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Why Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is choosing early access after eight years of development

(Image credit: TaleWorlds)

PC gaming old-heads had their prayers answered today when TaleWorlds announced that medieval RPG/war simulator Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord had been blessed with a release date. Well, it's not a specific date exactly—TaleWorlds says their hotly-anticipated game will enter Steam's early access sometime in March of next year.

After so long in development, some fans are understandably somewhat confused: Why an early access period after eight years in development? We spoke with TaleWorlds CEO Armagan Yavuz at Gamescom, right after the trailer and early access date reveal, to find out why.

"We can test one path quite easily," he said. "But with a game as ambitious as Bannerlord, we need to test and check out maybe a million different paths."

That's functionally impossible for TaleWorlds' team of around 90 developers, and it's something that offering the game to early adopters on Steam can help solve. What that means, of course, is that people who buy the game on Steam in early access are effectively functioning as beta testers.

"What it will be mostly for is making sure all these different interactions work, and the players are happy and have good feedback about all the different features," Yavuz said.

He was careful to emphasize that the early access version of the game, and the build players are seeing on the floor at Gamescom, are a long way off from a finished build.

"This is not going to be the kind of game where early access is…" Yavuz said, trailing off and reconsidering his words. "It's at a very rudimentary stage."

'Rudimentary' doesn't seem like the right word for a game that produces trailers like the one TaleWorlds used to announce Bannerlord's early access launch date, but we'll know more when March rolls around, won't we?