Update: Earlier this week I tried out Bannerlord Online, a mod that turns Mount and Blade 2: Bannerlord into an MMO. When you join the server you'll find hundreds of other players all over the map, completing quests and fighting each other in the arena.
When I played it on Tuesday, the server supported 800 players (and there were about 625 on at the time). And now, just a few days later, the modders have increased the amount of players the mod can support. It currently stands at 1,100 players on one server, and 600 on a second server. Both servers are nearly full (at least at the moment), and it looks like additional servers are being added.
Original story: If you've been looking for a different way to play Mount and Blade 2: Bannerlord, they don't come much more different than this. Bannerlord Online is a mod that turns Mount and Blade 2 into an 800-player MMO.
Yeah. 800 players in the same world! It's really that big. Jump into the familiar world of Bannerlord, create a character, and explore the sandbox to complete quests and rise to power much like you would in singleplayer… but alongside hundreds of other players at the same time.
I gave Bannerlord Online a try earlier, and it's pretty fantastic, even though the mod isn't complete yet and there's only a single server currently available in Russia, meaning (at least for me) there's a bit of lag at times. I started a new character and loaded into the game, where just as in the vanilla version, I'm essentially a penniless nobody who has to get to work earning money and assembling a crew.
The difference is, there are dozens of penniless nobodies filling the streets of the city I start in. It's crowded. So crowded in places it can be hard to muscle through the mob of other players to get into certain areas.
But that's such a fun feeling when you compare it to the normal game, where you're the only real person around. With players gathering around quest-giving NPCs and then dashing off to complete their objectives, it really does feel like an MMO.
Things got even funnier when I left the city to visit one of the small villages, where I'd be able to earn money by working on a tiny strip of farmland. The NPC farmer said he would pay me to cultivate the earth, plant seeds, water the crops, and harvest his grain. But there were already dozens of other players, some of them nearly naked, swarming over the farm to grind out those early few denars:
That farmer must be doing pretty well for himself to be able to pay a crew of 50 workers to pick his crops. Well, money is money. I collected some grain and got paid.
Visiting other towns and cities further from your starting point means encountering smaller crowds of players, but there are still people almost everywhere on the map. Just approach a city and you'll see players begin to pop up in view. And of course there's no pausing in Bannerlord Online, which means battles against bandits and NPC armies happen in real time, with other players able to join the fight as they reach the conflict. Currently, the mod supports 100 vs 100 battles, but the modders are hoping to double that size.
When I got tired of farming, I headed to the arena where you can battle other players (or just watch from the stands among a mob of restless onlookers). I thought the PvP arena combat worked pretty well, with the main problem being I haven't played Bannerlord in so long I couldn't remember how to fight effectively. My random teammates and I won an archery fight, then lost battle involving maces and shields. I still earned a bit more money.
Most of the lag I experienced took place in menus—checking my inventory and selling items to NPC merchants is a very sluggish process. But otherwise, Bannerlord Online runs surprisingly smoothly. It looks like there are plans to add a server in Europe and one in the US, eventually. For now, I'd still recommend trying out the single server in Russia—it fits 800 people, which still seems amazing to me, and there were about 625 players when I tried it. Plenty of room for a few more.
To try it yourself, you'll need a copy of Mount and Blade 2: Bannerlord installed, and the mod's launcher which you can download here. It's extremely painless getting it to run. Just make an account when prompted, confirm your email, and then login. You'll join the world, create a new character, and start playing. It really does feel very much the same as the singleplayer version of the game, except, you know… the hundreds of other people you see everywhere. Global chat, as you might imagine, can be pretty godawful at times, but as you get further away from your starting point, you'll get a bit of breathing room and a break from the constant chat messages.