The Banner Saga – Epic Vikings

The Banner Saga Logo

I’m gonna be honest, I haven’t experienced such an amazing game for quite some time. Graphically the game is astonishingly beautiful, with one of the best art styles I’ve ever seen and the way the animations were made, slow but nailing the right spot. The graphics and the soundtrack are, for me, a masterpiece on their own.

Quite possibly one of the most intense soundtracks I’ve heard over the last years. Gameplay wise The Banner Saga could be described as a turn based strategy game with a party/hero management system, which include leveling up using “Renown” and distributing skill points to each separate stat, it also features something which can be compared to something like Oregon Trail in which you need to micro manage your supplies as you travel across the land and each time you visit a town you can trade your “Renown” at the market for supplies or items which can be equipped by your characters.

The Banner Saga

Renown is what you could call the in game currency, you get Renown for killing enemies and winning battles and you can use that earned Renown to trade in a town market for supplies, which will be consumed as each day passes depending on how many people you have on your caravan (Varl, Clansmen and fighters) or you can use that Renown to promote your characters.

By promoting your characters you get 2 – 3 points which can be assigned to various different stats, such as strengh which determines how much health you have and the damage you deal to your enemies, willpower which can be used to increase your movement or the power of your attack on a turn but it’s a limited resource in each battle, along with many other stats such as Armor break which determines how much damage you deal to the enemy armor etc.

The Banner Saga

The battle system is pretty simple to learn, yet, hard to master. Before each battle you get to choose your party from your pool of characters and then you will proceed to the battlefield where you can deploy your troops along the starting line. Basically, units have armor, represented by a blue banner, and strength represented by a red banner, if you focus on dealing damage to an enemy armor you’ll be able to deal more damage on a later turn, the more armor an unit has the less damage that unit will receive and the more strength an unit has the more health it has and the more damage that unit will deal to enemies, sometimes you’ll have to focus on dealing strength damage to an enemy in order to lower their damage and sometimes you’ll have to focus on their armor in order to deal damage to them later on the battle, this is the key to mastering The Banner Saga combat system. Each character also has an unique ability which they can use in battle by using willpower, that same willpower can be used to increase damage dealt to enemies or travel distance during your turn.

The Banner Saga

Besides all this you have a fairly standard dialogue system, with some pretty neat writing, albeit with a lack of voice acting, something that works like the dialogue system from Dragon Age or Mass Effect in which each dialogue option will have a different outcome on each situation and sometimes those choices will lead to severe consequences such as someone abandoning your party or your caravan or taking away your supplies so choose carefully.

In my opinion this is what makes The Banner Saga a somewhat highly replayable game because if you choose a different dialogue option everytime you play a new game you’ll have tons of different outcomes. Story wise the game did an amazing job in creating a world in which you care about the characters, people you meet along the way and even strangers, while it still forces you to keep your eye open for trouble along the road.

The Banner Saga

Besides the “normal random events” there’s also something else which comes up when you are travelling through the land with your caravan and these are called “Wars”. As you might expect these happen when your army meets another army, in this case a Dredge army. First a screen will pop up showing how many troops the enemy army has and how many troops you have, including varl and men, and after that you’ll be presented with a series of different choices such as “hold the line”, “formations”, “charge” etc.

Each one of these tactical approaches will have a very different outcome depending on the battle, the number of troops on each army and depending on your army morale. Morale basically increases and decreases depending on your dialogue choices and if you win or loose battles and wars, lower morale will result in a decrease of the amount of willpower that your characters will start each battle with. When travelling through the land you can also set up camp, on your camp you can arrange your party, you can chat with your party members, check the game map which will provide a description for each region and town on the game world and you can also rest. Resting is fairly important because it can trigger certain events and it’s by resting that your characters heal from injuries and you should always make sure your characters are healed, but, keep in mind that everytime you rest a day passes by and thus your supplies decrease.

The Banner Saga

However, there’s one more thing I’d like to say about The Banner Saga, even though I absolutely loved the game the final boss fight was just way too frustrating and very hard to beat, it took me over 5 hours to beat it on Normal mode so I can only imagine how long it must take on hardcore. It mainly took me that long because by the end, the game forces you to take two specific characters, two characetrs which I barely used during the rest of the game and so they were low level, to battle and by the time the final boss triggers you can’t rest and I had several characters injured which really hurted me thus taking several tries, I don’t think that this was actually my fault but also something on the design side, when you get there, if you get there, you’ll understand what I mean.

The Banner Saga

In the end, despite the frustration I went through to beat the game I can’t recommend The Banner Saga enough, it’s such a great game! In my honest opinion it excels in all key aspects of a game like this, story, graphics, soundtrack and gameplay, it’s certainly a good investment of both your time and your money and I’m sure you’ll have plenty of good moments with it.

Still, it needs to be said that The Banner Saga is divided in three parts and this is the first part and buying this game will not grant you access to the other parts when they come out. You can also try Banner Saga Factions which is multiplayer only and it’s available on Steam for free and by playing it you’ll be able to see how the battles play on the single player game.

I'm gonna be honest, I haven't experienced such an amazing game for quite some time. Graphically the game is astonishingly beautiful, with one of the best art styles I've ever seen and the way the animations were made, slow but nailing the right spot. The graphics and the soundtrack are,…

The Banner Saga

Great Storytelling and Well Crafted Game World - 10
Simple Yet Effective Turn-Based Combat System - 8
Some Frustrating Moments and an Abrupt Ending - 6
Lack of Voice Acting - 6

7.5

Good

Despite its flaws The Banner Saga offers a well crafted Viking inspired world with a very competent combat system and engaging visuals and music.

User Rating: 4.65 ( 1 votes)

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