The Banner Saga
Platforms: Windows PC (Reviewed), MAC, Linux
Release: January 14, 2014
One of the first games that I ever played as a kid was The Oregon Trail. I remember being devastated when a member from my party would get dysentery, or when our wagon would sink while crossing a river. The Banner Saga immediately took me back to those days. The same feelings of; frustration, devastation, and sense of accomplishment soon came to me within a few hours during my journey through The Banner Saga.
The Banner Saga opens up with a caravan full of refugee Vikings. Vikings that have had their lands taken from them by a group of enemies known as The Dredge. The Dredge have always had beef with man and Varl since the beginning of time. Well, not since the beginning of time, but you get the idea. The caravan travels from village to village. Each one a ghost town, save for a few supplies and stragglers. As you pass these villages, you will have multiple opportunities to make important decisions that will either help you out or slow you down. Making good decisions in The Banner Saga is pivotal when trying to recruit new members to join your caravan.
The first thing anyone will notice when they first load up The Banner Saga is the beautiful environments and characters. Stoic did an amazing job at creating an incredible world to tell the story of The Banner Saga. Colors are vibrant and at times dark, adding to the unnerving feelings of vulnerability and abandonment. The cut-scenes in The Banner Saga look like they belong in an animated film.
The Banner Saga is a turn-based strategy with various rpg elements. The battlefied is a grid based map where Varl, Humans, and Dredge take turns duking it out. One of the interesting mechanics in The Banner Saga is the combat system. Combat is mainly focused around Strength and Armor. Strength is both your health and damage you deal. Armor on the other hand blocks incoming damage. There is a little math involved when planning an attack and when choosing defense strategies.
Strategy is crucial when choosing who to attack and when to attack. While most turn-based strategy games focus on Attack and Defense, The Banner Saga kicks it up a notch and adds even more strategic elements to the mix. This made the game feel refreshing and even more involving. While you can run up and attack anybody in your path, it may not be the best decision, nor do we recommend it.
As you go through battles and collect kills, members in your caravan will level up. Leveling up allows you to distribute points to different stats. Each character has their own play style, so allocating stat points will takes some careful planning. The Banner Saga does have an equipment system that allows the player to equip new weapons or items. Equipping new weapons and items will yield you different benefits, very similar to other RPG’s you may have played in the past. Aside from your basic attacks, each character also has a special ability. Abilities can be offensive or defensive, adding another layer of strategy that can be used in your favor. Willpower is yet another key aspect during battle. Each character has a set amount of Willpower that they can use in battle. This allows the character to move extra spaces, use their abilities, and increase their attack strength.
Voice acting is also top notch. This was something I was a little concerned with before I actually loaded up The Banner Saga. Needles to say, Stoic nailed it! Not only is the in game soundtrack absolutely amazing, but the voice acting is of equal quality. The voice actors really helped bring The Banner Saga to life. While the soundtrack really helps set the tone of the game, the absence of music mixed with ambient sounds during certain sequences also assists in setting the mood.
All in all, The Banner Saga is a fantastic journey, crafted by an extremely talented group of artists. Gorgeous artwork combined with a memorable soundtrack make The Banner Saga a must play game for anyone who enjoys turn-based strategy games. I look forward to what Stoic has in store for us in the next installment.