The sound of horse hooves fills days and nights. Her hypnotically relaxed clatter on the cobblestone streets of a city, the confident drumming of a trot over grass-covered steppes and the muffled thunder of dozens of warhorses that gallop towards the enemy.
In the indie computer game “Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord”, players experience their most intense moments of happiness on horseback. The ambitious early access title offers much more than just meditative rides and impressive horse fights.
As a female or male adventurer, you find yourself at the beginning in a huge game world that lives and breathes without your own intervention. Rival aristocratic houses rule villages, towns and castles, send out caravans and armies, fight each other, make peace and trade. Proud desert peoples meet grim northern men, Byzantine-looking kingdoms go to war against semi-nomadic equestrian princes.
Without referring to real peoples or history, “Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord” shows a colorful, lovingly designed quasi-European fantasy Middle Ages. To make a name for yourself in this world is the open game goal of these adventures- How it is achieved is up to you.
Get married and have children? It also works.
The players can decide whether to fight for a bloody path to their own crown with a growing band of mercenaries, to gain fame as a prince’s vassal, to become rich as traders with their own workshops and commercial caravans, to spread fear and terror as lawless robber knights or even strive for a career in the criminal underworld. Even getting married and having children is possible. If the own character dies, the offspring can take over his legacy.
It is the almost indestructible gameplay of the classic “Pirates!” – with the difference that you are not looking for luck as a Caribbean privateer, but as a knight on horseback.There is no fixed gameplay in such sandbox games: Every time you start a game you create your own story, also with the help of a intimidating complex skill and talent system.
On them with roars
While you travel the continent using a world map view and make many decisions directly from menus, you can also enter cities, villages and castles as a walker. You can visit traders, princes and city dwellers, take part in tournaments or play a board game with bored nobles.
The playful core of “Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord”, however, are the countless small and large battles. His troops from the infantry, cavalry and medieval artillery, which are at best well equipped and motivated, can be commanded at strategically favorable locations on the battlefields at the push of a button and even lead to breakneck attacks. A combat system is used that consists of simple attacks and blocks from four directions.
Short battles with poorly armed bandits at the beginning of the game eventually lead to epic battles with hundreds of participants or tactical castle sieges. They use catapults and other siege machines to shoot defense systems and walls ready for storms before the fight continues in the alleyways of the fortresses.
Traditional early access
How mechanically solid and entertaining these battles are can be seen not only in the single player part, but also in the multiplayer modes, in which the action against real teammates continues without a sandbox campaign.
How many people will face each other online on the virtual battlefield is currently still uncertain. Because “Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord” is still far from being finished despite almost ten years of development.
However, its makers are pioneers of early access: the Turkish indie studio TaleWorlds, founded in 2005 by a couple, already financed the debut in 2008 in a way that was completely new at the time.
By keeping promises and, above all, exceptional support for a thriving mod community, the studio convinced players. Thanks to fan conversions, the predecessor was also allowed to go into battle in the world of “The Lord of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones” or as a samurai. The same modder-friendliness and thus longevity were now guaranteed for the second part.
Construction site middle ages
With 200,000 simultaneous players on Steam, “Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord” made a sensational start to the early access release a few days ago. The main attraction is certainly the completely redesigned graphic presentation, which does not quite keep up with current glossy graphics, but can still offer breathtaking atmospheres and scenes.
There is little new in terms of play, but at the same time the new game is just as motivating and indestructible as its predecessor. Only a few small things are still annoying: the new experience system, for example, has so far ensured a very slow initial phase, the enemy’s firearms and throwing weapons have absurdly high accuracy and the multiplayer servers are shaky. But all of that should improve over time.
It will probably take at least another year until “Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord” is actually finished. And, Warning: At the moment you may have to reckon with having to start over with major updates.
But if you don’t mind, you can immerse yourself in this medieval parallel world and be entertained for days, weeks and months. A more exciting medieval game than “Mount & Blade 2: Banner Lord” is not on the horizon in the long run.
“Mount & Blade 2: Banner Lord” is in early access released on Steam for Windows.