Saturday, 23 April 2016

Banner Saga 2 (Video Game Review)

When it hit the Steam store back in 2014, The Banner Saga was a godsend to so many RPG fanatics. Breaking away from many modern trends and refusing to pull its punches, it offered a mature and dynamic Game of Thrones level Nordic saga and paired it up with punishing, story driven choices on the player’s part. Bleak, beautiful and with an animated aesthetic rarely seen today, it was torturous to watch its developer Stoic caught up in two major lawsuits, the first being the infamous King lawsuit, and the second surrounding the much reviled AFM Agreement. It’s no small wonder that the second part of this trilogy has taken two years to finally see the light of day, but the wait has been well worth it.

Catching up with the heroes merely hours after the harrowing finale to the first game, the few surviving humans and varl march onward to escape the varl onslaught. Taking to the rivers, they begin the long journey towards the human capital, hoping to find respite from the continued onslaught and perhaps even the answer to why the dredge have launched this massive invasion.


  1. The Banner Saga's an odd series to me and I can't quite put my finger on why, maybe it'll become clear when the third part's out and I can go through the whole series start to finish, but I think it has to do with the relevance of the characters, especially with how the story relates to the gameplay.

    To go on a tangent, I think the best way to use characters if you're going to have a ton of them, is to use them the way Fire Emblem on the Game Boy Advance did it, have a few pivotal characters that the story revolves around, while giving everyone else backstory, interesting interactions with one another and maybe setting them up for optional events and dialogue that they could have with other characters (friend, foe, or foe that could become friend) later.
    Another series I can think of that used this style, though to a lesser degree, was Baldur's Gate, the story always revolved around your main character but even though the side characters didn't have too much input on it, I'd never go through the story with a full party of my characters (which you could do by making a multiplayer game then playing it by yourself), I'd always pick up other party members because the side interactions are one of the things that made the game so memorable.

    Having a lot of characters try to stay relevant to the story when it feels like they just pop up every now and again feels like they're writing it with a checklist, "we made this character relevant again, now what about this one?"
    That being said I'll definitely pick it up because even though it feels odd I did really enjoy the first one.

    1. Well, personally I think it's in part down to how it subverts a lot of traditional expectations. It follows more of a traditional Norse style of storytelling, opening in a very different manner to traditional games of most genres or countries today and following a very different style and morality. The other thing might be down to the characters as you mention, but also how certain choices play out. Some have significant impact in the moment, but others are just one shot ideas. The thing is though, all of them feel important as there's no time where a choice doesn't risk getting someone killed.

      Well, the thing is that the game certainly does try to follow that singular format but it kind of keeps screwing it up. You always have three or four core characters and then a few others who rise and fall in terms of importance to the story. The problem is that said "tiers" seem to keep shifting one time after another, resulting in the aforementioned problem of certain figures rising out of nowhere. Plus, atop of that, there's also the problem of certain characters suddenly becoming important. Oddleif, for example, is a background character for almost the entire first game but during the second she all of a sudden becomes a major figure of importance out of seemingly nowhere.

      Still, it's a solid and very engaging release at least. Plus, if anything there's something admirable about how it tries to subvert more traditional storytelling tropes without compromising quality.