17 December 2014

The Banner Saga

Game score: 82%
Platform: Steam, PC
Steam link:

There really is something about those fan-funded games. They really seem to be having a... soul. They are never rushed, they are released when they are complete and ready and they often have an army of enthusiasts offering help, suggestions and ideas to the creators. The results are quite often surprising: the end product is a quality game that will offer you a lot of entertainment and, in this case, a replay value.

The Banner Saga is a turn-based role playing strategy game. If I could compare it to some other title, I'd say it reminds me a lot of an ancient game called The Oregon Trail (or another game inspired by it and reviewed right here - Organ Trail). The Banner Saga takes place in an imaginary world of humans and giants, made to look like a world of Vikings. There's two kinds of giants. The first are Varl, big-size, horned humoids who happen to be allied with humans The other giants are Dredge, an unnatural beings of darkness whose only purpose in life is to wage war with everyone else. The Dredge were thought to be extinct for a few hundred years but they've suddenly appeared out of nowhere and are wreaking havoc on the human and Varl lands. Chapter One of The Banner Saga starts with a big group of human and Varl refugees (on the west), seeking help and shelter. Chapter Two introduces us to another group (this one is on the east) who run into Dredge as well and start moving towards the east with the same goal as the first group. In both of them, you play the current leader (I say current, because it is possible to die and actually play someone else) during the story and all of your fighters during the combat scenes.


The game is based on decisions you make during your travels, as well as on the outcome of the battles during your trip. As you progress towards the goal, the group will encounter various people, landmarks, situations etc and in almost all of the instances you will be given two to four choices. Depending on what you chose to do, you might gain or lose an ally, get or lose supplies, raise or lower the morale (morale affects bonus actions in combat) etc. You get the idea. Some actions affect you more than the others and you might not even see the actual effect until later in the game (for example, you might be given an option to recruit someone who may save someone else's life later in the game).

Combat is turn based. You will get to pick your fighters and their order of movement/attack before the battle and then select their starting positions. Imagine XCOM in a Viking world and on a much smaller battlefield (more like a chess board). Combat is fun, especially after you get some experience for your fighters and upgrade their skills. You will mostly fight the Dredge, but sometimes you will be unable to avoid battles with human and Varl opponents as well. There are a lot of "classes" in the game and they all have different skills and that might take some time to get ahold of (especially since its hard to distinguish some of them: Warleader, Warmaster, Warhawk... confusing). Once you do that, it will be a whole lot easier and your tactics will improve. A lot.


The story part is the real gem here. It rally isn't easy to make a game where you really get to care about the characters (Telltale is quite good at that, just sayin') and that is where The Banner Saga shines the most. You WILL like the characters and you will be sorry when and if they die (think of Game of Thrones, for example). I don't want to spoil anything, I just wanted to mention it.

Now, my favorite part. Achievements. There are 39 of them and more than half will unlock as you progress with the story. Another 7 or 8 will require you to go through at least once more and that really is not a problem since you get to see a different story (with the same outcome, mind you). The last few might take a while - you will definitely need some experience to complete the game on hard and not lose a single battle. Overall, I'd say that achievement level in the game is average. They are far from impossible, but they are not guaranteed as in some other games.

Overall, this is one great experience. The game is far from perfect, but I guarantee you will love it. It's obvious that it was made with limited resources (there are no voiceovers for example) but it doesn't stop its charm. I do have a small objection on a combat system as it gets repetitive after a while, but it's not really that much of problem (thanks to RPG part of the game that gives experience and skill upgrades). The Banner Saga 2 has been confirmed recently and I am really looking forward to it.

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