Has Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord been improved by its updates?


15 years seems like each a very long time and none in any respect, contemplating how a lot was crammed into them. Within the 15 years since I first performed Mount & Blade, there’s little that hasn’t modified in video games, and but it nonetheless has only a few direct opponents aside from its personal sequels.

It additionally seems like 15 years since Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord entered Early Entry in late March 2020. At the moment, it felt far too leaky to write down conclusively about. Even after some pressing patching, I had too many reservations to provide it greater than a “wait and see” suggestion. However how’s it trying now?

Effectively. It is positively higher. And but it nonetheless provides me disquiet.

Let’s be rational, and contemplate Bannerlord’s largest issues at launch: its plethora of technical points. Figuring out and fixing these is half the purpose of an early entry interval, however for a sport whose improvement started in 2012, it was in a poor state for lots of gamers. Crashes have been frequent, as have been much less critical bugs and annoyances. I used to be fortunate sufficient to keep away from most of that, however its efficiency, and significantly loading instances, have been dire.

That’s now not the case. Bannerlord now runs a hell of rather a lot nearer to how any sport of its measurement ought to. After a yr of patches that is hardly shocking, nevertheless it’s nonetheless a aid. The loading instances particularly are dramatically higher. The place as soon as a full minute of ready would possibly bookend each battle, there’s now a mere second or two on the way in which in. Coming again out of a battle might nonetheless be higher, nevertheless it’s brief sufficient now to shrug off, fairly than actively discouraging me from doing something which may finish in violence. Beforehand, even a dialog with an NPC would waste time loading a full 3D scene, however now we merely get their character mannequin on a static background (which has the bonus aspect impact of creating life a little bit easier for modders) in most conditions.

There are nonetheless noticeable delays right here and there, significantly on stock and military/prisoner administration screens, and I might count on to see additional enhancements earlier than a 1.0 launch, however the distinction is big. Total efficiency, nonetheless, remains to be missing. I’ve at all times turned the element down in Mount & Blade with the intention to crank up the battle sizes. I even used “what number of M&B stabmen can it deal with” as my litmus check for PC upgrades, so it is disappointing that my usually satisfactory machine nonetheless suffers distracting choppiness and enter lag in massive skirmishes, even with most choices dialled down.

Sieges usually are a spotlight, however the stakes make it further irritating when the AI flubs it.

Whereas the AI appears a little bit extra superior than the unique’s, I have not seen an enchancment value sacrificing each graphical results and the spectacle and problem of larger battle scenes. The AI additionally continues to battle with sieges, and I’ve acquired a bit bored with breaking down a gate and main the cost solely to show round and watch 200 allied troopers stand round doing nothing, usually instantly subsequent to their very own siege ladders. Battles nonetheless plonk you down utterly blind, even in a siege camp you’ve got supposedly lived in for a fortnight, and its tactical interface remains to be cumbersome sufficient that I seldom trouble with greater than “archers stand there” and “everybody cost” – and even that may end up in ordering one thing utterly totally different if I neglect what button I pressed six useless horsemen in the past.

Some disenchanted followers have criticised the sport for being principally the identical sport once more, solely fancier. I do not suppose that is completely truthful, nevertheless it’s not completely unfaithful both. Bannerlord innovates on the extra managerial stage, and leans into facets that emphasise main a clan, be it one among loyal noble vassals or entrepreneurial retailers. You possibly can ship your particular ‘companion’ characters off as unbiased sub-armies or subcontract aspect jobs out to them, get married, beginning heirs and spawn a dynasty. As a vassal your fight and job success earns affect inside the kingdom, spendable on swaying the ruler and different nobles to enact or abandon particular political insurance policies.

Static backdrops would possibly look rather a lot fuzzier now, however they seem to be a much better design than the mess we acquired earlier than.

Now that named NPCs are mortal (Warband’s might solely ever be knocked out, with whole conquest merely flipping their loyalty to the brand new boss) and new ones generated over time, there’s extra sense of life and dynamism to the world, and extra refined methods to affect it. The levelling system has been improved considerably, extra perks truly do one thing, and companions now acquire a minimum of some ability. The early sport nonetheless feels constricting because of the ‘renown’ system limiting your choices till you grind up sufficient looters (there are different methods, however let’s be trustworthy with ourselves about what we’re on this for), however working up the ranks does really feel extra satisfying consequently.

The villages and cities of that world are extra attention-grabbing too, being each prettier and extra architecturally diversified. However I nonetheless do not see a lot level in visiting them in individual. Positive, I can wander round a market or journey right into a village to talk to a neighborhood craftsman. I can play board video games with the king. However I’ve by no means felt the urge to trouble greater than as soon as.

To its credit score, Bannerlord does not drive any of that on you, and provides a easy menu with direct entry to any vital choice from the map display. However that sort of makes it really feel like Taleworlds are placing quite a lot of their work into issues I will by no means trouble with. It is a fight sport whose one-on-one preventing is quaint within the wake of Chivalry and Mordhau. It is a feudalism simulator that Crusader Kings 3 can roll over and crush in its sleep (and solely marginally cheaper than CK3 at £40), and it is an RPG that solely actually modifications what the individuals you kill are defending themselves with.

The primary map remains to be good. The winter results spreading south are additionally a pleasant contact. Good.

However then, the place else are you able to get all of that collectively? I’ll not really feel very invested within the particular kingdoms or worlds (I do just like the Battanian model, and their three cities ringing a mountainous lake, however I could not inform you a single character’s title), however they do present the context wanted to make a few of these battles really feel dramatic and rewarding to win. The aspect jobs might sound extra trouble than they’re value to me, however the world would really feel deader with out them, and every so often they flip me an excellent revenue or occur to cross wires with one thing else I am doing in an entertaining method. And there is nonetheless the promise of additional enhancements, like a correctly lively legal underworld, and a “roguery” targeted play model to work together with it.

I am nonetheless struggling to make up my thoughts, is what I am saying. Bannerlord has improved an excellent deal on a technical stage, there’s extra to it than its predecessors, and it is as enjoyable because it ever was to feck a javelin at a nobleman’s horse and watch his doomed tumble into your gang of frothing axemen. However the longer I play Bannerlord, the extra I consider it by way of what extra it may very well be. Maybe that is unfair. It is actually extra pleasant to play than it was, however I nonetheless cannot advocate it outright, and I believe I will not understand how I really feel about it till it is completed.

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