Still waiting on some bright spark to make a good Game of Thrones game? It might not be out yet, but upcoming medieval RPG Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord looks set to provide that experience, save for all the dragons and zombies. Set 200 years before the first game, Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord plonks you in the boots of an ordinary medieval man and asks you to unify the lands of Calradia by any means necessary. Of course, you can ignore that overarching goal entirely and live the life of a lone adventurer, eschewing the orders of your lord or king in favour of forming your own war party.
Astoundingly, after five years in development, TaleWorlds Entertainment have managed to keep a lot of information about Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord under wraps. However, there’s plenty of scope for rampant anticipation from the small glimpses we have had of the game, showing off everything from mounted combat to full-scale castle sieges, and even some of the game’s strategic elements like taking over caravan routes. It looks the part too, which you’d expect for a game that’s due out nine years after the original. In the interest of sorting out all the details for you, here’s our rundown of everything we know about Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord.
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord release date
Since the game’s announcement in 2012, TaleWorlds Entertainment have kept the release date for Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord a closely guarded secret. There’s nothing remotely resembling an official release date for the game with both its Steam page and official website refusing to give even a rough idea of when we might be able to finally play it.
There was once a slight glimmer of hope that Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord would come out in 2017, with a potential release window mentioned by the team during an E3 2016 Twitch stream. Managing director Ali Erkin later spoke about the most likely release window for the game in an interview with PC Gamer. “When all is done and we see a system working really well, we feel that it was worth the extra time and effort. While we missed our 2016 target, we are confident we’ll be able to get the game out in some form this year.”
Unfortunately we saw no such thing. Our hopes were dashed in 2017, so currently all eyes are on a 2018 Bannerlord release date. The studio told us at Gamescom that they are working on Bannerlord for 80 hours every week, suggesting they’re not being casual about their approach.
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord gameplay
The good news for fans of the original Mount & Blade is TaleWorlds Entertainment look to be keeping the open-ended sandbox gameplay intact. You’ll still lead a group of followers around a medieval sandbox, fighting bandits, fulfilling the wishes of nobles and trying to make a name for yourself by unifying warring factions and bring peace to Calradia. That will all play out without many surprises: the world map with its simplified strategic overview of Calradia is returning, the excellent directional swordplay of the original is back, and there also appears to be an equal emphasis on reputation and morale.
In essence, Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is all about making your own way in a fluid and reactive medieval sandbox. You can align yourself with different empires and attempt to expand their war effort by seizing land from enemy factions. To do so, you’ll have to accumulate followers, party members, and troop garrisons to aid in your quest for Calradian domination. Whereas combat and direct interactions take place in real-time from a third-person perspective, you’ll make all of your tactical and strategic decisions from the world map. Moving your party, managing garrisons, and plotting attacks all take place in the world map view and time is paused between actions here.
On a smaller scale, you can also enter any friendly villages, towns, or cities, all of which will have their own unique struggles to overcome and personalities to discover. New to Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is a crime system, which will see certain areas of large settlements held by crime lords, giving you the opportunity to either step in and quell the activity or assume control of the racket yourself. You’ll also be able to enter taverns and interact with locals by either talking to them or playing board games. You also have the option to settle in your own Bannerlord castles, all of which are based on real historical architecture, and fully upgradeable. Finally, settlements also give you a place to craft weapons from various weapon pieces you’ve found and seized on your travels, from blade types to pummels.
When it comes to your individual abilities and talents, Bannerlord skills level up the more you perform an action, similar to how the Elder Scrolls progression system works. If you want to be better at one-handed combat, simply do lots of one-handed combat.
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord beta
We’re still waiting on a Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord beta, despite TaleWorlds Entertainment saying beta testing would begin by the end of 2016 during an E3 2016 Twitch stream. Since then, there’s been no word from the studio on when tests with players might begin. Considering Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord will feature multiplayer, it’s safe to say that a public beta, whether open or closed, will be an essential phase of development.
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord multiplayer and co-op
Multiplayer only came to the first Mount & Blade as part of the Warband standalone expansion. When it did arrive, however, it did so with aplomb: battles with 64 online combatants, a variety of game modes including castle sieges, and a Counter-Strike-inspired in-match economy. Multiplayer is confirmed for Bannerlord, and the first revealed mode is a Bannerlord 5v5 Captain Mode. You’ll enter battle with your own army, although your role will depend on if you control cavalry, infantry, or archers. The scale of this is much smaller than previous Mount & Blade multiplayer, but there appears to be plenty of depth to the tactical combat.
Another aspect of the multiplayer experience that fans have been asking about since the game’s announcement is whether or not Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord will have a co-op campaign. TaleWorlds Entertainment haven’t confirmed or denied the inclusion of such a mode, but they did state in an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun that they had looked into creating a co-op campaign, and that doing so without dumbing the game down would be technically impossible.
