It's been about 2 and a half years since our preview article on the Early Access release of Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord. This article listed the major differences between Bannerlord and the original MB/Warband, mentioned the features the game might have gotten by the time of its full release (based on various bits and pieces of data that had been spotted in the game's files), before closing on an enthusiastic note about the pace at which the developers at TaleWorlds were releasing updates/patches, and the best things (that seemed to be) coming in the future.

This full release finally arrived a few days ago, on October 25 2022. From its EA release to date I've poured around 280 hours into Bannerlord according to Steam, quite a bit less than the 900+ hours I have on Warband and its mods but not a negligible amount anyway. Having tried all the updates the game received up until its full release, I think some valid judgements can now be safely made about its progression through EA status, and also about the current state of the release version.

This review of the full version takes Mount & Blade series gameplay and general Bannerlord Early Access knowledge for granted, and will focus mainly on what Bannerlord's full release version does and does not accomplish in relation to the above.

Bannerlord Banners
One recent feature that is rather important for a game titled "Bannerlord" is the addition of... well, Banners that Lords can equip.

One obvious initial observation is that Bannerlord is generally a richer game compared to vanilla MB/Warband. Be it graphics, quests, battles, the clan system, town/village/castle layout, character creation and skills, available weaponry and inventory management, all the above aspects of a MB game are slightly to greatly enhanced in Bannerlord.

As a result of the above, another general conclusion that must be stated without a doubt is that Bannerlord is the king of sandbox RPGs. The feeling of starting a MB game as a nobody and, following the path of your choice, progressively evolving into a powerful lord, warrior, trader, villain, or even a conqueror of the entire world, is truly something unique. MB games are arguably the top manifestation of "medieval power fantasy", and Bannerlord is the best representative of the MB series.

bannerlord birth cutscene
The latest game update also introduced cutscenes for all important events concerning our Clan, such as births, marriages, deaths in battle, etc.

There are also, however, a few "buts" that should be mentioned. Putting aside the bigger picture and the broader status of Bannerlord as an excellent sandbox RPG, one inevitably focuses on the details. Especially for someone who has spent a thousand hours on MB games and who has followed Bannerlord from its initial announcement, through its early Early Access release and up to its "full release version", these details have a lot to say. And the first relevant conclusion is that, all things considered, the release version of Bannerlord is not THAT enriched/improved compared to the original Early Access release 2 and a half years ago.

Sure, among other things, a lot of bugs have been fixed, several quests have been added, skills have been balanced, the state diplomacy section has been slightly enriched, and in general the game is in a much smoother state than the EA release. Special mention should also be made of the battle terrain system that was introduced with an update some months ago, according to which our party's position on the world map at the start of each battle affects the battlefield's terrain, thus contributing to the variety in battles and offering possibilities for implementing special tactics according to the terrain we want.

Bannerlord battlefield tactics
Archers on the hill, infantry on their flanks, and the cataphract cavalry ready to charge. In other words, a beautiful morning.

Beyond this system, however, there have been no other really game-changing or important additions to the game. Off the top of my head, here are a few aspects of the game that remain underdeveloped in this full release:

-The much touted single-player main questline is still rather lacking. After a certain point, it consists exclusively of a series of randomly-generated repeatable quests which carry on until the player eventually conquers the entire world. These quests also tend to appear at the worst possible time: you're at war with 2-3 kingdoms and have to defend 2 castles and 3 towns against thousand-strong invading armies? Oops, a "conspiracy caravan" has spawned on the other side of the map, better give up your battles and go intercept it buddy. In fact, the main quest being incomplete or unfinished would be the optimal scenario; it is a real possibility that the game's devs consider it "working as intended" and are not even planning to enrich it in the future.

-Inter-state diplomacy is as basic as it gets. It's certainly improved a bit over the original EA release, but it still offers the very basic options: war, cessation of war with or without one side paying a tribute, and that's it. One of the absolutely essential Warband mods was the Diplomacy Mod, which allowed for alliances between kingdoms, non-aggression pacts, threats and bribes among other things, in addition to various other features such as setting taxes on our fiefs and sending patrols across the map. 10+ years later, vanilla Bannerlord doesn't even offer some of these essential features.

