Early Times in Mount & Blade II Bannerlord

Mount & Blade II Bannerlord

I think part of the reason I’ve been holding out writing about Bannerlord is that as I spent more time with it — I came to a realisation it wasn’t quite as fun as I wanted it to be. Yet. But I’ve just now come out of a session with an intent to take another couple of screenshots for this post. I started that session… Oh… You know; about three hours ago.

So like my very first impressions would seem to suggest — there is still something incredibly engrossing about the M&B2 formula. Or perhaps I should just say the Mount & Blade formula because at it’s core? Very little is different. A fresh coat of paint has been applied — and no mistake, it’s a pretty spiffy new coat of paint.

Mount & Blade II Bannerlord
Riding through a relatively peaceful (for now) village in the snowy reaches of Calradia

But it took me all the way back to… *checks* Sometime between 2004 and 2006. The original Mount & Blade title didn’t launch until 2008; but it had what was perhaps one of the first examples of an Early Access release in 2004. Over the course of its development, you could buy in for a lower than retail cost that would occasionally raise in price for new purchasers as additional features and content were added.

In any case, if I were to narrow down that timeframe a little more it was probably late 2005 – early 2006. I was playing Mount and Blade extensively then while listening to interviews with Peter Hines talking about all things Oblivion. I had just started to get the hang of the game, how to appropriately aim weapons while mounted and starting to feel like a battle-God of the field. I had pledged my allegiance to the Swadians, I’d had a few villages placed under my control — and yeah; sure — they weren’t doing so well just yet — and I’d participated in a number of Castle sieges as a vassal to my lord.

Mount & Blade II Bannerlord
Climbing the steps of a Lord’s Keep; ready to once more swear my allegiance in the hopes of future lands and glory.

And despite 15 or so years since that time, playing Mount & Blade 2 transported me back there immediately. The combat feel is identical in almost all ways. Lance couching is a manual action now, but it slips into the flow of combat pretty well and removes some of the ‘Press forward to go + win’ associated with lance combat in the original.

The combat otherwise feeling identical shouldn’t be taken as a slight either — it’s just that M&B had already mastered the feel of mounted combat in the last go around. I’m sure they’ve spent some time attempting to find tweaks and other areas to improve things — but what can you really do when it’s this close to perfection?

Unfortunately, some other things have been copied across though.

Such as the repetitive nature of quests and the mid-game more generally. And it was in these areas I started to feel the ‘grind’ of the game and the rise of my disappointment.

Mount & Blade II Bannerlord
Don’t worry — after this encounter this lot all very much questioned the life choices that led them to this point.

But Mount & Blade 2 is following in the footsteps of the original in another way too — it’s an Early Access title with a stunning rate of updates coming out.

So far? Most of them have been minor balance tweaks and crash fixes to be sure. But it’s been almost every other day. I hope the team isn’t burning themselves out to achieve this rate of patching.

It seems the worst of the crash issues have been sorted out now so I’m hopeful attention can be turned to balancing out the more significant issues in the mid-game.

But there is more than just this to dig into — there is quite an indepth trading system, including the ability to buy-out workshops and fund your own caravan expeditions. You can get into smithing and eventually learn to craft named legendary quality weaponry.

That three hour session of ‘just jumping in for a couple of screenshots’? That one where I also ended up forgetting to take even a single screenshot? I had started a new campaign focused on more of a trade orientated character and found quite a nice little route in the Southern Empire taking hardwood from a provider town to a few nearby smithy towns that had a need for it.

Mount & Blade II Bannerlord
From an earlier campaign; where as a highly skilled *cough* archer, I was often given that contingent to lead in my Lord’s armies.

I’m thinking I might allow the frenetic patching phase to pass by a little before I start jumping too heavily into M&B2. But we’ll see. I’m already >12 hours deep (which is nothing compared to some on my friends list though, geez) and the urge to jump back in for more may yet strike.

…Like… Right now.

This was a post for Blapril 2020, the annual blogging event (albeit usually as Blaugust), brought forward to help bring a sense of community during the challenging time of COVID-19. Blaugust is an event aiming to welcome new blogger blood into the fold and revitalise those who’ve been at it a little longer.

The Blaugust Discord is still available to join in, year round!


Gamer, reader, writer, husband and father of two boys. Former WoW and Gaming blogger, making a return to the fold to share my love of all things looty.