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Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is finally here and it's bloody brilliant

Mount And Blade II: Bannerlord
Mount And Blade II: Bannerlord (Image credit: Windows Central)

Mount & Blade is a series of strategy and role-playing games I've been following for a decade. Warband is considered the best of the first game, released in 2010, setting a precedent for immersive, open-worlds with various factions, real-time combat, massive battles, and plenty to do. People still play it, even today. It has certainly aged like a fine wine, but now Turkey-based TaleWorlds Entertainment is back once again with a sequel-prequel.

Bannerlord is a sequel-prequel, set approximately 200 years before Warband. Set in the vast continent of Calradia, you're tasked with starting out on your own, raising your own forces, engaging enemies in battles, and participating in the political system. Bannerlord promises to be so much more than what's come before with plenty of improvements in tow.

But just how good is this Early Access release, and is it worth your time and denars?

Everything is different, but nothing has changed

Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The gameplay loop in Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is roughly identical to Warband. This isn't bad, because it's what made the first Mount & Blade so engaging and popular. The development team has been able to fine-tune the gameplay loop to give it some additional depth. There's plenty to do as you traverse the war-torn continent.

And you're mostly going to be in battle, either with your chosen lord and his (or her) army or with your own band of rag-clad peasants. The aim of the game is the same. You need to start from nothing, make some coin, build up a considerable force, and start taking some land. That's one path you could choose. It's possible to go into trading and master caravan routes, become a renowned bandit leader, or just get horrifically drunk on a tavern crawl.

Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is Warband but with some serious polish.

While you will be able to do all that, take on quests, raid settlements, create your own kingdom, and more, Bannerlord comes with a few notable improvements on Warband. The first is the graphics and overall presentation, thanks to a far more modern engine. The world is beautiful compared to Mount & Blade, regardless of whether you're on the map view or in a settlement or battle.

And because we're talking about better tools for the developers, this means you can have far larger battles with enhanced physics and other design elements to make everything feel more authentic. Sieges are more strategic, requiring you to construct various weaponry to target specific sections of a defensive fortification.

There are better dialogues with a new persuade system whereby your character can put forward arguments, charm, or convincing statements. Part of the new relationship system is the ability to have children with spouses. Much like in Crusader Kings II, if your player character dies, you can have one of your children take control of all your soldiers and fiefs.

Then there's the multiplayer, which is bigger than before.

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Hundreds of thousands are playing already, making Bannerlord an instant success for Taleworlds Entertainment, allowing the developers to relax a little and get cracking on fixing bugs and adding yet more features to a game that's already been well received by die-hard Mount & Blade fans, as well as newcomers to the series.

Still a long way to prepare for the siege

Mount And Blade II: Bannerlord

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

It's not all perfect in the land of Calradia. There have been plenty of reports on how unoptimized Bannerlords is. I've not encountered many issues. Nothing major and that's with an AMD Ryzen 9 3900X, RTX 2070, and 32GB of RAM. You should expect a rig with those specifications to run it well, but even I've met some stuttering, a few broken NPCs, and other issues.

It's a great start, but there's still so much more for the devs to do.

I wouldn't pay attention to the system requirements on the store page since Bannerlord will require considerably more performance right now in its current state. But this is Steam Early Access, and you should go in with lowered expectations. There are plenty of bugs. Broken dialog in conversations, render distance pop-ins, lag, braindead AI, just to name but a few.

Another major complaint I've seen on social media and in player reviews - one I agree with - is the lack of additional content. The improved graphics, combat, and other areas of the game are welcomed, but you'll be disappointed if you go into Bannerlord, thinking it'll be massively different to Warband. It isn't.

There are plenty of features we'd all like to see added to Bannerlord, and I'm sure Taleworlds Entertainment is listening to community feedback, but let's remember that Minecraft, Terraria, and even the first Mount & Blade were nowhere near what they are today when initially up for sale. What we have right now in Bannerlord is a solid foundation and one that already matches what came before.

The future's bright, and I'm looking forward to seeing what the team can do with this impressive game.

Mount Blade Cosplay Gameplay

Source: Reddit (Image credit: Source: Reddit)

It certainly is time to harvest, my friends. I'll be reviewing the game once it leaves Early Access, so here's hoping the team will address all the community-posted complaints, as well as further adding to the game. In its current state, it's Warband, but much prettier.

Rich Edmonds
Rich Edmonds

Rich Edmonds is Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.