Empress Rhagaea
Much can be said about the facial expressions of NPCs, who tend to show a "Joker smile" when greeting the player. It's gotten so bad that "better-looking people" mods have been coming out for a while now, which attempt to "beautify" almost all NPCs in the game.

-No option to hold feasts. Feasts in Warband were an excellent excuse for travel, as all the nobles of a faction would gather there and the conditions were ideal for improving relations between them, for various deals, intrigue, marriage proposals etc, apart from the obvious relation bonus to the lord who organized the feast (and, in the player's case, the renown bonus that increased depending on the quality and quantity of the food and drink offered at the feast we hosted). Feasts as a gameplay feature are still completely absent from Bannerlord.

-The world's Lore is still purely decorative without the slightest impact on gameplay. The 3 imperial factions have no real difference in gameplay between them, factions that were supposed to have been allies or fanatical enemies according to the established backstory instead exist and act in the world like generic state entities, religious mercenary groups that, based on their founding beliefs and flavor texts, are supposed to e.g. fanatically defend the empire instead behave in-game like generic mercenaries and constantly work for/with enemies of the empire, and more.

-Dialogue with lords/NPCs is still incomplete. The release version introduced, among other things, limited voice-acting in their introductory speeches, but beyond that even the possibility to ask lords for the location of other members of their faction, as was done in the previous MB games, is completely absent.

We're talking about a game that has been under development from 2012 until today, with the last 2 and a half years in Early Access. One would expect that at least some of the above aspects would have been worked on a bit more, and not appear lacking when compared to basic Warband mods from 10+ years ago.

Bannerlord world map
Reuniting the Empire, one city at a time.

I'm probably being overly harsh in pointing out these shortcomings, but that's because I see that the basic building blocks were actually already in the game since its EA release, and it would theoretically be a piece of cake for the developers to introduce some of these features in the release version of Bannerlord. But instead the mentality seems to be once again that "the modders will fix it" - and indeed they have already started to fix it - but I honestly expected a slightly different approach to things after 10 years of development.

Indeed, if all of the above had been implemented during EA we would probably be talking about the absolutely perfect Mount & Blade sequel that could ever be created. Even without them though (not yet, at least - there are future updates and/or mods to look forward to), the game could in no way be described as a bad sequel or as not fun. On the contrary, the sandbox fun one expects when loading up a Mount & Blade game is 100% here, and it's at its best. As a merchant, as a blacksmith, as a businessman, as a bandit, as a warrior, as a would-be world conqueror, as a knight, an archer, an infantryman... Bannerlord offers the perfect canvas to experience the ultimate medieval power fantasy.

The review code for Bannerlord was provided by the developer.
Probability of successful restoration of the Calradian Empire - 80%


Heir to the Empire

Slightly or greatly improved in most areas, still lacking in a few others, Bannerlord is an altogether updated version of the Mount & Blade series' addictive gameplay and the undisputed king of Sandbox RPGs.

Κώστας Καλλιανιώτης

Archaeologist/Historian, RPG Player, Motörhead fan, Consumer of Mutton.


  1. Ότι και να μας λες……..

    [SPOILER]αγοράστηκε με συνοπτικές διαδικασίες!!!!!!!!!!! :cylons:[/SPOILER]

    Περιμένουμε αφιέρωμα σε mods, ειδικά σε αυτά που έχουν playable faction την Ανατολική Ρωμαϊκή Αυτοκρατορία!!!! Σαν το AD 1257!!

  2. Αργούν ακόμα αυτά, τα dev tools κυκλοφόρησαν σχετικά πρόσφατα. Εξάλλου αν δεν βγει Prophesy of Pendor για το Bannerlord δεν μπορούμε να μιλάμε για σοβαρά mods.

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