In their Dev Blog for April 11, TaleWorlds Entertainment detailed their design plans for keep assaults in Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord. In addition to hosting a subreddit characterized by clamoring for a release date and expressing abject despair, Bannerlord follows the other games in the Mount & Blade series. In a given Mount & Blade title, players take control of a single warrior (although I suppose you could just roleplay a merchant if you’re a weirdo) in a big simulation-based sandbox, employing soldiers and mercenaries in an ever-expanding Warband. As the game progresses, you can swear allegiance to various nobles and even be raised to lordship or kick off and lead your own kingdom. Bannerlord will follow in this tradition, but the developers hope to expand on the systems established in previous games.
One such system simulates keep assaults. These occur during the latter part of a siege (which has been talked about in the past) when a stronghold’s outer defenses have been breached, and the occupants have fallen back to make a stand at the inner keep. In previous games, keep assaults have been… unremarkable. In Mount and Blade: Warband and its DLC Viking Conquest (the ones that I play), they’re basically just cramped rooms where a handful of soldiers try to stab you and your cohorts. But Bannerlord seeks to up the ante.
While the devs acknowledge the tactical limitations imposed by a confined space–something which undermined keep assaults in previous titles–they also thought deeply about gameplay and immersion implications. A particular gameplay element they honed in on was flow. They wanted to explore how the design of a given scene could impact the path players took through the keep, and the various obstacles they would face along the way. They took the keeps and lord’s halls of castles (which can be visited when the stronghold isn’t in the midst of a siege as well) and added various barricades and choke points. This helps with immersion and gameplay simultaneously.
On the immersion side of things, the defenders of a castle aren’t just going to sit there and wait to die. Well, unless they’re Théoden at Helm’s Deep (“It is over. What can Men do against such reckless hate?” What an uncomfortably relevant line today). But most people will take the “pile garbage everywhere and hope that helps” approach. And it usually does help! By creating choke points and narrow causeways, as well as utilizing vantage points, the defenders of a keep can try to make up for their lack of numbers.
Speaking of numbers, rather than trying to cram dozens of soldiers into a relatively confined space, TaleWorlds opted to use spawn points for both the attackers and defenders. This is also something that has seen use in previous games, especially in larger battles where fielding the entire force of each side would be a little hardware-intensive. In Bannerlord, this seems like a good way to avoid the often pitifully-short scraps in the inner keeps of previous games.
Overall, these design choices seem like a considerable improvement to keep assaults, and I’m excited to see how it plays out. If you want to find out what we want to see in Mount and Blade II: Bannerlord check it out over here.
Of course, all of this is provided the game is ever released. Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord will release on Steam when the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. When the seas go dry and the mountains blow in the wind like leaves. When your womb quickens again, and you bear a living child. Then Bannerlord will come out, and not before.