Stoic Studio, founded by ex Bioware employees started an adventure to develop a Viking themed RPG game. The Banner Saga is their first game and let me tell you something. You will love these Vikings and their not so friendly world. The first highly anticipated game of the year will have you tinkering and shouting at your heroes as you keep losing in combat. Combat is turn-based meaning you will have to wait for your heroes’ turn to move and attack.
The game is set into the Viking’s world, covered with snow, mountains, trees and an occasional village. Two parties are travelling from each side of a map and you have to lead them, taking care of resources and fights. The Varl convoy on one side and the Rook’s caravan on the other will both have to face hard decision making choices while the story works on bringing them together. Their journey is full of danger as dredge lurks behind every corner. This is the Viking age, expect some strong language cleverly integrated into a story-driven dialogues that might make you victorious or killed. It all depends on your choices and combat skills.
Three races have been introduced to a game, with two being playable, it was hard to choose six heroes for each combat. At first you will not have to decide anything, apart from what moves to take when the fighting starts, but the story evolves pretty fast and combats are more often than any other aspect of a game. Varl is a giant race that takes 4 tiles on a combat ground, while humans take 1. Each character has Armor and Strength that can be targeted. Both have to considered since the Armor will block the damage and your attacks will not be as fatal if this attribute is high. If you are not familiar with good old combat where strategy is crucial, than your heroes will die often. The unforgiving nature of the Viking’s world will put you into one combat after another. Good strategy is the only way to the victory.
Dredge are ancient enemy of the Varl who were thought to be extinct for a long time. How wrong everyone was, these terrifying creatures are trying to destroy a fantasy world once again. Gods have been cruel when they created undead beings, but Gods are gone and you are the one who has to defend weak humans from the evil Dredge.
Unlike combats, resources are scarce and if you don’t stack enough of those, prepare to face the loss of fighters and other party members. That’s a part of a great RPG game that is driven by choices you make, so deal with it. Getting resources at the beginning of a game would be wise. There can be days before you’ll see the next village and food can be replenished in villages only. Well sometimes you might get a bit of food from making the right choice, but don’t rely on that.
Achievement hunters have something to look forward as well with almost 40 of those that can be unlocked. There is plenty of romance in a game, if you are in a love hunting mood this will be one of your most unique RPG experiences.
One of the best tutorials in recent games explains all you need to know about combats and resources. Read dialogues carefully and you will get a grip of the Banner Saga in no time. Controls are easy, in fact all you will ever need is a left mouse button. Even the Menu is done in a fashionable manner of an old RPG game. Simple options with little to choose from and no save button. There is load button, but you can only load the game from a given time. Sometimes it will take you to the start of a chapter and your entire progress from previous combats will be lost. Try not to die much to prevent this from happening.
The art style features a hand-drawn characters with rough faces that resemble Vikings from a legend, 2D landscapes of snow covered world and beautiful animations. The map that can be accessed by a click has been drawn in Tolkien’s style. Each place on the map has a short description to give you a better feel of the world. The journey of both parties is animated and cannot be skipped, but why would you want to miss the journey in the first place. It all adds up to the story.
Music and audio effects are there of course. One thing I really like about the game is that smashing, killing and dying is not accompanied by an over-exaggerated sound effects. Oh and there’s not a lot of blood, unlike most of the other modern games have. It’s all about the story and fighting off the enemy in an old world.
For those who love Tolkien’s fiction and Norse mythology, this game will bring hours of joy. The Banner Saga has been done in a true RPG style with all aspects done for the good of gaming, not just to have another one out. First game in a long time that I would definitely recommend as flawless. I died a lot and lost several fighters due to the lack of food, but that’s not because a game was bad. I simply had to turn my brain cell on and try a different tactic in combat.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.