You come to a group of strangers. They tell you they are friendly and want to join your group and you make a decision which will either result in something extremely useful, something disastrous when your food is running low, or you can remain passive and hope you will still get to where you need to go before your resources run out.
This is the kind of decision you must make and pray works for the better, in The Banner Saga.
The Banner Saga takes us to a beautifully hand drawn world with a Viking aesthetic where the Gods have died and the sun has stopped moving. Seemingly due to this the Dredge have started swarming the Human and Varl (big humans with horns) lands and they must go on an adventure to save them. The story was okay but the character interactions are excellent. You play as a couple of leads for the duration of the game as you manage your camps throughout the story. There are basically two gameplay modes or phases. One of the modes involves watching your camp ride under your banner and decideing how and when to manage your resources. The other is that of a strategy RPG where you do battle.
The resource management phases of the game involves making decisions when conflicts or situations arise and deciding when to do things such as camp and/or rest among other actions. These are crucial as you must manage your food to ensure your people do not starve and buying new food at the wrong times (when it is selling very high)that can cost you renown (the games form of currency) which you also need to upgrade your characters.
Happiness makes your army stronger and must be maintained, which can be done through resting, which soaks up time and your food. But decisions, when they arise, can provide renown, food and more banner men for your army, or can result in a loss of men and a loss of food and or happiness. A large part of your game will involve reading the story, following the character interactions and making these decisions.
The other main game phase is the Strategy RPG stages. If you have a strong army then that helps give you the edge where you take up to six people into a grid and turn by turn take the enemies out. The strategy RPG phases are very much a paint by numbers strategy. It does not do anything special, but it is certainly solid and makes for a good change in the games pace.
Ultimately you need to do a good job of balancing these two to ensure you are not neglecting your resource management, or under powering your characters for battle. The two very different game styles make the experience much more enjoyable by mixing up your tasks. In turn I find that the way the two balance on each other is brilliant.
For the most part the game ran brilliantly. The only issues I encountered were three times for no reason I could not select anything on the screen, once in battle and twice in the world. This was a minor annoyance as the game regularly autosaves and so closing and reopening the game fixed it each time in a couple of minutes and there was minimal replaying required.
The beautiful hand drawn art style and the viking aesthetic help to make the game something special.Between the art, the mixture of resource management gameplay and Strategy RPG gameplay, the solid story, the excellent character interactions and the weight of making the right comments The Banner Saga one of the most unique experiences I have had in a long time.
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