Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord Can Be As Epic As It Wants To Be on PC

The enemy emerges from behind a white hill: three chevrons of infantry, horsemen to their left and right, archers climbing through the snow who will soon station at the hill’s crest and rain arrows into the melee in the valley. You reposition your men just so and tweak your instructions, trying to forecast the battle in terms of clean geometry before it becomes brutally chaotic, dudes whaling on each other with swords and spears. Right now, your vision is at its clearest. What do you see?

This depends on the potency of your imagination, of course, but also the setup on which you’re running TaleWorlds Entertainment’s Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord. The ambitious medieval combat sim’s battles are fluid spectacles featuring up to 2,000 individually intelligent units surging into conflict, projectiles from bows and trebuchets interrupting their charge, and corpses ragdolling off the backs of suddenly riderless horses.

On a gaming PC, “the big clash between the two armies becomes much more dramatic and epic,“ Game Engine Lead Murat Ture told us. Dust clouds trail the advancing troops. Sunlight gleams against the surfaces of helmets and shields. The sand floors of desert battlefields become vast mosaics of footprints.

Bannerlord has been designed to run best on a state-of-the-art rig. “In the game,” Ture explained, “there is a physically based combat system for both melee and ranged attacks, an advanced animation system, and a multi-layered AI system that are all CPU-intensive.” While a battle is unfolding, Bannerlord makes a lot of simultaneous demands on your machine.

Fortunately, Ture said the TaleWorlds team built an “in-house engine customized to prevent any bottlenecks in the CPU. Then we developed every algorithm to be data-parallel.” This means that if you’re using a modern eight- or ten-core processor, it’s able to deftly handle all of Bannerlord’s demands at once. “The game can and will utilize most of the computation power of the CPU now and in the foreseeable future,” Ture said.

This makes for prettier skirmishes — and more engaging ones too. A high-end CPU allows you to increase the game’s maximum unit count. This grander scale demands a greater tactical flexibility from you as a general and sharper reactions as a fighter.

“A bigger battle will mean more missiles in the air whizzing by you,” Ture said. “It will mean a bigger horse formation might be flanking your archers with a deadlier charge. The horse archers galloping in circles will have more firepower, which makes them much more lethal.” Bannerlord’s battles are a test of both strategic and combat skill, and a gaming PC ensures that you’re being tested at the highest level. The more complex the clash is, the more details you have to get right.

Bannerlord has more to offer than showdowns and sieges. It drops the player onto a sprawling continent and invites you to wage war and form alliances as you see fit. You’ll raise an army and trade goods to ensure they’re paid, equipped, and fed. You’ll follow questlines that net you better gear and tougher soldiers. All of this happens in a world that is constantly changing, inside your sphere of influence and beyond it. You might be making moves that enable you to assault a nearby stronghold only to discover that, shoot, a neighboring clan has swooped in and stolen your kill. Outside the battlefield, as well as on it, you have to scheme and improvise in equal measure.

But it is immensely satisfying when one of your plots comes to fruition. For example, you might effectively play a pair of formidable rivals off one another while you build up the manpower to crush the depleted winner of the spat. “After clever diplomacy and carefully constructed plans, the crescendo of the gameplay experience can come as a field battle or siege,” Ture said. “The feeling of these battles plays a huge role in allowing players to immerse themselves in this big sandbox that they can mold to their desires.”

These climactic events are stunning on the right hardware, with hundreds of troops crashing against city gates, ballista fire lancing through the action, and corpses collecting on the wet ground. You can be the tip of spear, where the mud and blood are flying, or you can hang back and direct your compatriots as you admire the broader scope of the conflict. Either way, it’s a suitably momentous payoff for a job well done. It’s Bannerlord as it should be: enormous yet exquisitely detailed.

Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is currently available for PC.

Recommended specs:

  • OS: Windows 10 (64-bit)
  • CPU: Intel® Core™ i5-9600K or higher
  • RAM: 8GB of system memory
  • Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 3GB or AMD Radeon RX 580
  • Storage: 60GB of available space

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