I am that kind of a person who is always looking for something extraordinary on the game market. Sure, there is always a place in my heart for the most awaited and most talked about games like Battlefield 4 or Assassin’s Creed (for some reason – also 4). But I have to admit that in some cases I am ready to leave them behind and spend a couple of hours or, if everything goes well, a couple of days playing something else. The Banner Saga is one of those games and being offered for 15$ on Steam, it will definitely surprise those gamers, who have great interest in decent and breathtaking games.
The Banner Saga is not a regular game cause it appeared in this world only thanks to Kickstarter and we all know that people from all over the world won’t support something bad. After all, you can call the Banner Saga the national game and if you are one of those who’s invested in its development a couple of months ago, let me shake your hand and say thank you. You did a great job and I am glad that now we can talk about it.
The Banner Saga takes us back to the early years when RPG games used to be RPG games. Those who remember the old times will know what I mean and those who are a bit younger won’t have a clue (unless they are familiar with the classic game arsenal and with the actual meaning of the abbreviation RPG). We got used that RPG titles surprise us with the great graphics, quests, skill trees and so on. First of all RPG goes for role-playing game and the Banner Saga makes sure you don’t think otherwise.
The Banner Saga and its Story
As you start the game, you will find out that the world is about to collapse and that the Gods have left it, being selfish in their actions and scared to stand against the evil. The main difference of this particular scenario is that at the end it won’t feel good and safe. You see – you are the first one to face the evil cause this is the first time the darkest power of the world comes into your house. You do not know why it is here and what will happen next. There are no prophecies or mystical texts that will give you the whole picture, there will be no reward for your glorious victories and achievements and surely there will be no princes waiting for you in the castle. The one thing you need to do is to survive. That is your only goal and your only matter. This is not another war between the Good and Evil – it’s a war for either total darkness or a slight chance for a better future.
From the very first steps you will be surprised with everything the Banner Saga does: the way it tells stories, the way it treats characters and the way it makes you feel. If you expect to see a comfortable game with a comfortable gameplay – just don’t, because the Banner Saga is not one. It doesn’t mean that you will be offended by some actions or very complicated controls. No, just on the contrary – that works pretty well in the game. But you will be witnessing the last days of the world and those things can’t be pretty.
Also, the Banner Saga has no good or bad decisions. It simply offers you to make a choice and vote for something that seems to be right at the moment. But trust me – you will torture yourself a lot for being that logical or that noble. The Banner Saga does not forgive any weaknesses and if you show having one – you will pay twice that price. And no – you can’t escape that destiny. After all – the Banner Saga has a plenty of routes that you can follow and going back is not an option. If you make a decision – you need to be responsible for it. So, unless you plan to complete the game at least 10 times, be ready to enjoy different outcomes with different lessons.
The Banner Saga and its Gameplay
At first you will have to get used to the gameplay the Banner Saga offers. It will and won’t be familiar at the same time. You should expect a combination of tactical fights used in Final Fantasy Tactics and Shining Force, mixed with the text adventure and spiced with the ability to make decisions and change the final outcome. Well, something like that. If you need an example – here’s how the basic game process of the Banner Saga looks like. The very same moment you find yourself in a certain location, you will have a couple of options. First of all – you can talk to some story related character and help them out. Secondly – you can go shopping and equip your character with lots of great things. Oh, sorry – that is not likely to happen. Here you will have to be very and very careful because One hero can pick only One item. Afterwards, you can and even should fight some plot-related monster, take some rest, heal your wounds, and head further on by launching pretty special and unique fast travel process. During that so called “fast travel” you will be able to watch your troops marching towards the destination point but that also won’t be an easy task cause if you won’t act like a serious warrior who takes care of his troops, they might not make it to the next village. The lack of food and different diseases will definitely cause you some serious trouble and if everything goes really well, at the end of your journey instead of a powerful army you will have demoralized soldiers with the lack of team and fight spirit. Just keep that in mind, OK? Cause otherwise your Banner Saga will end before the Chapter 2 starts.
