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January 18th, 2014, 18:42
What is The Banner Saga?

Short answer: role-playing meets turn-based strategy, wrapped into an adventure mini-series about vikings.

Travel through stunning landscapes straight out of an animated film as your party escapes what could be the end of everything. Battle painstakingly hand-animated foes in strategic, turn-based combat. Make decisions with real consequences in conversations with people you'll actually care about.

The Banner Saga is a mature game aimed at gamers who appreciate art, story and strategy. Hope you'll join the caravan.

More information.
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January 18th, 2014, 18:42
I would give it 8/10.

It has very good writing and interesting unique setting, choices that matter(game can become lot harder with wrong ones).Graphic is gorgeous and music is also good.Since this is unfortunately only first game in trilogy so story ends whn it becomes to get interesting.

Combat has feels different enough from other game, but it gets repetitive and all arenas are same with different starting position.With only 10 around hours long it's short game but honestly it's better that way because little longer it might become boring due to repetitive combat.

Game too hyped but it's solid indie SRPG with good enough combat, which is not nearly as good as similar SRPGs like Expeditions or King's bounty, and writing and setting as it's main strength.
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March 2nd, 2014, 22:16
7 out of 10 for me.

Plus:
Good story - memorable characters - turn based combat - some c&c

Negative:
Exploration too linear - fighting repetive - too short

It's fun for a rainy sunday afterrnoon…

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - HL Mencken
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March 2nd, 2014, 23:18
I recently finished this game as well, and I'd agree with the above comments, it was a good game, loved the turn based combat, but did seem a bit on the short side. I'd buy any extra content for the game though, I really did enjoy the style and how you had to think and consider each and every fight.
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March 18th, 2014, 17:04
I'm pretty disappointed with the game overall. The story and characters seem OK but the combat system has serious flaws. Aside from being repetitive as others have mentioned, it has some mechanics which just don't work well. The way turns are set up (so that it will always alternate between player and computer no matter how many units they have until "pillage mode" means that the best strategy is generally to weaken / maim, but not immediately kill enemies.. If you kill them as soon as you can, then that will mean giving the stronger enemies more turns, which doesn't really make any sense… There is also the extremely questionable design choice of making renown the sole currency which is used to buy supplies / items and promote your characters… So you have to choose between leveling up your characters and having enough supplies to keep their morale up? Having "strength" and HP be the same stat seemed like an interesting idea in theory, but I'm not sure I like it because it means that one wound can effectively make a character useless for the rest of the fight, considering that there are no healers…

And then the whole terrible way they handled the DRM-free version for their backers just let a bad taste in my mouth before I even got to play the game.
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March 18th, 2014, 17:18
Playing it right now and I surprised myself to find I like it very much.

Yes the combat is flawed and gamey. It actually has a "chess like" quality (with positioning and turn of action mattering above all and very little randomness). I find it entertaining and do not mind the repetitiveness. I guess some variety comes from the ability and some times necessity of recycling and mix and matching your roster.

The real appeal for me is the Story and characters but above all the feel, tone and atmosphere. A much better representation of a grim Nordic saga than other recent attempts.

Also love the CnC and overall resource handling and choice making in your caravan/roster management. This is actually a Choose your own adventure game more than anything else (Not exactly like playing the Lone Wolf books as I did as a kid but close ), and there is definitely space for a game like this in my menu (not to make a habit of it though one ore two are more than enough )…
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March 19th, 2014, 05:56
I definitely find this more enjoyable than Blackguards. Sure that game's strength was its variety in the combat maps but it was a "soulless" "gamey" little game that kept falling in my esteem the more I played. It really overstayed its welcome towards the end.

No story to speak of, paper thin characters, no atmosphere and its funny you criticize the writing in the Banner Saga because it was barely serviceable in Blackguards

Yes it true that the Banner Saga is in the end an intriguing collection of mechanics that don't exactly pan out to a great game (I still find it entertaining and the main appeal does not come from the gameplay as I was saying) but on the other hand Blackguards is a monolithic approach to going from a single map to the next that becomes quite stale when some repetition of ideas and enemies is starting to settle in. Thankfully the game can be sampled in bite sized chunks due to its nature (a couple of maps per session) and that is the only way I could get it to the end (due to my schedule and travel it was all I could play). But man was it tedious towards the end (also infinite Morfu respawn FTW ).

