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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » The Banner Saga - Review @ GameBanshee

Default The Banner Saga - Review @ GameBanshee

February 1st, 2014, 12:47
GameBanshee has posted their review of The Banner Saga.

Like its stylized landscapes, The Banner Saga is capable of evoking a lot with a simple brushstroke, enough not to feel strangled by its short length and mechanically narrow focus. And while, unfortunately, the precision of the art isn't matched by a similar precision of design, it's still a commendable first effort, and a game well worth experiencing.
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February 1st, 2014, 12:47
Checked out the game, fonts are very nice size thanks to fullscreen-windowed mode. The red lettering in the tutorial should be changed to light blue or turquoise.

Character dialogues are a catastrophe. You don't know who is speaking and why they are saying that. Only clear thing are the answers, but again, who is answering?

UI design is bad: characters are not in the focus of attention. Story-telling suffers from this. The devs have failed to fill this game with emotions, of which Banner Saga is almost completely void. The whole game feels like leafing through bland comic book.

Probably among the worst dialogue designs in the game industry.

Combat is over-designed, supersaturated with icons, nauseating, unclear, not very tactical, not much fun. It feels like Battle of Icons rather than a visceral battle of vikings. This is more like an RTS than a good XCOM-like gameplay, where you care a lot for your squad members and are constantly worrying about them. In Banner Saga a "squad member" is just a paper-cut piece.
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February 1st, 2014, 13:32
Well I definitely felt the opposite from the game. I never had an issue keeping track of who was saying what. I restarted the game just to see if I was mistaken but the camera shows who's speaking and, at least early on, has the name of the person speaking (or a picture of the person & name if they aren't on the screen) so not sure what the issue there is unless the label of who's speaking disappears later in game, though you should know the characters by then.

I felt attachment to most members in my group and was rather annoyed when a few of them died though it rarely impacted difficulty. As for combat, I really don't see what you're talking about unless you have the Armor/HP bars for everyone on all the time. If not, the combat UI is rather minimal I think. Tactical depth is lacking though I blame that on lack of enemy types and lack of enemies with special abilities.
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February 1st, 2014, 14:21
Technical Feedback:

Very nice title screen. Main Menu letters could be larger and more in focus / in front of the player. Too far to the left currently.
Nice big fonts mostly, this is important.

"You arrived just in time.."-these texts could use bigger font and window.

RED LETTERING should be avoided overall - straining to the eyes -, use a more neutral color, like the blue you used on "Armor".

READY button: the action that the player must click to begin battle is annoying. Auto-begin?

RALLY: Better would be click on rally then click on target. Player shouldn't have to confirm everything with the okay icon, makes tactical battle annoying, restricts game flow.

Auto-scroll screen missing when mouse reaches screen border.

Blood-gush particle effects are offset if character is turned in some directions.

Cannot attack in all 6 directions

The subtitles should be closer to the cutscene window. Interestingly this split / detachment in communication to the player plagues all systems of the game.

First dialogue: Who speaks to whom? The game doesn't introduce story characters successfully.

Currently speaking characters don't look into the players resulting in a split / detached / broken communication to the player

"You meander through rows of open-face houses.." - these types of texts should occupy the center of the screen.

Big red canvas:
When characters speak via texts placed on the upper part of the big red canvas, why is the canvas center empty and an icon placed at the bottom? = detached communication to the player

You don't know who is speaking and why they are saying that. Only clear thing are the numbered answers, but again, who is answering?

Speaking characters are not placed into the focus of player attention. Story-telling suffers from this. Missing emotions - apart from battle cries and the nobles monologue. The whole game feels like leafing through a comic book.

Combat screen is supersaturated with icons, nauseating, unclear, not very tactical, not much fun. It feels like Battle of Icons rather than a visceral battle of vikings.

This is more like an RTS than a good XCOM-like gameplay, where you care a lot for your squad members and are constantly worrying about their health. In Banner Saga a "squad member" is just a paper-cut piece.

Probably among the most unfortunate dialogue designs in the game industry.

Good that I could check out Banner Saga at my friends, because I found this type of drawn 2D graphics too straining for my eyes. The eye must constantly strain to "read" the outlines of battling units among the 2D sprites, where as in 3D the eye doesn't need to focus / separate a unit from the background that much so the gaming experience is a lot more relaxing, like watching a movie.

Because of increasing eye-strain - as the first battle progresses - from picking out what's happening on tactical battle screens, I can't play, so no buy.
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February 1st, 2014, 14:33
Auto begin would eliminate the ability to place units and on some maps that's a big deal (not to mention it just erodes some tactical depth).

The screen is either A) Centered on who's speaking (which is also marked with their name) or B) Centered on who's answering in which case, the person who asked the question still has their name on the screen and a minipicture of the character next to it.
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February 1st, 2014, 20:52
Imho the character dialogue design is exactly as it would be in a movie or in a game with voice over. And that is why it doesn't work with texts.

In a movie you have a voice to identify the character. Even if you are not looking at the character you know who is speaking due to the voice.
In Banner Saga the perspective is randomly switching between characters, you are not even told who you actually are. Sometimes you can chose, sometimes the guy you play is answering himself, it's a catastrophe because you are thrown into it and it's so random.
I would have prefered a simple "ego perspective" dialogue (like in asian graphic novel games), a system where you got "left and right" dialogue partners. Or just a static screen with bubbles. Like the one In the very beginning of chapter one.
Imho the solution they took was the worst possible. And to throw in political disussions with lots of names doesn't make it easier.

Had no problems with the interface in fight though. Just missing information in the skill description and that the order could have been made more visible (you needed to click on each unit to see where they are).
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February 3rd, 2014, 17:53
Originally Posted by greywolf00 View Post
Auto begin would eliminate the ability to place units and on some maps that's a big deal (not to mention it just erodes some tactical depth).

The screen is either A) Centered on who's speaking (which is also marked with their name) or B) Centered on who's answering in which case, the person who asked the question still has their name on the screen and a minipicture of the character next to it.
I agree that placing units is an important part of the tactical element of this game. But I find in certain combat situations, especially if I have multiple Varl on my roster, there aren't enough spaces to choose from… I'm not enitrely sure yet if this is affected by what option I make during war segments (e.g., Charge!, Formations, etc.) or what.

I think I did find the way dialogue was set up initially somewhat confusing at first. Yes you can figure it out but there were definitely a few situations where I had to stop and think about it, which is jarring. It is not a big issue but does seem like it was set up with the intention of putting in voice overs and then they realized at some point that they wouldn't have enough in their budget to pay for additional voice acting.
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February 14th, 2014, 16:52
Just got around to starting it myself, and I must say I'm quite impressed. It's not perfect, but so far (maybe 5 or 6 hours in) I think its pretty awesome. I like the art style very much - in fact it might be the best looking modern 2d game I've ever played. The writing is far better than 95% of video games (not actually a very high bar, I know). Combat is fun & requires a good bit of strategy, but I could see it becoming repetitive down the road. As to the dialogue system, I don't understand why anyone has a hard time following it.
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