Little Surprises of the Banner Saga
Together with the food problems and disease troubles, you will definitely have some fun with the random events. Frankly speaking – they look even scarier than those you know about. At least, you can be prepared for those events you read about or people share with you. But those who come to you without any invitation and surprise you in moments when the army is about to fall down from hunger, are the most dangerous surprises. Making any decision in this game is a challenge and if, by your nature, you appear to be a noble warrior following the code, you will get into lots of troubles trying to save the innocent. I promise that you will lose a couple of armies just for your kindness and sometimes it won’t be worth the credit at all. But sometimes it will reward you with some extra.
In Banner Saga you learn how to survive and this route can’t be simple. With time you will understand that something is better than everything. Usually, taking risks in this game is not favored by the destiny (if you recall – there are no Gods in this world anymore) and usually going for better loot or richer supplies will end up with an arrow in your chest. I’m just saying. Sure, you are the only one responsible for your army and your character and if you think that there should be some action going – then there should be some action going. But don’t blame me afterwards if you find yourself in the woods with a broken sword and dead horse.
The easier you go – the more chances you have to survive the next day. Strangers can’t be trusted because they can take everything from you. Intentionally or just by an unfortunate accident – it doesn’t matter. You might hear a call for help and rush into the forest to help the stranger out. At the end you won’t find a single soul but will lose your best archer and won’t be able to make it to the next village because of the lost purveyance. Though – this is the best that can happen with you on your way to the better future.
Combat and Heroes in the Banner Saga
At first you might get a false feeling that combats are pretty easy in the Banner Saga. Well, it is definitely not true. As it appears – the fight mechanics is very complicated and if you don’t pay much attention to it – you will lose your soldiers a lot. Every single soldier in the game has its own and unique ability. The trick is that you won’t find two soldiers who will do the same thing. You can have up to three archers in your army and each of them will do something different. Also, every character can’t have more than one ability. This is both good and bad. The hardcore system kind of makes the game challenging and forces you to be very and very careful. On the other hand – soldiers with different abilities allow you to create some tactical combinations and win fights with the least possible damage. How do you like that?
One of the main features and the key element of the Banner Saga is the way you level up your characters. You see – there is a direct connection between the number of damage your troops can take and the number of damage they can deal. So, if you want to keep everything on the level and kill enemy troops before they do that – make sure you invest in your heroes’ defense abilities first. By all means the damage you deal plays a very important role but if you can’t stand the counter attack of a stronger character – you fighting abilities won’t make any sense.
There is one more thing you need to keep in mind and I have a strange feeling that you won’t like it. You see – for travelling all over the map you will have to restore your army’s Spirit. If it goes lower than it has to – you will get into some serious trouble. The good news is that you can restore the spirit by killing enemies or letting your army to skip the move and have some rest. Taking into consideration this kind of game strategy, it is important to create a formula that will help you to keep everything in harmony and balance. There are lots of things that influence battle’s outcome and if you don’t mention them – you can already start waving the white banner. If other games only give you the opportunity to set the position of your soldiers on the battlefield without the actual influence on the outcome, the Banner Saga won’t forgive you even the slightest mistake. Also, in this game every soldier counts, be it a regular swordsman or the noble mage. So, make sure you know what your characters are good for and how they can make a difference on the battlefield. Another interesting thing is that it won’t be easy to upgrade all your characters to the last possible level before the final fight. You see – there is only one currency in this game that is used for both – upgrading your soldiers and buying them food. And trust me – it is a very bad idea to control an army of hungry people, even if they are very and very skilful.
My Surprised Opinion on the Banner Saga
I am very happy that I had a chance to become a part of this amazing game. As I’ve said before – I am always into something interesting, something extraordinary and unpredictable. The Banner Saga kept me surprised during the whole game and that is not something you get very often from the games nowadays. I managed to complete the Banner Saga in 13 hours. Some will spend less than 10, others will definitely require 24 hours to make it to the end. But what I know for sure is that no matter how much time you spent with the game, you would definitely like to spend some more. You will give a lot to get back in time and change your decision, make it look better and save a few more lives without sacrificing your whole army. But this is only one of the great reasons why should a dedicated gamer complete this game one more time. After all, what else should you do while waiting for the second part? And as far as the Banner Saga sequel should not be expected anytime soon, this is exactly what I am going to do next. But if you really want to see what happens next and find out how the story goes further on, you are obliged to support Stoic team and their debuting masterpiece known as The Banner Saga. They will be very grateful for that. And so will I.