The Banner Saga series is something of a unique beast. From the gameplay to the oh so beautiful art style. When you start this up for the first time, prepare yourself to be immersed in a world like no other.
The Banner Saga is best described as a visual novel meets Final Fantasy Tactics with a little bit of resource management thrown in. The gameplay centres around different aspects. For most of your time with the series you will be reading dialogue and selection your response. This may seem that it is a typical visual novel but I can assure you it is far from it. Without notice a response that you select could have great affects on your story. Every decision that you make in your travels, conversations and battles has a lasting impact on the overall story. That means if a character died based off a choice you made, when you load The Banner Saga 2 for the first time, that character will be dead within that story
As you travel the lands with your caravan, difficult decisions are made. You will need to decide on when to rest, when to feed your part and when to pick up supplies. Your decision will affect the morale of your company, possibly resulting in some of your warriors leaving.
The narrative does jump between different characters but the one who you currently control will always be the main person that will make decisions. Without spoiling to much, one instance had me presented with an opportunity to either break up warriors from fighting village people, fighting them myself or reaching a peaceful resolution. Banner Saga doesn’t tell you which one of your dialogue options will lead to which result. It is up to you to decide what response works best. The way it unfolds is completely unpredictable. In that example I expected the warriors to fight me when I stood up to them. Instead they were fearful and backed down.
One more example in regards to decision making that completely threw me off for a whirl was in relation to during our progress to the next camp. We were met by strangers that seemed to be good solid people. They were overstocked with supplies and offered us some. As the leader of the pact I need to be careful on what we are consuming. However I believed that these were genuine folk. We took the supplies and carried on with our travels. It wasn’t until later in the game where my 2nd in command noticed that some men were getting sick. I thought nothing of it, we’ve been traveling for days. A little bit later they brought it up again, and then it hit me. The supplies we received were spoiled. Men were getting extremely ill, leaving the caravan and heading home. We lost hundreds of warriors to this illness all because of a silly mistake I made to try and get more food for my men.
Every now and then you will have to get your hands dirty in battle. Thats where the Tactical RPG aspect comes into play. Battles unfold on a grid map. You can move you characters around in specific spots. When you reach your enemy you can attack their defence or their health (which also works as their attack power as well). If you attack their defence, it will make the next time you attack their health more effective. If you attack their health it will lower their attack power as well as their available health. Sometimes you may think the most obvious option is to go for the health/attack power but there are many instances where the right strategy is required defensive and offensive wise. Being reckless will lead to death. The combat differs with consequence however. If a character dies in battle they are not dead in the story. They may be injured and take time to recover but they are still an active member of your party. Only decisions made within conversations will have a impactful outcome.
The way that battles unfold in The Banner Saga 1 were for the most part “destroy all enemies”, but The Banner Saga 2 aims to create tension and develop the story during combat. When a new type of enemy jumps out onto the field, the terms for winning shifted to killing that new target to cause the others to flee. As more and more enemies continued to flood the screen, I was on the edge of my seat to take out the leader and survive to fight another day. Further more the team has added destructible objects which will assist your heroes in moving enemies more into a position that will benefit your attack.
The Banner Saga series is hands down one of the most beautiful crafted stories I have experienced in all of my years of gaming. The consequences, art style & combat system. Everything lends itself one another to create a glorious tale of betrayal, death and honor. The trilogy will conclude when The Banner Saga 3 is released on July 24th 2018. With the game available on almost any platform you could have there is no reason why you should not experience this for yourself.