Reviews// The Banner Saga

Posted 17 Jan 2014 13:00 by
Every unit has a special ability they can use provided they have willpower to spend. This is a resource that is distributed at the start of the battle and is earned collectively by all units for every enemy they kill. The earned willpower can be claimed by any unit, even ones that did not directly earn it by delivering the killing blow. Experience points are also awarded to characters for every unit they actually kill. This does result in most support units not earning much in the way of experience as they usually facilitate kills rather than deliver the final stroke.

Following a battle the clean-up occurs where renown is gathered and earned, which is based on the number of kills and other positive aspects of the encounter. This renown is the primary currency in the game and is used to upgrade character's abilities as well as buy supplies for your army and special magical items for characters to use.

Surrounding these engagements is a sweeping story that is told from the perspective of various characters in a similar vein to Game of Thrones. Like that now very famous set of books, The Banner Saga has the feature of killing off seemingly key characters.

Oddly enough this does not happen during combat but instead at points during the story, which is told as a caravan of refugees treks across the Nordic world all fleeing from the rampaging dredge. This has the effect of drawing the player into the narrative as they try to see who they can trust and what actions to take when confronted with various crises.

As you may have gathered from this rather sprawling and chaotic review, there is a great deal to The Banner Saga. Every little detail of it is so carefully polished and honed to ensure everything about it passes muster when placed under close scrutiny. The combat system is as intuitive as it is simple, but very difficult to master.

There is a free multiplayer version of the game called The Banner Saga: Factions that is actually a separate title and does not in any way tie into the single-player game. It does however do an excellent job of teaching the optimum strategies during skirmishes that litter the single player game campaign.

Visually The Banner Saga is breathtaking, using exquisite hand-drawn styling for all of the characters. There are dialogue-choosing cut scenes that are similar to those found in Mass Effect and Dragonage. This is hardly surprising, considering the fact that the game has been developed by BioWare alumni. But there I go again, careening off-topic, which is something The Banner Saga does so well at encouraging thanks to its sprawling nature.

The sound is equally excellent, with a hugely atmospheric and stirring score. It is only interrupted by the spot effects of clashing of steel and the cries of anguish as blows rain upon foes of both sides of the conflict that is played out in The Banner Saga.

If you've read this far and managed to navigate your way through this rather sporadic and meandering review then I say well done. Your trek is similar to that experienced by the players of The Banner Saga, which at times feels arduous, but thankfully worth all of the effort. For The Banner Saga is one of the finest games I have ever played with my only gripe being that it can become rather repetitive with battle after battle resulting in not an insignificant amount of player fatigue. But this is but a tiny price to pay for a wondrous thing.

+ Gripping story
+ Easy to understand but hard to master combat
+ Amazing art style
+ Branching storyline

- Combat can get repetitive
- Constantly starved of 'renown' preventing character advancement

SPOnG Score: 5/5
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ergo 22 Jan 2014 00:57
<i>Like that now very famous set of books, The Banner Saga has the feature of killing off seemingly key characters.</i>

This happens *all the time* in novels and is certainly nothing akin to innovative or creative but, then, you'd have to read once in a while to grasp that.
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