Welcome to “At a Glance”, where first impressions of a title mean everything!. Ladies, gentlemen and large horned giants, I present to you; ‘The Banner Saga’.
Today we are looking at a Kickstarter project by a newly made company Stoic, made up of a group of former Bioware developers, the project itself raising a grand total of $723, 886!
A positive start for the game but did it manage to stay the course? Short answer… yes!
The story of ‘The Banner Saga’ is definitely a interesting one, and without a doubt one of the games major strengths. The setting for the game is very unique, with a Viking/Celtic world that features two races, Humans and Varls (A race of only male giants with large horns) . The two races warred against each other for years until a unknown evil came about only know as the Dredge. The two races put their differences aside and fought back against this new evil. However something else odd has happened, the Sun has simply stopped moving.
The story is told by different groups of hero’s throughout the land, seeing different points of view constantly, which allows the story to never drag, as you are always experiencing a different set of characters, which is very refreshing. The story also changes how you play. Certain decisions pop up through your travels, and these story sequences can drastically change things from losing supplies, moral or even characters. This adds a very important sense of player feedback, showing that your choices really do make a difference in this world.
The gameplay is split into two parts. One is the item/story decisions while travelling through the land, while the other is the tactical combat. The travelling aspect to the game is much akin to something like Oregon Trail, as you must micro manage every aspect of your Caravan perfectly in order to succeed.
This comes down to keeping track of different things such as supplies, moral, number of fighters and of course the currency of the game, Renown. Renown costs you everything in the game, from upgrading certain fighters attributes to purchasing supplies at Markets. Renown is received from winning battles and story sequences. Speaking of choice sequences, there are areas of the game that give you specific choices that can change the story drastically.
The other half of the gameplay is the classic tactical combat sequences.These pop up through story points, forcing you to take part in battles against thugs, bandits and the Dredge. Each Hero is a different class, which must be used together. Heavy hitters in front, Archers in back, its a constant use of tactical placement that will lead you to victory in battle. The big change to the tactical formula is the introduction of a armour/strength aspect. Each Hero and Enemy have a armour meter and a strength meter. These both affect gameplay massively, as the armour meter means that whenever you attack a enemies strength (health/hit rate) it will be lessened as the armour is high, so the more you take down armour the more vulnerable the enemy is to damage, but the higher the strength meter is the more critical hits they can preform to a Hero and vice versa.
Another addition is willpower.
Willpower allows you to perform actions you usually cannot. These range from moving to extra tile space or adding more hit points to your attacks to either a enemies armour or strength. Willpower is obtained by the level of Moral of your Caravan and after each kill in a battle, you receive one point of Willpower from a battle horn that can be given to any Hero. This adds a great power balance between the strength and armour Meters, as the enemies you encounter are normally always more powerful then you and always out number you. Other aspects of the battles is of course the upgrading of your Heroes. You can equip each Hero with a single item which usually increases certain stats like evasion and critical damage rates. You can also upgrade each Hero, which increases health, skills and abilities. Overall the combat works well and adds some interesting ideas. The only draw back would be the lack of character customisation and and the lack of a perma-death option.
The visuals for ‘The Banner Saga’ are definitely a major positive. The game has a very interesting setting of a dark Viking Epic, which allows the artists to just go all out on beautiful scenic views while in the caravan travelling sequences. Each sweeping landscape is a piece of art in itself. Another very point of the games art style has to be its use of roto-scoping for character designs, which adds a very unique style to the game. The Soundtrack on the other hand is not really as memorable as the art direction. While its in no way bad and fits each scene very well, it just doesn’t always stick out.
‘The Banner Saga’ is in many ways a perfect example of why Kickstarter can be a valid option for game developers. The game succeeds in everything it set out to do, from its fantastic art style, great story and a deep and innovative combat system, the game is just a joy to play. If you are in any way a fan of Tactical RPG’s at all you owe it to yourself to pick this game up.
For more information you can visit the official site!
You can purchase ‘The Banner Saga’ on Steam, The Humble Store, GamersGate, GameFly and Uplay.