Hey everyone, SaltyJohn here with a break from 40k coverage to bring you a review of one of my favorite PC Games from the last few months, Mount and Blade 2: Bannerlords!
Mount and Blade 2: Bannerlords is continuing the trend of gaming companies releasing games in a beta format and releasing consistent patches as you play. I know many gamers decry this trend in gaming but if a company handles it well, and fully supports the title and responds to feedback, I don’t have a problem with this. Luckily that is exactly the kind of beta release Bannerlords has been. I had never played any of the other titles in the series, but when my fellow TFG Radio host Tom started to tell us about the game when it came out I had to give it a try.
We went on stay at home orders in mid-March and being stuck at home all day and night I was definitely in need of a game to get lost in and Bannerlords is absolutely immersive enough to scratch that itch. I have played over 200 hours and only finished a single playthrough, although I have started several others. The gameplay is really immersive. The basic point of the game is to conquer the world, but you don’t necessarily need to do that, nor even have it as your particular goal. You can join a faction, stay part of that faction the whole game, and do whatever you want while they conquer the world. You can focus on amassing money in your coffers, building the largest army you can, and seizing cities, you can specialize in a bow, melee weapons, polearms etc. You can be a mounted warrior in heavy armor crashing into the enemy with lance and shield, a swift rider that’s deadly with a bow, a footslogging melee master. Your character can focus on having a family and many castles or being a blacksmith who makes fantastic weapons. Your character can go all-in on being a combat beast and you can level him up by fighting in tournaments, which can also win you some good loot. You get to do all this in both the macro strategy world of the large world map and the micro strategy world of Third Person real-time strategy and adventure. You can focus on the economy by building workshops in cities and providing Caravans for merchants. You can empire build as part of a faction, or strike out on your own by building your own kingdom. There are quests to perform as well!
It all starts out with choosing a faction as your character’s background and then building a character. The faction you choose will influence the character you build in some ways, but it doesn’t mean you have to align yourself with that faction in the game at all! You can be a member of the Khuzait (Mongolian) tribe for character creation but swear yourself to the leader of the Sturgians (Vikings). From there you can start to create a character that is good at fighting on foot or horseback. Good with certain weapons, has certain personality traits, or skills like trade or being a good smith. It’s fun to create different characters, you can even customize their appearance, including their size.
So one of my favorite things was to play the game with my character modeled after a Primarch from Warhammer 40,000. The playthrough that I completed was my first. I decided I wanted to play as a character from the Khuzaits (Mongolians) because an army of all cavalry, mostly bow cavalry, just seemed so cool to me. Commanding 200+ mounted warriors and riding along with them on the battlefield looked fun. So I made Jaghatai Khan my first character. I customized him to be like the Khan, good at riding, melee and ranged weapons, and points in scouting. I had a lot of fun with that. I have also started campaigns with characters based on other Primarchs like Leman Russ, who is a Sturgian (Vikings) and is excellent with melee weapons. He also tends to execute his captured enemies. I have a spear for him (the Spear of Russ), as well as a sword and axe. Leman is also really good at fighting in tournaments.
My Jagahti is the only character with which I complete the game. One of the best things about Mount and Blade is the ability to play it in different ways. With Jagathi I never had the hang of the diplomacy and interpersonal relationships, as a result, I was never able to get him married to a character in the game. He was however amazing in a siege with such a high skill with the bow. I wanted to play a full cavalry army, and I have to admit, playing the real-time battles in TPS or FPS riding at the head of a cavalry charge of hundreds of archer and lancer cavalry never got old.
I created a character based on Vulkan who took a lot of points in the Smithing category and who I spent a lot of time running around collecting the things I need for him to Smith weapons. He can now make exceptional weapons that get sold for a lot of money. Unfortunately, hammers are trash weapons in the game so I have him use as many two-handed weapons as possible, and all the weapons he uses he has forged himself. Whenever he forges a new weapon for himself I give his previous weapon to one of his companions, so his companions are all really well armed too. While I finished the game with Jagathi I have poured the most hours into my game as Vulkan, conquering less but getting the full game experience more. You’ll note Vulkan is married, has 3 children, and completed the part of the quest storyline involving his brother.
I haven’t played as either my Magnus or Leman Russ as much. Both the factions they are part of are harder to play, and their campaigns just haven’t kept my interest the way Jagathi and Vulkan have. What I also really like is the mod for the game to add custom banners. There’s also a great Reddit community just for Banner Lord’s banners where you can find everything from 40k, Fantasy, Game of Thrones banners to banner codes for modern countries. You can also try creating your own banners, but that’s hard in my opinion.
Besides just the insane character customization the game itself is quite fun. You make multiple decisions throughout the game via the quest storyline, relationships, conquests, and politics that make each play through absolutely unique. You can choose to join the Empire to rebuild it, join a faction to destroy it, even start your own Kingdom, and conquer the world yourself. Another cool aspect of the game is each faction starting territories supply different kinds of troops for recruitment. You can build armies that are blends of different factions troops or go all-in on one. You can choose to blend your army as a massive footslogging force with archers and swordsmen and polearm wielders or have a large cavalry force. Playing around with upgrading your soldiers to better and better types and then fielding them in different places with different strategies is immersive, challenging, and fun. Another cool factor is there is a ton of online content for helping you play the game, from YouTube videos to the Reddit community, so you never get stuck if you’re willing to look for help.
If you’re looking for a game you can pour hours into that combines micro battle strategy like the Total War series, with your character being controlled in the battle by you in either FPS/TPS, and has macro large world empire building then you might want to check out Mount and Blade 2 Bannerlord.