Mount and Blade II: Bannerlord, developed by TaleWorlds Entertainment, is a medieval sandbox game set in the fictional continent of Calradia. This tactical action-adventure game gives players the agency to create and achieve their own goals around a loose storyline and side quests.
Bannerlord is Nearly a Decade in the Making
Mount and Blade is a slow burn of a franchise. The sandbox-style games that thrust players into the middle of a countrywide conflict started with a small yet dedicated fanbase.
Originally released in 2008, the original Mount & Blade was one of the first games to utilize RTS-style warfare mechanics while simultaneously maintaining control of a character on a 3D battlefield. Two years later, in 2010, TaleWorlds followed up on their original IP with Mount & Blade Warband, greatly enhancing many of the features players enjoyed in the first entry.
With a few expansions and updates in between, Mount and Blade II: Bannerlord is a culmination of nearly a decade of work and dedication.
Unlike many other contemporary games, Bannerlord uses its own game engine, built from the ground up by TaleWorlds.
So, with all this build-up, has Bannerlord lived up to the expectations?
Mount and Blade II: Bannerlord is a Different Kind of Game
If you are looking for a strong narrative structure, an on-rails storyline, and QoL “enhancements” that guide you to the location for your next quest, Bannerlord is not for you.
The fact that the game contains an Encyclopedia should indicate to any player looking to pick it up that there is a pretty steep learning curve, but that’s also the core of what makes Mount and Blade II: Bannerlord so great.
If you’re tired of the handholding that most modern games provide and would rather be in a sandbox world where you can influence world politics, get married, and start your very own empire, you might have just found your next game.
Combat is at Bannerlord’s Core
Yes, all of the above is possible in Bannerlord, and you will most likely do all of it if you play through a campaign long enough–but if we’re being honest, the core of the gameplay lies in Bannerlord’s combat.
In Bannerlord, you control an individual character (with very detailed character customization options) and a party of clan/family members and people you recruit from towns and villages. The vast majority of time in the game will be spent, most likely, doing battle with different parties on the campaign map.
However, this is truly where the game shines and innovates. Using a large selection of different combat tactics, you can control and organize your men on the battlefield, positioning them in advantageous positions to outmaneuver and outwit your opponents.
Your character, through a variety of different skills, can eventually level themselves, becoming a true monster on the battlefield. And, as in real life, the more you fight, the better you get at it, incrementally raising your skill level after successful actions in combat.
Speaking of combat, weapon combat in Bannerlord feels realistic and creative. Instead of pressing a button for a fancy sword swing, you have to choose the direction in which your character swings. This same mechanic also applies when blocking, which makes the game feel challenging at first; however, once you’re able to master these mechanics, it makes cutting down your foes on the battlefield feel even more rewarding.
When speaking of multiplayer gameplay, combat is the only option you have currently, as the campaign mode only supports single-player play.
Some Parts of Bannerlord Feel Underdeveloped
Many quests in Bannerlord, and even the main questline, feel somewhat underdeveloped and repetitive. Building up a powerful clan will require you to kill a lot, and we mean a lot of looters and smaller parties. And so, if you’re in love with the combat, that’s great–because that’s the gameplay loop. For others, this will quickly start to feel boring.
To immerse in Bannerlord requires a certain level of imagination.
You’ll get married, have children and grow your family–even having them join you in battle. And all of this is amazing and cool, but sometimes it feels somewhat weightless and pointless. Sure, you’ve just stripped your S-tier wife of her high-end armor and weapons, but do you feel like you’ve made a genuine connection?
You can take repeatable quests to improve your reputation with different influential people in the world and earn a few Denars (the in-game currency), but these quickly get old, and as you reach the mid-game, the rewards aren’t worth the time investment. There are still a few bugs you might encounter, which–if you forgot to save, can be incredibly annoying.
And so, really–in Bannerlord, you need to set your own objectives and goals. Do you want to have a huge legacy of grandkids and relatives? Do you want to start an empire? How about being a murderous raider who listens and answers to no one? All of this, and more, is possible in Bannerlord.
The type of gamer you are will largely dictate whether Mount and Blade II: Bannerlord will be right for you. The player’s immersion will depend largely on how much imagination they have and what goals they set for themselves in the game. Combat is snappy and responsive, and there is a lot of free agency and lore within the large campaign map players will spend most of their time on.
A lack of a firm narrative structure or storyline and repetitive and grindy quests may put off some players that are used to a more on-rails experience from their games.
If you’re a big fan of medieval combat, sandbox gameplay, and challenging yet rewarding game mechanics, then we suggest you pick up Mount and Blade II: Bannerlord.
Mount and Blade II: Bannerlord Review (v1.0)
A deep medieval action game set in a sandbox world that requires a bit of imagination and a lot of tactics but is ultimately rewarding and fun to play.
You can purchase Mount and Blade II: Bannerlord on Steam.
[Reviewed on PC]