The game also was very easy on normal. And that made the strategy you have to use almost dead obvious for most maps (maybe hit try again once for the difficulty spikes?) couple that with the small subset of TDE it actually implemented and that made for unspectacular but fun gameplay. A good sidegame until something better comes along.(SRPGs are not really my main fare though so not exactly a connoisseur after all. Maybe they are all that simple). I am sure that it would have been more demanding on hard but the game just did not appeal enough to devote more time to it at that point. (due to a lack of appeal in all other departments. May still try it in the future on hard but if it is simply a DMG/HP slider I imagine it will just become tedious, especially towards the end)

I would give Banner Saga an 8/10 (probably a bit generous) at this point (have not finished) and Blackguards a very lenient 7/10. Can't comment on SRR yet. I have to drum up the enthusiasm to play it first after the big turn off that was DMS…

The Lone Wolf books quip was a tongue in cheek reference to a favorite past-time of my youth and poking fun at the game's linear choose your own path approach you know…
Not drawing actual gameplay parallels…
Last edited by JonNik; March 19th, 2014 at 06:51.
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March 19th, 2014, 12:49
Originally Posted by JonNik View Post
I definitely find this more enjoyable than Blackguards. Sure that game's strength was its variety in the combat maps but it was a "soulless" "gamey" little game that kept falling in my esteem the more I played. It really overstayed its welcome towards the end.

No story to speak of, paper thin characters, no atmosphere and its funny you criticize the writing in the Banner Saga because it was barely serviceable in Blackguards

Yes it true that the Banner Saga is in the end an intriguing collection of mechanics that don't exactly pan out to a great game (I still find it entertaining and the main appeal does not come from the gameplay as I was saying) but on the other hand Blackguards is a monolithic approach to going from a single map to the next that becomes quite stale when some repetition of ideas and enemies is starting to settle in. Thankfully the game can be sampled in bite sized chunks due to its nature (a couple of maps per session) and that is the only way I could get it to the end (due to my schedule and travel it was all I could play). But man was it tedious towards the end (also infinite Morfu respawn FTW ).

The game also was very easy on normal. And that made the strategy you have to use almost dead obvious for most maps (maybe hit try again once for the difficulty spikes?) couple that with the small subset of TDE it actually implemented and that made for unspectacular but fun gameplay. A good sidegame until something better comes along.(SRPGs are not really my main fare though so not exactly a connoisseur after all. Maybe they are all that simple). I am sure that it would have been more demanding on hard but the game just did not appeal enough to devote more time to it at that point. (due to a lack of appeal in all other departments. May still try it in the future on hard but if it is simply a DMG/HP slider I imagine it will just become tedious, especially towards the end)

I would give Banner Saga an 8/10 (probably a bit generous) at this point (have not finished) and Blackguards a very lenient 7/10. Can't comment on SRR yet. I have to drum up the enthusiasm to play it first after the big turn off that was DMS…

The Lone Wolf books quip was a tongue in cheek reference to a favorite past-time of my youth and poking fun at the game's linear choose your own path approach you know…
Not drawing actual gameplay parallels…
Speak for yourself. I couldn't finish the game on normal. And yes there were real consequences on your actions. My problem was that because of decisions and what not I made, I reached the last battle with -2 morale (goes from -2 to 2). That meant that I started the battles with only 1 action point (not enough to activate anything). I also decided throughout the game to play with different characters, so I reached the last battle with only like 2 characters at level 5. Also because of my bad decisions (they sounded good when I chose them), I had to spend fame to buy supplies all over the place, so I didn't have enough fame to level up or buy good items.
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March 19th, 2014, 23:58
Originally Posted by JonNik View Post
I always do.

But you are confusing me a bit. I was saying that Blackguards was easy on Normal not The Banner Saga. I am only on chapter 5-6 on the Saga so I can't pass judgement on that aspect yet I must admit.

You do mean the Banner Saga right ?

P.S. How many chapters are there btw ?

P.P.S Yeah it seems that after a point it is a good idea to focus a bit on certain heroes for your roster. No biggy for me. That is what replays are for. (trying out the others more)

I did replay some parts to get a feel about how the combat system actually works and how much Choices matter (a lot apparently) but I am leaving most of the exploring the alternative options for the aforementioned replay…
My bad, thought you were talking about The Banner Saga being too easy
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March 20th, 2014, 05:34
Heh, yeah, not really

I am actually starting to have some food problems for the first time now in chapter 7. Part of it is because I decided to spend some renown on upgrades and Valka's thread instead of food partly prompted by your post, just to see what will happen and how much trouble I can get myself in.

It may be that I get myself to an unbeatable state before the end, who knows. In that case I will restart. No problem this being a small game…
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March 21st, 2014, 19:33
For me it's not the most marking RPG I played this first quarter of the year, for me Shadowrun Dragonfall and Blackguards are the most marking. But the Banner Saga is clearly the most original and from far and it's rare. Also despite many flaws including few big one, I found it very attaching and it's clear I'll rush on next chapters no matter the opinions of reviewers nor of players.