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord mods
In the absence of Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord, the original Mount & Blade as well as its massive Warband expansion still have a healthy modding scene, with conversion mods letting you transform the world map into Middle-earth and the factions into orcs and humans, or expand the battle size from a maximum of 150 soldiers to 1,000. Thankfully, Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord mods will be fully supported, and the gameis being made with modders in mind. TaleWorlds Entertainment have already promised that players will be able to use multiple mods simultaneously.
In terms of modding tools, while prospective modders won’t be able to get their hands on the game’s source code, TaleWorlds Entertainment will supply players with the dev tools that they use to build the game world.
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord Combat
Combat in Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord doesn’t differ hugely from that of the first game. There’s no magic, so your arsenal is limited to realistic weapons of the era: bows, swords, claymores, axes, and shields. However, your control in fights is much more complex than attacking and blocking, as you can attack directionally by aiming your weapon in the direction you want to strike your enemy. See your foe swinging their arm out to their left? You can block it by swinging your sword to your right, then strike them from the same direction as they recoil. This Bannerlord gameplay decision greatly enhances the use of Mount & Blade II mounts (which makes sense, considering the name), as you gain far more control over how you attack targets. Attacks can also be chained together, so each complete swing you make can be quickly followed up to catch enemies off guard. You’ll need to place equal consideration into your shield, which will be damaged if you block incorrectly, and can be used to bash enemies. You can also use bows in Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord, which work much like bows do in other games – you’ll have to aim and hold down the fire button to pull the drawstring back as far as possible.
Combat takes on a more strategic element in battles and sieges where you take control of hundreds of men. Formations will need to be considered, and groups of soldiers can be merged and split as you please. There’s a hierarchy as part of the new Sergeant System, where commanders will designate units to other lords in order to better manage an assault. Of course, you’re still able to enter the fray yourself, but dying will leave your forces without a leader, massively disadvantaging them. In battles, troop positioning and managing your forces is incredibly important – you’ll have to try to draw your foes away from solid defensive positions and have contingency plans for whatever your opposite throws at you. Tactics are also vital, and enemy AI is built on the principles of battle used by real historical commanders.
Sieges are different again. You’ll fight alongside your troops to maintain morale, but you’ll also have to direct your troops as well as a number of strategic tools depending on whether you’re attacking or defending. Attackers, for example, will have catapults, battering rams, siege ladders, and siege towers at their disposal, and will be able to control them to maximise their effect, or leave them to the AI to manage. Conversely, defenders would be wise to hurl rocks and boiling oil at their enemies from the safety of a murder hole, or charge back and forth along their castle walls ensuring the enemy can’t establish a safe position to storm the walls.
Castles will, naturally, be a huge part of sieges. You’ll be able to upgrade your own Bannerlord castles with fortifications that are all drawn from historical designs used in the real world many years ago.
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord reputation
One key difference between Bannerlord and the standalone Warband expansion is an increased emphasis on building reputations with different NPCs across Calradia. A whole new Bannerlord recruitment system governs this. Whereas before the player could act like a mercenary in most situations, recruiting their soldiers from villages and making their own fortune, in Bannerlord you’re somewhat more reliant on gaining the favour of NPCs. For example, you can only recruit soldiers from certain NPCs rather than throughout the world, which means the NPC determines the cost of recruitment. This can be expensive if you’re drawing your forces from all over the place and paying the highest rates. However, if you build up a good reputation with a single recruiter, you’ll be able to recruit many more soldiers for the same amount of money.
Reputation confers more than good rates on rent-a-swords, later on a good reputation will open the doors for other, more nefarious opportunities. Need to kidnap a character and reckon it’d be easier with some help from inside the town or city? A friendly NPC might be able to help you out with that if you’re on particularly good terms with them and they specialise in that area of expertise. Of course, it’s not all soldiers and hostages. Befriending a merchant will simply net you better prices at the town’s market stalls.
Then there’s Bannerlord’s influence system, which allows you to buy an army’s loyalty. By serving the kingdom through noble gestures such as eliminating bandits and capturing the realm’s enemies, you gradually build a currency that can then be spent on influencing an allied lord to join your cause. Potential allies include the Aserai clans and the Calradic Empire.
Bannerlord also promises to put you on your backside as often as Warband did – you’ll run into vastly superior forces and find yourself a penniless prisoner with no forces to command – but having a solid network of NPCs to fall back on will make your journey back to prominence easier.
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord setting
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is set 200 years prior to the original game in a fictional land called Calradia. Effectively, that still places the action in a medieval setting with pretty much the same weapons, tactics, and armours available to the player. While the setting is fictional, it’s based very rigidly on medieval Europe, and as such adheres to the same social structures and technologies of the era. The benefit of it being a fictional setting, however, is that TaleWorlds Entertainment can compress the map so as to include desert, mountainous, and tundra regions.
The map will be divided up between six factions: Calradians, Sturgians, Aserai, Khuzaits, Battanians, and Vlandians. There will also be mercenaries, bandits, and barbarians to deal with around the map. Each faction will behave differently, their weapons and tactics will differ, and their settlements will feature distinct architecture, music, clothing, and board games. Some factions will be adept horsemen, while others might be hardier, or better at launching ambushes.