by Amanda French
With development for Banner Saga 2 officially announced, it’s the perfect time for a second look at the popular viking-themed tactical RPG game for the holidays. For those who have already beaten the game, there’s plenty of reasons to go back. Since its release there have been several patches that have fixed technical issues, improved performance, added new configurations (including profile saves and subtitles), a better balanced final boss fight on normal and easy mode. and modding capabilities, just to name a few. But if you haven’t played the game? You’re definitely missing out.
I played through The Banner Saga on Hard when it first came out, and playing it again, I found myself just as invested in its story. The guys at Stoic really did a marvelous job taking Norse mythology and taking its best elements to craft a compelling and authentic world. The art was primarily hand-drawn, including the animation sequences, and the voice acting doesn’t just sound good–it reaches into your guts and pulls out your inner viking…even if you have no ounce of Icelander blood in your family.
If you don’t give two hoots about how pretty the art is, or how epic and carefully crafted the story and setting are, then you’ll be interested to know that the gameplay in this game is very solid, if a bit repetitive. Combat punishes anyone who isn’t attentive to the details, and one wrong move can send you hurtling into a downward spiral in a single turn. The learning curve can be a little steep for anyone unfamiliar with turn-based tactical games, and it felt like (for me) unit synergy was lacking in the beginning, but things quickly round out an hour or two into the game. When battles happen one after the other (especially on Hard mode) that is when the core gameplay gets a bit tiresome.
Personally, I had the most fun when I was making decisions that would affect my caravan. Do I try to protect the cart of supplies and risk losing tons of clansmen? Or do I fight to save my peers, and risk starving to death later? You face hard decisions all the time, and there never really is one right answer. In my second playthrough, I still winced with every decision. Half of the enjoyment is the thrill of never really knowing the full repercussions of your choices, so consulting a game guide can ruin the experience. If you’re the kind of player that can’t live with a negative result, then be prepared to reload, and often. The other thing to note is that encounters you face whilst traveling in-game are random, so you won’t always get the same situations at the same times.
The Banner Saga was a success earlier this January, and with its wave of improvements since then, it’s an even stronger title now. Do yourself a favor and get this game. Get it for your family. Get it for your neighbor, even! This the season, right?[author image=” http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/amanda.jpg”]Amanda French first cut her gaming teeth by playing such classics as Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Super Mario World at the ripe age of four. From there spawned a lifelong love of video games, particularly narrative heavy adventures and open world games. A creative writing graduate of Full Sail University, Amanda writes fiction novels in her spare time. You can find her work at the Independent Author Network under the pseudonym, Illise Montoya. Amanda’s all-time favorite games include Dragon Age: Origins, Fallout 2, and Tekken 5. She lives on the California coast with her husband and young baby son.[/author].