What is the plot? What for?

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 do not wait 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 info in the corner where he was last seen. The location can be tracked and fixed on the map, but this does not make the situation easier.

Not today

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. The initial money is not enough for this, so you have to spin. 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 two sides, or, for white, they need to reach the end of the board. Playing defensively and moving pawns back and forth, it is very easy to win: out of more than 40 games we have not lost a single one. However, you can only win once: NPCs in the tavern do not crave revenge. Anyway, for a while.

Well, you can increase your earnings in the arena. If, of course, you have enough skill. There are also arenas in every large castle, and the best part is that you can bet on your victory, which, however, is not so easy to get. Everyone fights in the same conditions, with basic weapons. Armor, perhaps, remains its own. There are many modes of fights: you can be divided into teams by color, you can be given a crossbow in your hands and made to fight “every man for himself”, or you can be mounted on horseback and armed with a spear in a one-on-one battle. At the same time, you can face in a fair fight even with the leader of the faction, if he is in this castle and decided to participate. And for the first place they always give some kind of valuable prize. A sword, horse, helmet, or something else useful. So at first, the scheme of visiting the city looked like this: I won a bit in a tavern, and immediately went to the arena.

Join a clan! We have cookies!

Before going to free bread, we have to choose the name of our clan, its colors and emblem. Initially in the clan only us and 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 pumped 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. But the points are obscenely few: one at a time, at best two. And to pump 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.

Well, as much as possible …

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 not 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.

This is a battle!

Early Access and its gags

In terms of bugs and optimizations, the game has some problems. Not critical, but there are. If you decide to assemble a caravan and send a trusted vassal with it, you can say goodbye to it. He will roll on the map endlessly, and if you catch up with him, he will not even recognize you. Of course, he will bring money, but one experienced fighter will become less.

There is also a joke with quests where you need to take the son of the village elder to repentance in another village. By the way, they are repeated almost more often than quests with a daughter. You can take this task, your son will even join your squad. But on arrival at the destination, he will not show up for a conversation, no matter what you do. It turns out that this can be solved: you need to either keep one free slot for a companion, or kick out, and then again hire someone from the acting. But it will cost 10 or even 20 times more with all the body kits.

One of the storyline quests is generally impossible to complete. He periodically appears, he makes progress, then disappears. After a while, it appears again, and so on in a circle. In some places in the cities textures sag, but these are trifles.

We got to our feet

By 30 o’clock the game is turned upside down. You are no longer afraid of bandits, they flee in fear when your powerful army approaches. There are no problems with gold: manufactories were bought with the dinars earned in the castles, and the money drips into your pocket, even if you are not fighting with anyone. But it is important to follow the “Clan” tab so that the enterprise is profitable. You can choose to open anything from a forge to a brewery. The latter, by the way, brings good money in peacetime. The same cannot be said about our first purchase – a winery. Fortunately, for an additional 2000 dinars, the manufactory can be reissued into something else. For example, another brewery.
When you have enough money, you can buy better armor and weapons for yourself and your companions, and collect a decent army. Units can be bought in settlements and large castles, but no one will immediately sell good ones to you – if you please, first improve relations. If you competently lead your army, enter into more or less equal battles, your units gain experience and they can be developed. Just like in the first part, each fighter has a pumping tree from the most ordinary militias to quite powerful elite warriors. For example, we have some of the imperial archers hired in the first hours of the game, still in the squad, but already pumped to the limit.
In a truce, money accumulates quickly: in skirmishes with bandits, the army practically does not die, the daily income easily covers the costs of its maintenance. You start to get bored, but there is a plan: now we will finish the clan’s level to 3, increase the army to 100 people and start unleashing wars. Then we’ll have some fun.

Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord definitely preserves the tradition of the series. The picture has become noticeably better, but it still falls short of the top one. Even though it’s not going smoothly in Early Access, the vast open world is well-developed and intoxicating. There are a lot of opportunities in it, and in 30 hours much has not yet been realized. Let’s see what will happen in the final version.

 

by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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