With their world coming to an end, an army of Dredge are sweeping across the land and they must fight to survive against Varl, Human, and Dredge alike. Traversing across this hand painted landscape, you craft your own story in this beautiful world that seems to be falling apart while learning bits and pieces of the world and its inhabitants, each having their own motivations and striving for their own goals. Create a team along your journey to band with you and help survive what seems to be the end of your world.
The Banner Saga has been out for some time now, and I’m sure some of you have heard of it and others haven’t, and that’s fine, we won’t say you’re uncultured or anything like that, (but you are). Stoic has really done something wonderful with this series and have created such a beautiful and captivating world with it’s own set of captivating characters to match. It’s surprise to say that The Banner Saga was the first Game developed by Stoic Studios, with it all coming together so beautifully.
The first thing you’ll notice when you start playing The Banner Saga is how beautiful this game is; from the characters, to the backgrounds, even the animations, every visual aspect of the game is absolutely stunning. The most minimal things will catch your eye, like a flock of birds soaring across the sky above your caravan, or the details in each of the characters designs and animations. What really ties the animations and the world all together is the game’s score and how well it’s used, even in the most minimal ways. When you’re having a conversation between characters and you can hear the world going on in the background, it sound so authentic; it just makes the world all fit together. The score really shines when you’re traveling with your caravan from one town to the next, getting the beautiful landscape shots alongside the great music going on in the background. There is some minor voice acting, but the little voice acting done is absolutely wonderful, it’s so engaging and powerful. Not only is it well done, but it’s also perfectly placed, giving that extra ‘oomph’ to the story.
After you get over how beautiful The Banner Saga is, you start see how engaging the story and characters can be. Jumping from different points of view in the beginning of the story, allowing you to create your own ideas an opinions of the world and characters. With some interesting choice-based mechanics, every decision you make affects you in some way. The decisions you make also affect the characters around you, which may cause you to lose some of your party. Not only do you have to worry about your party members along the way, but you also have your caravan to take care of. There are plenty of ways to handle the caravan and you can either care for them or let them take care of themselves; however, how you handle the caravan and its morale can affect your party members in various ways. The caravan really adds something interesting to the game, opening it up to more than just a strategy RPG.
With all the great The Banner Saga utilizes, it does have some hiccups. One of the things that stood out the most to me was the lack of customizing to your party. You know, maybe I’d like to throw a dope-ass cloak over Rook, or maybe give Gunnulf a badass long sword. Really, other than that, I would appreciate a couple more cutscenes just because they’re absolutely beautiful and really adds to the beautiful story.
The Banner Saga 2 is a direct sequel from the first one, and you can choose to continue with the path you ended in the first game or make that one crucial change to the end of the game. It does have some new features, and they do add plenty of cutscenes which was something I wanted more from the first one. The gameplay and art style are still the same, which is totally a plus. We also get to spend some more time with the cast and world of the first game, building on the lore and making the world feel more alive and natural.
One of the new features I enjoyed in The Banner Saga 2 was the caravan. They really made the caravan more vital to the game, with the more clansmen you have the more they can go forage for you; but, you can now train your clansmen to become fighters and give you a bigger advantage on the battlefield. Once your clansmen become fighters, you’ll start getting less supplies when your clansmen go out to forage. It really adds a new dynamic to your caravan and opens up the gameplay a little more.
The really aren’t many differences on gameplay mechanics from the first to the sequel, and the story is still just as great and engaging. Stoic continues to hit the ball out of the park with The Banner Saga and if you’re a fan of strategy games, I definitely recommend it. I actually implore you to play this masterpiece of a video game series.
Stoic didn’t stop there they also added a survival mode, which is pretty obvious with a name like that you’re going through different levels, taking on the Dredge with a set of heroes, unlocking new ones or upgrading the current ones you have. There’s a small story for you to tie all the levels together but it’s nothing crazy and it makes it a little more engaging. What the survival mode does great is allowing you to fall back into the wonderful mechanics of the game without the weight of the story on your shoulders, making you slightly less nervous in each battle.
Like I said earlier, Stoic just hits it out of the park whenever they step into this world; even in a small mini game they added to just please fans. I can’t stress enough how wonderful these games are. From the gameplay, to the art style, to the lore of the world, The Banner Saga series is one of the best strategy series today and I would even say that it’s almost on par with the XCOM series.
Released on March 16, 2017
Developed by Stoic Studios
Published by Versus Evil
Reviewed on PS4
A review copy was provided for the purpose of this review.