With combat being an integral part of Mount & Blade Blade 2: Bannerlord, TaleWorlds Entertainment is dead set on getting it right, and in their latest blog, they went into great detail in regards to the AI melee combat overhaul.
Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord's AI sports individual combat/melee levels that dictate the proficiency of each fighter on the battlefield, which ultimately lets skilled swordsmen easily defeat flimsier or less skilled units.
However, noticing the flaws in their current system, where highly skilled Bannerlord bots still appeared hesitant at times. Admirably, TaleWorlds conceded it looked a bit buggy, because you'd expect a top soldier to be a top killing machine.
"Individual AI now considers its opponent’s blocking direction when deciding its own attack direction, and this applies at all melee levels. As the melee level begins to increase, the bot starts to have a greater understanding of the combat mechanics of the game and the fight which they are involved in. This includes stun durations, combat timings and enemy equipment, while also giving greater consideration to the orders issued to it by the formation AI that sits above the individual AI", they wrote.
The same logic applies for Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord bots whether they're told to hold the line or to be more aggressive. Skilled soldiers will better sniff out when they have an opening, or when to consider another course of action, including quickly switching up the attack direction.
They provided a video that demonstrates the new AI in action, and it indeed looks livelier and more fluid with its actions.
TaleWorlds said that this will lead to more intense bot fights at higher melee levels, which should make Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord a challenge to even the most battle-hardened franchise veterans. However, those looking for a more casual game need not worry as you can change up AI difficulty in-game.
If you're interested in the exact workings of the new AI, TaleWorlds provided a detailed breakdown of a few scenarios. We've just formatted it for easier reading here:
A bot has been told to hold in a shield wall formation, so it should act defensively and try to maintain its position. However, the defensive order given doesn’t affect how proficient the bot is in combat, i.e. it will still attack and defend according to its combat level, therefore, it should still try and exploit any opening that it gets and will attack if an opportunity arises. The formation order simply dictates that bot should play more conservatively/defensively.
The bot is then issued a charge order. The bot now decides to act in a more aggressive manner, pushing towards enemies to engage them rather than holding a position.
During the fight, the bot is looking to see if there is a window for an attack, or whether they should defend an incoming attack. While making this decision, it is considering what their opponent is doing. If the enemy is holding an attack in place, the bot will respond with the correct block direction. If the bot successfully blocks the attack, it now knows that it has a window in which to reply with its own attack.
However, while readying the attack the bot recognises that their opponent is blocking in the correct direction, and therefore decides to switch its own attack direction to avoid the attack being blocked (unless the enemy is holding a shield, in which case the bot will realise that switching their attack direction isn’t too important as the shield can block blows from different directions). Depending on the combat level of the AI, it will make and carry out these decisions in a quicker amount of time, albeit still with some slight variation to make it feel less robotic.