The Banner Saga

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

Keeping with my Viking theme this weekend, I have tried The Banner Saga that has been floating around my collection since 2015. Gotta love sales!

I may be showing my age here, but who else started playing PC games back in the day of Oregon Trail? You know the 1985 gem of “Travel, travel, travel, event, travel, travel, hunt food, travel, travel, die from dysentery.” Rinse and repeat because eventually, you will make it to Oregon.

The Banner Saga feels a lot like Oregon Trial with the marching, random events, choices, and death of someone. Just more colorful, scenic, with better music, more interactions, and an impressive turn-based combat system.

The art is beautiful in The Banner Saga. It is thoroughly drawn for the people, a group that is moving across the land, and the background. The landscape is unique and always feels fresh and new like you are traveling across the land. Some games like just to put the same scene on repeat, this one does not.

The music is also very well done. You can buy the soundtrack, which is probably one of the few games that do sell the soundtrack I may have considered it. However, it is on Spotify, where I already subscribe to all my music listening.

If you like fantasy lore for your games, this game does deliver on that. There is a lot of history and folklore that comes up through interactions with the characters. There is also an impressive map that has many clickables to give you more information about the world. Rumor has it there is a 2 and 3 game in this series that also add to that.

The combat system is probably the most crucial part of the game. It is a turn-based combat system laid out on a grid. Depending on your character, it can take up one or four spots. You move before you fight. Each unit has an armor value and a health/strength value. Unlike some games, you can kill a bad guy without depleting its armor, but it can go faster if you do get rid of it first. You have melee and ranged units. They can level up, get trinkets to give them bonuses, and have special abilities. Outside of combat, you do have to watch your supplies for your caravan along with morale, size, days traveled, and a few other mechanics.

There are multiple storylines you flip between, and you chose responses to whatever event is going on. Your choices affect the gameplay from helping or hurting morale and getting people killed. Very much like coming to a river and deciding if you were going to be fording or caulking the wagon, because who wants to pay the ferry toll?

With the changes in storylines, it is hard to understand what is going on other than there are massive humanoids named varls and regular humans, and suddenly, a new old threat of dredge is loose upon the land. Plus, there is this prince you need to babysit, well you don’t need to. You could be like me and knock him out and send him on his way with his guards to the city. I am sure that will bite me later, but he is so annoying!

Even with the beautiful world, great music, and a good story, I was unable to get into and enjoy this game. I wanted to, but after 3 hours, I was happy to turn it off. I think a lot of it had to do with the tons of dialog. The choices didn’t seem to matter as much as I was hoping they would in the game. Also, it was just too much reading. I love interactive story games, 11-11 Memories Retold is an excellent one, but I think what makes those great is the voice acting. If I wanted to read a ton, I would read something an amazing story on Wattpad, not play a game.

It is also this game that is making me rethink this blog project. I am clearly in the minority on opinion when it comes to this game. There are a lot of positive reviews and recommendations. And everyone's game style is so different. I no longer feel comfortable "recommending" games. Therefore I am going to go with a different approach on if I would spend the money again, knowing what I know now.

Game: The Banner Saga

Developer: Stoic

Publisher: Versus Evil

Initial Release Date: January 14, 2014

Knowing what I know now, would I repurchase it? No.

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