The original design worth be quoted. I tried list the main elements of the design:
  • In all the game you are leading a caravan, sometimes two. The caravan has anonymous commoners and anonymous fighters (the army protecting the caravan). There are various mechanism relative to the management of those caravans, like food, army, commoners, and more. And there's some consequences of this management.
  • There's a general mechanism with clear influences from "Make your own adventure" books, you constantly do decisions through dialogs choices, either choices of actions, either choices during dialogs with other characters. Even moving your team (caravan) to another place is done through choices in dialogs or dialogs choices of actions.
  • Some choices have predictable consequences but only some choices. Many consequences of decisions are hard to anticipate. It's a sort of fatalism mood quite similar to "Make your own adventure" books. You make dialogs decisions and discover your fate more than you make decisions to win.
  • There's a general map but it is used only as story and lore information, not as a tool for movements decisions.
  • Towns are only a series of points to visit by selecting one, as a shop or a NPC. So even in towns there's no classical exploration.
  • Combats are Turn based with a random generation, the combats system is very uncommon but designed well enough to have tactical depth.
  • You don't have your own main character, there's only companions and one is more the leader depending of the context, the writing puts the player in the skin of the current leader.
  • The game is roster based, you don't have a strict team of companions but a varying roster of companions. And before each combat you need choose among the roster the companions that will do the combat. This roster constantly evolves, with some leaving or new coming, because of story evolution, past choices, and more.
  • The classes are very simple with one passive skill and two active skills. This is compensated by the use of roster of companions, almost none have the same class than all other. It's the roster that gives some depth to the build design.
  • The items system and equipments system are very simple, there's no standard armor equipments, only some special items and each member can equip only one. Again the roster approach and team approach gives it more density/depth than it could seem.
  • The game uses a strange currency, Renown but you can name it gold, Renown is more the source idea. This special gold is used for anything, buy food for caravan, buy items, buy training of companions, some more.

I tried be descriptive/factual and eventually that would be enough for some RPG players to flee of terror as if they saw the devil himself.

Well, I think some players just won't be able enjoy the game, but eventually the game requires to be played without any anticipation level, eventually don't play it by expecting a RPG, because it is uncommon to most RPG on almost any points.

Plus points:
  • Very uncommon design and that's rather refreshing.
  • Very interesting translation of "Choose your adventure" books into a real video game. It's really much more than a book and still keeps the spirit.
  • Interesting combats, the random generation helps for the replays.
  • Ton of players choices through standard dialogs, or dialogs offering a list of action choices. Many decisions are roleplay, but also plenty have real influences, including some later to generate or not variation into secondary stories, and many with consequences on gold (named Renown) or food or items or caravan or companions or combats triggered or avoided.
  • The writing has various strong parts, like some good ambiguous choices, some (light) thinking on some serious subjects, some good emotional moments (mainly with the human caravan), few attaching companions (not all), few good light humor. Also in middle of the game, the story just became a big woa by raising new story tracks and mysteries very intriguing, a great moment.

Con points:
  • The physical path for the caravan will be strict and will never change from a play to a replay. There are variations, in secondaries stories, events, combats, roster composition. But that design decision of a fixed physical path is still a bit troubling because of design focus on the caravan.
  • The caravan management is at center of the game, alas a large part is largely failed during about half of the game. It is relative to lack of meaningful consequences of your caravan management performances, and the bad managements of some events/dialogs choices and consequences versus your caravan state like having no food or plenty. The caravan army/combats mechanism is woking relatively well, but not the other parts. You can play a large part of the game if not the whole without to quote the illusion, but once you start quote it, a significant part of the game becomes broken and the game losts some charm. It doesn't make it bad to play but it degrades the fun level.
  • The combats aren't really repetitive but feel too similar. It comes from various elements like enemies that look too similar, and not that many enemies types, and combats area that differ mainly only from start positions of units, some more.
  • No players decisions has an influence on the main story (only on secondary stories/events) but one at the very end. Frankly I can wrote that for a huge majority of RPG, those RPG have only a few more variations in the end than in this game, but none on the main story beside the end conclusion.
  • The writing has many weak parts, like the slow tedious beginning, some too abrupt transitions between the two caravans, many story eclipses that are too unclear and can produce some feeling of holes in the story/secondary stories. There's plenty companions because of the roster approach so it's understandable some aren't developed much, but it's still a bit weird and disappointing particularly if you like use one of those in combats. There's some failed emotional moments. The writing succeed well to open new mysterious threads, but it is much less efficient to close them. It's the first chapter of a trilogy so it's normal that some story thread and mystery are still opened at end of the chapter, but the writing managed it badly by letting too many opened and most of them end too open, it generates too much a feeling of non achievement. This could have been managed better as have shown many previous RPG/Novels/TV series also implementing games/novels/seasons as a series of chapters of a global story.
  • The game is totally linear, but it's not a total disaster because many elements break roughly well this linearity, events, combats, towns, the constant choices and you can hardly predict what are role-play and what will have influence, the caravan management as you can camp at any time, some more.
  • The gold (renown) is for anything, buy food for caravan, buy items, buy training of companions which is a varying roster you don't control fully. So you can spend a lot of gold into a companion and see him leaves. It's not game breaking but it's a bad mechanism.
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