Asking a gamer what their favourite game is, is like asking a movie buff to name just one movie that's better than all the others - it's almost impossible. However, if you base it around the games you spent the most time with, for me, it was easily Mount and Blade: Warband. On countless playthroughs I've ransacked cities, destroyed enormous armies and been captured by bandits more times than I'd like to count.
If there was one problem with that game and its predecessor, Mount and Blade though, it was the graphics. The look of a game doesn't make it a great game, but you had to do an awful lot of overlooking to truly enjoy Mount and Blade. Its graphics looked old and tired even at its original release and even the HDR additions in Warband didn't help much. However the creators are looking to fix this with the next version of the game, Bannerlord and early screens certainly look a lot prettier. Even more so, when you consider characters will have their own facial animations.
This might seem like old hat to Crytek gamers, but for a Mount and Blade game this is a big leap forward, especially when you consider the chances are hundreds of these faces will be running alongside and against you in epic battles, so getting a good warcry going is essential.
The lack of character for the, characters, in Mount and Blade also detracted from the investment you had in them for quests and other interactions. Having one react naturally to news of tragedy or elation would go a long way to bringing Mount and Blade's weaker aspects in line with its contemporaries and Bannerlord looks set to do that.
In an update on the official blog, the creators have said: "The battles are an area of the game where we think the animations are going add a lot of fun and engross the player in the action. Not only hearing but seeing soldiers cry out in fury or pain, as the chaos of the fight ensues, contributes to an altogether more engaging and thrilling experience."
They also clearly don't mind poking fun at themselves for their efforts with the previous game, highlighting a particular instance where facial animations would have been expected:
"It isn't the end of the world and it may matter to some players more than others but in a game where you have marriage, it's nice to see some emotion on the face of your betrothed, rather than that same dull-eyed look she's been giving you for the last 3 poems you read to her."
Have a look at the gallery above for some work in progress shots and tell us what you think of them so far.