This is an epic RPG set into a Viking age with turn-based combat developed by Stoic Studio. An independent game studio formed by three veteran video game developers from Austin, Texas. Ex BioWare employees who decided to form their own game developing studio and by the look of things they made the right choice. With a tiny budget, Stoic developers managed to create an awesome game which is to be released in January 2014 on Steam. RPG game that you just can’t miss.
The story is set around Viking clans and told from several viewpoints. Dredge, the demonic enemy invaded the land of Vikings and heroes are gathering to fight them in order to save their homes and protect peasants. Following Carl convoy and Rook’s caravan, two parties located on opposite sides of the map, the story works on bringing them together by quests and animations of beautiful landscapes. They are fighting a dreaded enemy and trust me that is not an easy task.
So the journey begins with two parties set on a different side of the map and you get to play with both of them. Along the way you will be presented with various villages, quests, new characters, and much more. Travelling between locations is animated, no walking or exploring is present. Although while travelling, quests will appear giving you three answers to choose from. The way your journey continues depends on a chosen answer. Dialogues inside quests fit well into a Vikings’ world, you will be presented with some strong language and hard choices.
Three races are present in the Banner Saga game, each having their own base skills and descriptions. Aside from humans we are getting to control Varl and fight the ultimate foe named Dredge.
Varl is a race of giants, don’t be afraid as they are on your side, at least for the most part of the game. Created by a god who wasn’t really patient and wove together a twisted version of the original Loom-mother’s creations. Horned, aggressive, but most important they are strong allies. Without Varl heroes in your party, Dredge are almost impossible to defeat.
Dredge are gigantic as well as Varl, though they are enemies since the beginning of days. Created by another jealous god who made them with single purpose in mind – to destroy the land of the Vikings. It was thought that Dredge were extinct, but they started emerging and no one is sure why.
Everything is done by using a left mouse button meaning the game controls couldn’t be easier, though combats are not so easy. Strategy requires good tinkering, it is wise to read everything in a tutorial battle, to get the idea on how to be victorious. Without a good strategy you are sure to lose every battle. Turn-based combats like those we’ve seen in Heroes of Might and Magic, except way harder to win. Before the battle starts you will be able to move your heroes across the given tiles.
Each hero has its own abilities like Impale that is used by Tryggvi the spearmen and ability levels can be trained. To gain training point, your hero must kill his foe. There are items to be found and bought and those are handy to increase heroes’ skills. Playing the game took me back in days where RPG meant a good story. Even though at first you will be choosing answers more than fighting, the game gets more challenging as you progress. Battles are painfully challenging if you are not familiar with turn-based tactics, but after a while I managed to actually survive a few.
Journeys are animated and still require your involvement. I lost several peasants on my first travel as supplies ran out. Making sure enough supplies are stocked before departing is a good idea. Those can be bought at market in villages and gained from quests. Buying enough supplies made my Viking life easier.
Cartoon-like graphics are my favourite. Everything has been beautifully designed to resemble a true look of Vikings. Rough face shapes, snow covered land, even buildings in villages and game’s map can be related to that wild age. It was like I time-travelled through centuries. Characters reminded me of Asterix and Obelix, except in-game ones were shaped with more details in mind. To accompany good graphics, sound effects fit in perfectly. Sword slashing and everything else is there, but not over exaggerated.
The game is done in a best way that Viking-themed RPG could have been done. Every battle is done in a different way and requires a good strategy tinkering before hitting the Ready button. The tutorial explains everything you need to know, though theory and practice are two different things. I am a big fan of Norse Myths and legends so this was just the perfect game, especially because it is an RPG one.