Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is still very much in development. Fans have been eagerly anticipating the release of this open-world role-playing game from the moment it's been announced. The wait has been, quite frankly, torturous for those of us who have dozens or even hundreds of hours in games from this franchise.
However, waiting for a game is often worth it if they do things right. Every additional day of development is one more feature smoothed out, one bug crushed, one pie-in-the-sky idea implemented. The games from the previous engine had plenty of flaws and there are sure to be ways that Taleworlds can improve things for the sequel.
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord - The Legacy of WarbandMount & Blade was a fine enough title in its own right, but it didn't really hit its stride until we got the upgraded version Mount & Blade: Warband. Some think of Warband as an expansion, but it's arguably more of an upgraded version like The Witcher: Enhanced Edition. Warband solved many of the problems inherent in Mount & Blade, and subsequent expandalones, DLCs, and fan-made mods also addressed some of the weaknesses of the original.
That said, Mount & Blade: Warband still had plenty of problems. Tutorials were sorely lacking and players had to rely on external guides to figure things out in many cases. Management of your troops and resources was often a pain. Friendly forces would often run off and abandon you, leaving you to fight the enemy with a weaker force in some cases. Allied lords ranged from opportunistic to downright idiotic. (It must have been all the inbreeding.)
Suffice it to say, people who have hundreds or thousands of hours in Mount & Blade love it despite these many flaws. Bannerlord represents a genuine opportunity to Taleworlds to correct the flaws of the past. One of the first and most important things to focus on is the battle mechanics.
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord - Soldiers on the FieldBattles in Mount & Blade: Warband worked with an interesting sort of system mixing reserves and percentages. If you had an army of 1,000 facing off against an army of 1,000, you wouldn't necessarily see all of those troops on the field. Only a portion would enter the battle and then some reinforcements would spawn once you got through those.
Some folks have lamented the graphics of Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord. Sure, it may not be next-gen, AAA, blow-your-eyes-out-of-their-sockets gorgeous, but that's totally fine. Less-intense graphics means a better chance of seeing more soldiers on screen at the same time. What I care about is seeing a lot of soldiers on the field and, perhaps more importantly, seeing those soldiers act somewhat intelligently.
Basic formations were certainly possible with Warband and other games on the engine, but it was difficult to get into more complex works. Pincer formations, box formations, and anything more complex than "stand in a line and advance ten paces" was all but impossible. The Romans, for example, owed much of their success to their brilliant tactics including the use of the phalanx and the mighty testudo formation.
I'd love to see soldiers be able to get into more complex formations and actually make use of them. What's more, I'd like to see the types of troops matter a little more. A charge of light cavalry at a wall of spearmen should be a very bad idea, but it doesn't quite play out in the same way that it should because spearmen don't properly form a wall of spikes as they should. Shields help, but soldiers don't make a proper shield wall that should largely protect from most arrow fire. There's a lot of potential for improvement here.
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord - Managing Your Kingdom and Its MenAs any fan of the franchise can tell you, there's much more to Mount & Blade than just the battles. You could have dozens or hundreds of troops in your command and even more than that garrisoned at critical defensive locations. Troop management, however, left much to be desired.
First of all, your troops had to be paid. This meant that you would have to travel from fief to fief collecting taxes or running quests. Players in Warband could invest in some businesses which would certainly help with the cashflow. This was a little bit tedious; why couldn't we have a tax collector and pick up our earnings at one central location designated as our base? There's always been a guy for that, but Warband lacked such a mechanic.
Food, too, was another issue to deal with. Large swathes of your inventory had to be taken up by foodstuffs and variety was important to keeping your troops happy. As annoying as this system may have been, I actually agreed with it—after all, an army marches on its belly. What I didn't agree with was the comparatively small amount of inventory space you had with you. I would have liked the ability to have caravans or pack mules that could come along with the army and store plenty of food for weeks or months at a time.
The worst bits, though, were when you tried to cut out on your own. You had to give some of your castles and cities to lords, lest you look like a greedy bastard. Unfortunately, these lords were prone to betrayal, thievery, and infighting. You couldn't execute the worst of them, nor could you lock them away forever as they would eventually escape. Where's the Tower of England when you need it? The situation with the lords is easily the area that needs to be shored up the most and I hope that Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord handles it in a more intelligent and less frustrating fashion.
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord represents a huge opportunity for Taleworlds to improve upon a game that already had a pretty solid foundation. The devs have expanded the game in many respects; it seems to be getting bigger and better in every way.
With that said, many of the fundamental systems of the previous engine's games have had more than their fair share of flaws. It is my earnest hope that Taleworlds has managed to do more than just add some new bells and whistles for players to enjoy. If there isn't substantial improvement to many of the flawed underlying systems, Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord will be no better than The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim—wide as an ocean and deep as a puddle.
A hint at a closed beta test for its Multiplayer Skirmish mode is a clue that we may be seeing Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord sooner than we think. For now, all we can do is add the game to our Steam Wishlist and patiently wait to see if Taleworlds can deliver something truly wonderful.
What would you like to see in Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord? Do you think Taleworlds is doing a good job of working on this long-awaited sequel? Let us know in the comments below!