With so much news surrounding Kickstarter seemingly dedicated to pointing out the grubby, scumbag projects around there, it’s so refreshing to see a game come out and be pretty awesome. Enter The Banner Saga.
The Banner Saga is a turn based strategy game set in a fictional Viking mythology inspired world, filled with horns, death and bleakness. The Sun is dead, creating an eternal day time with no night. The populace have to contend with this as well as an invading army of armored warriors known as the Dredge are ransacking villages and killing any in their path.
This description doesn’t do the tale much justice, as the world created here is dripping with detail, perhaps a touch too much for what is (until more episodes arrive) a fairly short tale. The tale is told from multiple viewpoints (mostly 2) is different sets of characters try to deal with the world’s problems in their own way.
What was surprising about The Banner Saga is the attention to detail when it comes to the world, story and characters. There is very little in the way of cut-scenes; most of the dialogue is told through talking portraits, with each character lovingly drawn to reflect their personality. From the look in their eyes, the way the hold their weapons and their posture, you can tell a lot about a character just by looking at them.
Despite this, there are some tests that the game has trouble passing. For example, if all the Varl (the near immortal giants of the game) were to stand in a line, you’d have trouble picking them out. You may confuse one character for another in the middle of combat as well. As great as the presentation is, I can’t help but feel that just a little more work would go a long way. I’ve been playing a lot of Fire Emblem: Awakening recently and at first I found the little noises that characters make while dialogue rolls by a little weird and annoying, but at least in that game I have less trouble remembering certain characters.
The gameplay is mostly standard, players take turn to hit each other in the head with axes. One major difference however, is the relationship between strength and health. In most games, a character on low health can still cause trouble, but here, a low health bar means that you can only do a certain amount of damage, if the number is lower than your opponents shields, then you’ll have to adapt your strategy. It’s a slight difference, but one that changes how you play the game, and for the better. It can result in some “cheap” tactics, as I would usually get enemies to low health without giving the killing blow, which essentially leads to them wasting turns on weak attacks. Once you figure out this tactic, the game actually becomes a little too easy.
Anyhow, loving the Don Bluth style animations, loving the music and backgrounds. Bring on the next ep.