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Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord Review

Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord Review

The latest release from developer TaleWorlds Entertainment, Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord, is a medieval open-world sandbox game that blends elements of grand strategy and individual action. You have the choice of playing through the main campaign, which sees you play as a commander trying to find their missing siblings, or a general sandbox mode, which allows you the freedom to conquer the land of Calradia in any manner you wish.

The first thing that struck me with Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord was the sheer improvement in visuals compared to previous releases in the series. Though still not up to par with most visuals in the current gen, the towns and cities looked presentable and well structured, as opposed to the “plopped assets” look in Mount & Blade: Warband. Despite NPCs looking like caricatures instead of realistic humans, the character design has definitely improved here also. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll probably still laugh at some of the ridiculous facial features that grace your screen when conversing with an NPC, but at least they don’t look like they’ve been taken from a fanmade PlayStation 2 demake of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion anymore. Where the visual improvements really shine though is on the battlefield. Though often just a canvas for your carnage, there’s solid variety in the layouts of the various battlefields, and they all look sleek with their surrounding landscapes.


I was about to broker a peace deal until I mentioned their moustaches

This leads me onto the actual battles, the clear highlight of the game. Even from the initial small skirmishes with a dozen or so warriors on the field, the fights have weight to them. The variety of weaponry for your own personal use means that you can mix things up with your combat style. As you expand your army and your choice in units increases, so do your options for strategy. Being able to be active on the field to give orders to your designated groups of units allows for some pretty fun encounters against your foes. Want to send the group of bandit prisoners that you recruited headlong into the enemy whilst you lead your cavalry around the edge of the battlefield to strike the opposing army from the rear? You can do that!

The sound design also helps set the atmosphere of war. The clanging of weapons striking each other and hitting armour, combined with the adrenaline-fueled yells of your troops will immerse you in each skirmish, ultimately driving your own energy into the heat of the battle. The soundtrack beautifully fills your journeys across Calradia and your expeditions into the towns and cities, with pieces that evoke highlights from the soundtracks of The Elder Scrolls titles.


Didn't anyone ever tell you not to bring a flag to a swordfight?

What is disappointing however is how shallow the individual combat is for you as a player. Though a lot more feasible and effective in the early game when you’re facing smaller opposing forces, as the battles expand in size, you’ll want to avoid diving headlong into the fray yourself, as you can easily get overwhelmed and downed. Instead you’re best pulling the cowardly leader tactic of roaming around the battlefield on horseback, barking orders at your troops. This is all good and well for those who approach Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord as purely a strategy game, but when I’ve got a weapon on hand and direct control of my character, I find it incredibly difficult to fight the temptation of trying to lop off a few heads myself.

I found myself also greatly disappointed by the absence of depth for the RPG or democratic elements. You’ll have the same interaction repeated verbatim with many townsfolk and nobles you meet, and there’s no real semblance of relationships formed with your allies or enemies, which is particularly damning when you’ve wedded into a clan, or slain a noble’s entire family. This all comes to a head when you’ve established your own settlement. Armies will throw everything they have at you to reclaim their lost territory, and though you may stave off their forces, they’ll return fully replenished shortly after, leading to an endless tug of war that feels impossible to win. The slow realisation that dawns on you as you invest more and more time into the campaign is that you hit the ceiling of potential long ago, but the game has fooled you into thinking that there could be more right around the corner.

mount and blade bannerlord soldiers 1024x576

Your helmet needs to be at least half a foot tall to ride with the "6 Inch Mensch"

There’s so much potential here that is totally untapped. Though you may find fun in the campaign/sandox battles, or enjoy the variety of multiplayer modes, it’ll take a lot more than that to justify Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord in the current state it’s in. Caldaria is a world that is presented so beautifully in the game map, but ultimately is entirely shallow, filled with towns that look great but are pointless to wander, and brimming with false illusions of diplomacy and economy. Despite previous Mount & Blade games being great foundations for bustling modding communities, a vanilla game should be able to provide a satisfying experience in itself, and shouldn’t need teams of talented mod developers to provide that experience. Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord could be great eventually, either through TaleWorlds Entertainment’s efforts or through the modding community, but for now it’s just a heartbreaking misfire.

5.50/10 5½

Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord (Reviewed on Windows)

The game is average, with an even mix of positives and negatives.

Though Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord provides a fun outlet with its battles and the strategies you can employ within them, everything else is lacking in comparison. You might get a solid 5-10 hours of enjoyment out of the campaign before you it dawns on you that there’s not much else to discover but a disappointing realisation.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Pezh J.

Pezh J.

Staff Writer

Making money but the bank won't believe me

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