In brief: As Covid-19 continues to disrupt global economies and the lives of ordinary citizens, video games have proven to be a welcome distraction from the troubles of the outside world. To that end, fans of the long-running Mount & Blade franchise will be pleased to hear that developer Taleworlds has moved up the Early Access launch date of their latest project: Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord.

The new release date for the game is March 30 (at 10AM UTC), a day earlier than originally planned. This is great news for folks like myself, who have been eagerly waiting for Bannerlord for the better part of a decade now – development on the project started roughly eight years ago, and it was beginning to seem like vaporware.

Moving back before we move forward, here's a quick explainer for those who haven't heard of Bannerlord before: as you might be able to guess from its title, its the sequel to the original Mount & Blade, a very old and very outdated (but fantastic) sandbox RPG set in a fictional medieval realm known as Calradia.

Mount & Blade stood out due to its unique (for the time) directional combat system, outstanding emphasis on player freedom, and engaging blend of overworld strategy and real-time battles. Players can start as a peasant and work their way up the ranks to become a noble (or even a ruler in their own right), or go the route of a bounty hunter or trader. The possibilities were truly limitless, especially when you downloaded an overhaul mod or two.

Bannerlord seeks to preserve all of those systems and expand upon them when it hits the market in just a few short days. It adds in features like aging, permadeath, an heir system, improved kingdom management, and much more. However, since the game is launching as an Early Access title, don't expect a complete product right away.

In its new release date announcement blog post, Taleworlds openly admits that some previously-unveiled features will be missing, incomplete, or outright disabled on March 30. Kingdom and Clan management, for example, will not be present right away, nor will weapon crafting. Further, the game will contain several re-used or placeholder scenes (interior areas for castles and buildings).

Bannerlord will, however, feature a full multiplayer system, complete with modes like Skirmish, Captain (where two players each control their own detachment of AI troops), Team Deathmatch, and Siege. Other modes and content will be added over time.

Mount & Blade: Bannerlord will run you $50 ordinarily, but it will be 10 percent cheaper for the first two weeks post-launch. If you own any of the other Mount & Blade games on "select" digital stores, you can knock that price down another 10 percent to just $40.