Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord is a hot mess of a game, but I still love it dearly. Much like its predecessor, it’s wildly ambitious — what if you had the agency of a Dragon Age character, but in world of political plotting, medieval battles, and castle sieges? — yet hopelessly janky. When I introduced myself to a marauding empress, she gave me a florid introduction, then told me that this was placeholder text for a famous player, and should be removed. Oops.
The game is early access enough that the main quest isn’t finished. At a certain point, a “conspiracy” meter begins to fill, and there’s no real way to stop it. The world is plunged into war, and the player eventually loses critical agency.
However, literally none of this matters to me, because I have my own, important mission: I gotta get back at my ex-boyfriend by marrying a hotter, more prestigious lord. There’s just one problem I’ve encountered. No one will marry me, and frankly? I think that’s very rude.
Getting paid (but not laid)
My character started as the daughter of a village guard, but is now a prestigious mercenary captain with a renowned army. I pledged myself to the Western Empire, under the command of a man who believes that a monarch must experience war in order to effectively rule. The belief seemed like a noble enough mission statement.
Mount & Blade 2 is an immensely complex strategy game, much like the Civilization or Crusader Kings franchises, where players have to worry about their alliances, map placements, territories, and upgrades. It’s also a character-based RPG, where players have to interact with their allies and enemies, and make choices. It’s impossible to do both of these genres a full amount of justice, and Mount & Blade tends to lean towards the former over the latter ... but I still become invested in my hero’s story. My first character had a specific goal in mind, and the game allowed me to pursue that. With a home and a lord, my next step became acquiring a husband.
In Bannerlord, marriage is an important tool to build relationships, sire heirs, and build a political legacy. It’s also something that a player can achieve in two or three conversations. First, you approach a lord (or lady, if you have the right mod installed) and say something along the lines of “M’lord, I notice you haven’t taken a wife!” Then, you have to pass several conversation checks spread across two instances. If the dice fail you, or you pick the wrong approach to woo a lord, then he will decline you and you’ll have to start again with another prospect.
I don’t know what happened, but no one in the Western Empire wanted to marry me. It all culminated with one lord, Nemos, saying that he couldn’t get with me because his family wouldn’t approve. Absolutely devastating. No one wants to hear how a guy would rather make his mom happy than take a chance by marrying you and pledging his sword to your cause.
Wading into the dating game is particularly tricky thanks to sometimes unreadable UI elements that cause me to fail conversations. Other times, characters will stare at me with dead eyes, or they’ll begin to drift to the side. Even my protagonist would sometimes show up with a googly eye.
Making matters worse, enemies were closing in on the Western Empire from all sides, capturing or killing any potential lords I could meet and smooch. At this point, I had met a cute Southern Empress. My dating pool was dwindling and I was suddenly enamored with a powerful lady who could step on me with her plate armor boots ... I may have committed some light treason so I could switch sides.
A woman scorned
Things were much better in the Southern Empire. The kingdom was thriving, especially since it had taken a massive bite out of another faction to the East. After I helped the Empress Rhagaea take a city up north, she was benevolent enough to let me rule it. My job satisfaction was through the roof!
But it’s still important to take time for personal matters. At one point while leading my troops across the continent, I ran into a certain somebody from my past: Nemos. He was leading a much smaller war band, one that wasn’t a threat to me at all. I still went ahead and crushed them under my heel, and took Nemos as my prisoner. Then, I took him up to my new city, and put him in my dungeon.
It was extremely satisfying, and although that run came to a messy end later when Rhagaea ended up starting several wars that ended the Southern Kingdom, I was pleased. My character had experienced a whole arc, from humble middle class nobody to vengeful lord. And more importantly, I had sated an extremely petty grudge. There were hiccups along the way — placeholder text, error messages in the game’s combat log, not to mention an unfinished main quest. But these things didn’t stop me from enjoying the game, and I still got sweet, sweet revenge.
Bannerlord is a dense and often flawed game, but there’s nothing like it when it comes to providing both realistic medieval combat and the ability to pettily kidnap and imprison jerk nobles who prefer their moms over me.
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