After the success of Nordic Games the Banner Saga, many reveled in the unique fusion of two very different gameplay elements with an absolutely stunning and unique art style with a fantastically thought out story. Though not without its faults it was a title that caught many off guard and really epitomized why the indie scene is so important to the medium. But the story seemed to end with plenty more to be told, so, enter The Banner Saga 2.
The Banner Saga 2 kicks off with Chapter 8, so if you have not played the original title this may catch you a little off guard. It drops you in where you left off as long as you are using the same device to play the sequel so you can load your old game, or for people like me that played the original title on a console and switched to PC for the sequel it kicks off at the same place as you ended, but with some variances in your clan.
This may be a minor put off for people who have not played the original, in which case I highly recommend visiting that first. Your clan kicks straight into the story and the story gets very grim very quickly. I found myself questioning choices very early on and thanks to regular autosaving it is near impossible to take back individual choices, but upon revisiting the early game I discovered that is what is supposed to happen.
As far as the story style and art goes its more or less the same as the original title, with hand drawn art and no changes to the characters profiles, though I kind of wish some had been changed such as the permanently constipated expression Folka has. The art style staying the same does make it clear that it is a successive story as opposed to a traditional sequel where a game can be radically different, plus why fix what is far from broken. Adding to this is the excellent music and sound effects which with a headset on allows you to drift into this world as time melts away in the real world.
The gameplay is also extremely similar which is a great thing, as all Nordic has done is improve it with some added elements to fix the originals only issue which was some repetitiveness in the battles. The battles in the first Banner Saga were very good but had little variation, start the battle, kill the enemies, rinse and repeat. But with the addition of animals that can walk into the grid at any time and the introduction of a wider selection of enemies including bears it just elevates the gameplay a little which most importantly makes the battles throughout feel different. Other additions include objects that can be destroyed on the grid and battles that are now not always in the style of kill everything, but rather are sometimes objective based such as kill a certain dredge. So they have kept a winning formula and just expanded its use to make it far more interesting.
If you have not played a Banner Saga game before its gameplay for the most part consists of resource management as your clan moves from A to B.
While doing this you try to make sure you have enough clansmen, making sure they are adequately rested to be happy so they can fight better, have fed so they do not die and you must make decisions as scenarios arise throughout the journey. Some are win or lose situations others appear to be lose or lose situations. If you come across a group of people or a nervous village you can walk away with more clansmen and resources, less resources, or many other consequences as they are not always cut and dry and effects are not always immediate.
Helping strangers however may upset people as they cause disturbances in the group, or may pinch resources themselves as they were thieves in disguise. On top of this, the fights are a turn based strategy game set on a grid. This involves each of your units having turns, to move and or attack. The gameplay was excellent in the first game and thanks to minor improvements it is even better in the second.
Ultimately if you did not like The Banner Saga this sequel may still not be for you as the changes while welcome don’t really change the core of the game.
But for those who loved the original for what it was then The Banner Saga 2 does just enough to make it more entertaining but without losing at all what was great with the original. The story does not hit the heights the first title did but rather sets the stage for what should be a fantastic end to the Banner Saga trilogy.
Released: April 2016
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC (Windows 7 or higher)
Developer: Nordic Games
Publisher: Nordic Games