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Watch my collection of highlighted moment videos from The Banner Saga and The Banner Saga 2 above and read my review and impressions below.
The Banner Saga 1 & 2
The Banner Saga and its sequel are turn based tactical RPGs set in a fantasy world inspired by Nordic mythology. In this world the sun has stopped in the sky and the gods are long dead. Varl(horned giants) and Human kingdoms maintain a tenuous peace in the realm after uniting to end an invasion of stone golems(Dredge). But the Dredge return in overwhelming numbers, throwing the world into chaos. Kings fall, mountains crumble, and the humble must shoulder great burdens to survive. The story follows refugee caravans fleeing the horrors of war, battling Dredge, terror, and hardship on the long road ahead.
The Banner Saga is a lovingly crafted epic. The developers’ passion for creation is apparent in every aspect of this game, from the hand drawn and animated graphics to the dramatic but somber orchestral score. This combination of dynamic colors, sweeping vistas, and rich music gives the game an atmosphere unlike any I’ve seen in recent memory. It feels like a tale spun by a wizened elder come to brilliant life.
Epic and Personal
The game’s story is deeply personal to its individual protagonists but encompassed by a larger tantalizing mystery. Hakon, Ubin, and their Varl warriors simply want to return home to unite with their people and forge a united front against the stone tide of Dredge. Rook, Alette, and Odleif simply want to survive after they are forced to flee from their village ahead of the Dredge advance. All this is set against the appearance of a mountain cracking serpent, the slow encroachment of a nebulous darkness, an eternal daytime sun, and a pair of spell weaving Menders.
The Banner Saga’s greatest feature, for me, is how the choices you make in the series matter. Some have only immediate effects, others take longer to bear fruit, and a few forever change the world around you. Resolving a dispute between clansmen may improve morale or cause a minor exodus of clansmen, warriors, or precious supplies. Choosing to take in refugees from a fallen city may result in a true ally or a knife in the back. Do you defy a king and save a people or leave and let the fortress fall to the enemy?
Praise for the Original
I was blown away by the original Banner Saga. The immersive atmosphere, the deceptively deep tactical game play, and the emotional story resonates with me still. Even now, three years after its release, its difficult to find a game to compare it to. It is unique and its sequel takes everything that worked and made it better.
The Banner Saga 2
The Banner Saga 2 picks up immediately after the final, fatal choice of the first game and one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking funeral scenes I have ever witnessed. Now Rook must cope with the loss of his daughter and the burden of leading the caravan to the Human capital. The story, and choices made in the last game carry over for good or for ill.
New characters add to the continuing drama of the caravan adding a potential threat from within. Meanwhile The Ravens, led by the Varl berserker Bolverk, set off on their own in search of battle and work. They bear with them a mysterious crate that ties into the bizarre dreams tormenting Bolverk. The Mercs travel north while Rook and his people continue south. Both Caravans encounter all manner of new threats the Horseborn(Centaur nomads), craigsmen(swamp dwelling madmen), stalkers(stealthy moss creatures), and of course more Dredge.
The Banner Saga 2 carries over its best features and offers improvements over some of the original’s flaws. Most notable is an added utility for the numerous Clansmen in the form of foraging. Now idle clansmen are able to roam and forage for supplies to keep your caravan fed. This allowed me to dedicate all of my renown, the game’s currency, to promoting my characters. This also prevents the failure spiral I encountered in one of my first runs of the original game. Without renown to purchase supplies my caravan eventually starved to death.
New Enemies, New Allies
New enemy types adds some much needed variety to the mix, forcing me to adapt my tactics even further. Horseborn are nimble, able to move after attacking. Craigsmen use poisons and stealth to gain an advantage in combat. Stalkers fight on their on and beside the Dredge making them quite formidable. Some of these foes do become allies too. A small band of horseborn join your character pool and add more depth to your already varied arsenal.
The Horseborn are the biggest departure from the norm and I think I enjoy them the most. They have the largest movement range in the first turn and some are able to move a second time after an attack. Their design feels natural, an evolution of a being instead of a human torso pasted onto a horse’s frame.
A new feature included in The Banner Saga 2 is Survival mode. In this mode is all about staying alive through as many battles as possible! Choose six heroes from most of the 40+ Banner Saga characters, then pit them against dredge, horseborn, bandits, and varl alike. Earn Renown and an item with each victory, unlock heroes to replace those who fall in battle, and upgrade the veterans who stay alive.
Its a high intensity game mode when characters who die stay dead. In my first attempt I fought 23 of 40 battles and lost 44 out of 60 heroes before I reached my limit. Regardless of the punishing losses I had a great deal of fun in the mode.
My joy and wonder from the first game still carries over into this sequel. Stoic continues to deliver beautiful vistas, haunting music, captivating characters, tantalizing mystery, and challenging game play. I am happy I am able to share my experience with my twitch audience as well as everyone here on my site. If you don;t already own The Banner Saga do yourself a favor and look it up for yourself. Its well worth the reasonable cost on PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4, iOS, and Android.
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