I’ve spent the better part of three days playing The Banner Saga. I’ve completed the game twice and each playthrough took anywhere between 9-12 hours for me to complete the game. This game is excellent and well worth the price that I paid for it. The Banner Saga tells multiple stories that all come together toward the end of the game but the path you choose to get there is entirely up to you. The unique thing that this game has going for it is the fact that at anytime you can lose one of your main heroes in one of the games many events. At least that’s the impression you get by reading the description of the game. The truth is there are some scripted events that has one or more of your main champions either fighting for their life, being snuck up on by an enemy, or trying to save something or someone else from harm and the decision that you make determines whether or not they’ll live or die. I thought it was very well done and even now in the middle of my third playthrough i’m still finding new events and things to do in the game. No playthrough has been the same and I love that about this game. I was expecting the same ambush to happen in my second playthrough because it happened in the first one but it didn’t. Instead something else happened and that surprised me but in a good way. The story of the Banner Saga was confusing at first but as I played through the game I started to understand what was going more with the main characters and honestly by the end of the game I was so invested in the game and what was going on that I didn’t want a single one of my champions to die even though that’s exactly what happened.
The thing I love about this game is that you spend hours getting a particular person really strong and end up losing them later on in the game. It’s happened to me quite a few times already and I have to go through the pain of leveling someone else up to fill in that new spot on my team. The gameplay in this game has your characters placed tactically around a randomly generated map. Before each encounter begins you can choose where to place your team to gain an advantage over the enemy. Once the battle starts everyone has to wait their turn before they can move and attack. After your turn is the enemy’s turn and they get to attack you. The gameplay is challenging at first but once you get the hang of it it’s actually pretty easy even on the harder difficulties.
I’m not saying it’s a breeze or anything like that but you will understand the gameplay mechanics. There are quite a few encounters where you might consider lowering the difficulty just so you can get an edge over your enemies because you’re tired of trying to beat them and you just want to advance in the story. I actually really liked quite a few of the characters in the game. Characters like Rook [One of the main characters], Iver [He's a legend that doesn't like to talk about his past much], Oddleif, Egil, Ubin, and Alette are all very nicely done. Even the crazy ass characters are well done and people that played the game know who i’m talking about.
The dialogue is very well written and the graphics are absolutely stunning. The game looks really good and the different environments that I saw look great. The soundtrack is simple but really good. I wish there was more good background music in the game.
The Banner Saga does have a minor bug that aggravated me a little. Every time I start the game it will go out of fullscreen mode and into windowed mode and i’ll have to manually switch it back. It’s nothing major but it needs to be mentioned. I also don’t like the user interface in the game. It gets in the way a lot. Especially during fights. It should have been smaller or there should be a way to hide it when you don’t need it. I had to constantly adjust the screen in the game so I could see what was going on. I also think the gameplay itself can be improved on. I like it but it feels stale when compared to other games like this. It’s a good first attempt by Stoic Studios and i’m curious to see what they can do with a sequel. The animations are very simple and it’s acceptable for the most part but I do think it could use some work and be improved on.
I also don’t like how little gameplay there actually is in this game. While I love travelling around with my clan and watching them move from location to location I would love it even more if I had more say so in where to go so I could see more of this beautiful world that Stoic Studios has created for us. The positives far outweigh the negatives in this game. I love making hard decisions and watching the consequences play out a few chapters later. Some of the consequences happen right away. I was never bored in any of my two playthroughs of the game and that’s what impressed me the most about it. I still want to see what other decisions I can make and how they’ll play out for me in the end. I like managing how much food to buy over leveling up my champions.
Without food you’ll starve and the people in your care will start to die from starvation. Some times local bandits will attempt to steal your food. Do you take the bait and chase them or will you stay and defend your carriage from further attacks. It’s entirely up to you. When a war breaks out between you and the Dredge will you go on the offensive and kill every last one of them or kill just enough for you to make a quick escape and live to fight another day. Will you kill a baby Dredge because of everything you’ve been through against them or will you spare the baby and take it with you on and your people? Do you choose to save the burning supplies or the baby that’s also in the fire?
Decisions like that is what made me enjoy this game so much and that brings me to my final verdict for The Banner Saga and that’s a 8/10. Stoic Studios made an excellent debut game with The Banner Saga and i’m excited to see what else they can come up with if they had a bigger budget to work with.