The Banner Saga is a wonderful… well, saga, developed by indie producers Stoic and published by Versus Evil, and indie publishing company. A saga is a story of heroic achievement; the word came from the Old Norse word for narrative. The title of the game beautifully encapsulates the experience that players will have in the game.
The Banner Saga starts with narration from an old Varl, a Nordic race of giants, leading a caravan into a trading port. The start of the game gives exposition that would be worthy of a game in of itself; the gods are dead, and the sun has stopped in the middle of the sky. Many think it is the end of days. You learn that the golem-like Dredge are rising from their slumber, and men are fighting one another.
The gameplay falls into three parts: combat, which is turn based and involves abilities and whittling down your opponent’s armor to kill them more easily; dialogue trees that serve to characterize the major players and give you some agency over the story; and towns/camps, which give you places to upgrade weapons and armor and upgrade skills.
The combat is a fairly simple grid based, turn based system. Archers stay back and plink away, Varl are big heavy hitters, and warriors are all-arounders. It is functional and has some tactical depth, but is not the strong point of the game.
The strength of the game is in the storytelling and the art. The dialogue trees are a simple choice, but allow for player agency without increasing the cost of the game too much. The only criticism is that videos of choices made would have made players feel even more agency from their choices. As your caravan goes anywhere, there are also random events that happen. Different choices will affect how easy or difficult the rest of the game will be, as you juggle military men, survivors, and dwindling food supplies.
The towns and tents are essentially upgrade stations, but tying them to specific locations makes it even more important to plan spending on food and upgrades. Character customization is also not always available, so there is a need to keep checking on each character, which can help a player build an emotional bond with that character.
I enjoyed my time with this game. The hand drawn artwork, the sound, and the polished gameplay made for a very enjoyable experience with a very unique setting. If you enjoy good story, music and art, you will enjoy this game!
Personal Game Scoring System:
(Scale of 1-5, one being a hot mess and 5 being amazingly well done)
Update Schedule: (Finished Game)
Wandering Through The Snow In A Caravan: 5
Hi! I am Eugene Shenderov, and I am a starting game designer. You can find my website at www.thisandthatgames.com. Send me a message if you have any questions!
Have a great day!