“The Banner Saga” is the work of a team of ex-BioWare developers called Stoic, and although you might never guess their origins from the gameplay. The style of narrative is immediately familiar. Even so, the tone is more melancholic than most BioWare games though, and takes place in a semi-fantastical version of Scandinavia where the land has been cast into a perpetual twilight.
“The Gods are dead”, it says – the opening line sets the tone instantly, and you are made aware of how desperate things have become in the wake of this devastating turn of events. The humans and the Varl (a race of giants with horns which resemble the Vikings) have formed an uneasy alliance, and face a common threat in the name of the horrid and murderous Dredge: an ancient race of beings that will kill anything that stands in their way.
When you start the game, you are in command of a caravan that consists of humans and Nordic giants, as they try to survive an increasingly bleak world where even the gods have succumbed to a seemingly inevitable death. However, keep in mind that it’s not the destination that’s important here but the journey. You see, the caravan runs into all sorts of people and situations that require your decision-making skills.
So, how do you deal with a malcontent general threatening to leave with his own men? Do you spend the time to investigate a murder or quickly side with one party or the other? And is it always best to invite stragglers into your company or does the risk they’ll run off with your supplies mean it’s wise to leave them freezing in the snow? It’s little decisions like that lead to more important ones later. And even the fallout of your decisions can bring disaster to your party when you least expect it. Your choices also affects the party’s morale, which is needed when you get into fights.
Speaking of combat. The game plays very similar to “Disgaea”/”Fire Emblem“/”Super Robot Wars” in that you have a grid system, and you move your characters around on the grid to fight. Above each character is a flag, one side represents your attack power, and the other side represents your will power.
Wait, what about health, you ask? Well, that’s simple, it’s also bundled with your attack power. The more damage you take, the less you can dish out because you’re injured.Well, that makes sense, right? On a personal level, this reminds me a bit of the “Front Mission” games. As your mech gets more damaged, the less it can do. Combat is turn-based and there are plenty of classes to choose from. Humans take up only a small area on the grid while the Varl takes up several squares at once and thus requires more space to move and exist.
The art-style of “The Banner Saga” takes one back to the old days of Disney, in fact, Stoic, the people behind the game, said that it was their inspiration for how they animated their game. The music sets the mood for a bleak, atmospheric journey that you are partaking. Over-all, a solid game, though much slower paced than others in the genre.
+ Art style is great
+ All the choices have consequences
– Can be very slow-paced and that might be a turn off
– Battles can feel very similar in terms of units and environments, limited by budget, no doubt.
Sound and Music: 3/5
Replay Value: 3/5
Stoic Studio’s “The Banner Saga” does a lot of things right. However, Banner Saga’s rough edges betrays the game’s small budget and short development time. Even so, The Banner Saga complete pack is still worth picking up if you like fantasy tactical RPG’s. As the game offers more pros than cons.
Title: The Banner Saga complete pack
Developer: Stoic Studio
Genre: Fantasy tactical RPG
Release date: 2017-03-17
Spent time: 4+ hours
Average grade internationally: 80% via Gamerankings.com
PEGI/ESRB age rating: +16
Price: 40 USD
Robin Ek – Editor
The Gaming Ground
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