by Kenneth Kok
previewed on PC
Rally to me!
One of the games I just -had- to see at this year’s Gamescom was Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord. Being a huge fan of Taleworlds’ open world roleplaying game from the very first hour, I jumped when Sergio said he managed to arrange a hands-on demo. It turned out that 30 minutes was way too short to find everything that is new and improved in the game (no surprise), but I’m excited to share what I did find.
In keeping with the sandbox open world, the Taleworlds team let us explore the game at our own pace. I started the demo with my player character and a rather average looking army. It took me only a little while to find my bearings, but then the fun could start.
One of the first things I found was the new rally system. You can find your fellow bannerlords in a handy list which shows where they are located and how big their armies are, among other things. From there you select whomever you want to request to come to your aid. The goal is to create a single, larger army with enough punch to meet your goals. You can’t just expect everyone to show up though, you will need influence for that. The more influence you have, the bigger the army that you can muster in this fashion. Influence is also used in politics but that is one of the many areas I was unable to explore. Once you have sent your request, the answering lords will start showing up. There is no insta-travel here, but at least the aforementioned list includes an estimated time of arrival. Once the armies have gathered, they merge into one large army with you as the leader. A major benefit of this new system is that you will have a much better idea of how many units you will have available to you as compared to the previous games.
I took the 500 units – which was a sizable army in previous games – and scouted around to see which enemy castles and cities I could besiege. As it turned out, there were none. The garrisons all ranged between 700 and 800 units – hmmm, that won’t work. Having another look around, I saw the usual bands of bandits, patrols and trade caravans roaming the area. My 500 men strong army would not allow me to chase the bandits as their smaller armies were way too fast – larger bands move slower on the world map.
Towns are alive
A little disappointed that I was not going to see any action, I decided to visit a nearby town to check what’s new there. Just like before, moving into a town opens up a menu that asks where you would like to go. My first stop was the crowded tavern. There were lots of regular folk hanging around, but I was mainly interested in the ones I could interact with, such as the slave trader, barman, and possible recruitable companions and units. Characters that you can interact with easier to spot in Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord - a name or a title is displayed above their heads that makes them stand out. It is a small change, but one I really appreciate. I walked around town with a constant smile on my face because of all the added detail. Knee-high walls, bushes, flower banks and trees – they all help to create a livelier town center. Having specialists such as the armorer, merchant, and weapon smith and the new quest givers represented by an actual NPC really impacts how interacting with the town feels as well.
An incredible update
Unfortunately this is where my session ended - 30 minutes was really way too short, but it was fun to spend time with Bannerlord, and not in the least because of the much improved graphics. The new combat system allows you to not only swing or trust but also use your shields to bash and protect, as well as to pummel heads with the back of your sword. The physics have also improved, and infantry soldiers will be thrown back when charged by cavalry for example. There’s even the option to marry and have children, a new persuasion system for conversations, and, and, and...
Development of Bannerlord has taken some years and more time is needed still. From what I saw, though, that time has been well invested. Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord will be an incredible update to what already are amazing games.