Fire up Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord, dive into a campaign, and the first choice you’ll be faced with is selecting one of the game’s six factions or “cultures”.
You shouldn’t worry too much about this initial branch in your journey. Choosing a culture is like choosing your character’s race or background in other RPGs. It will influence the way they appear while also granting a specific bonus.
This guide will quickly break down and compare the six major Bannerlord factions, hopefully aiding you in your decision.
The Vlandians occupy the western region and coastline of Calradia, fighting mainly with spears or with lances on horseback. They lived under the Empire’s rule for centuries before forming their own organised feudal society.
Vlandia bonus: 20% more upgrade XP to troops from battles.
The Vlandians offer one of the best cultural buffs of the six available. Having that increase in troop XP will prove useful from starting out as a lone vagabond right through to your later days as a warlord or ruler, shortening the time it takes to level up your soldiers.
Hailing from the frozen northern reaches of Calradia, the Sturgians are Bannerlord’s stand-in for the vikings. Famed as warriors and hunters, many will travel south in search of plunder or for work as formidable mercenaries. The Sturgians specialise in hard-hitting melee infantry, fighting with an unmatched ferocity.
Sturgia bonus: 20% less speed penalty from snow.
As cool as the Sturgians are as a faction, their cultural bonus is fairly uninspired. Having an extra bit of movement speed while travelling through the snow is only really useful for when you’re campaigning in the far north.
The Empire is by far the biggest and most influential faction to rule in Calradia. It’s split into three warring sub-factions, each with its own ruler and accompanying clans vying for power. Somewhat akin to the Holy Roman Empire, they are more technologically advanced than their neighbours and excel in siege warfare.
Empire bonus: 20% construction speed bonus to town projects, wall repairs, and siege engines.
You won’t feel the full effect of the Empire’s cultural bonus until much later in the game. Boosting your construction speed will help reduce the time it takes to siege castles and maintain settlements making it an ideal perk for those who wish to conquer and expand their kingdom.
Spread across the vast Nahasa desert, the Aserai faction is based loosely on medieval cultures from the Middle East. Specialising in medicine and trade, you’ll find many Aserai merchants leading caravans and peddling their wares throughout Calradia.
Aserai bonus: Caravans are 30% cheaper to build. 10% less trade penalty.
If you have your eyes set on becoming a mogul then the Aserai are a great choice. The two buffs they offer will help boost your trade profits faster, allowing you to claw back some Denars which can be especially useful when stating out.
Comprised of Mongol-like steppe clans, the Khuzaits are a nomadic people tucked away in the northeast corner of Calradia though their expert horsemanship and blitz tactics make them a terrifying force to come up against, running circles around their foes with light cavalry and mounted archers.
Khuzait bonus: 10% extra speed bonus for horsemen on campaign map.
It’s not a huge buff, but having an extra bit of speed while traversing world map can certainly help when chasing down enemy warbands or rushing back to defend allies settlements.
Finally we have the Battanians, Mount & Blade’s version of the Celts. Caught between Sturgia, Vlandia, and the Empire, they occupy an ancient woodland realm, their warriors cleaving through enemy ranks with claymore swords and greataxes.
Battania bonus: Forests give 10% less speed penalty to parties.
Fairly self explanatory and similar to Sturgia’s movement buff, choosing Battania as your origin will help when navigating armies through the many patches of dense woodland around Calradia, but not much more.
Which factions do we recommend?
If we were to choose a faction simply based on the gameplay bonuses they offer, then we’d go for the Empire. Construction, repair, and siege battles are all vital to your success during Bannerlord’s mid to late game. The Aserai’s money-saving perks are another viable option.
Keep in mind that choosing a culture does not mean you have to play as that particular faction. You’re a free agent able to go wherever and align with whichever clans you please.
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For more on Mount & Blade II, check in with our Bannerlord early access review.