I did it again. Why do I torture myself by trying to understand real-time strategy turn-based games? Something in my head said, ‘hey, give this a go and see what it’s like’, so I ask for a preview code and delve in to figure out what The Banner Saga is. If you like Norse mythology stuff, this is for you. Some thought has gone into this game, although, the story is there, it seems to go quickly. One minute you’re in one town, next thing you know you’re in a battle. I avoid games like this due to not having patience to sit there for hours just plodding along without any action.
When it comes to battle, I have no strategy whatsoever. I understand how it works, yet eludes me when attempting to put it in to practise. Battle in The Banner Saga is nice and simple, you have so many squares to move, then choose how you want to attack and that’s OK for simple, human opponents, not so much against what seem to be robot golums known as the Dredge, which we’ll come to later.
To build up some confidence, the game starts you off with an easy fight which also acts as a tutorial, it also helps you’re given Varl to fight with. Varl are giants, titans, Gods, that kind of thing and so have higher stats to play with. You have a shield number and a strength number, the idea is to lower the shield value before attacking the strength or at least, that’s how it should work.
You start in Strand and mostly do nothing, but talk, you see, you are Ubin, a tax collector. Although one of the Varls, he’s more of the co-ordinator and so sits back as he sends others to do the dirty work.. You get to see the characters as you talk to them, but it’s not what you would expect… or maybe it is if you’ve played this kind of game before.
There’s a lot of ye olde Viking talke which can get a little confusing if you don’t know what certain things are, like Scrivener, a favourite word of Hakons. Since the text chat is so long-winded, you get to enjoy some of the artwork put into the characters although, most of them seem to have a look on their face as if something has been rammed in a place it shouldn’t.
It has plenty of promise and a whole host of characters, you take control of Rook and Aletta in chapter two as you face a new enemy known as the Dredge who are close to impossible to defeat if you have a weak team. One of the problems I felt needing addressed is the hero-to-enemy ratio which was as much as 3:1.
It seemed more aimed towards seasoned gamers of this genre and not very beginner-friendly as the battles need someone with a fair amount of experience. While it tries to give you the heads-up as you go along, there is still much to learn and unless you’re willing to give it time, it may not appeal to the average gamer.
The Banner Saga, yay or nay?
It has great appeal. The gameplay is a little slow and there’s a lot of story to read, but it’s worth spending a few hours getting acquainted with. The map is massive, probably as big as the Lord of the Rings map and there are plenty of locations on there, so you have to make sure you have plenty of food for your camp for rest and travel.
The main problem I found was encountering the Dredge so early in the game. They’re a tough adversary and a big step from humans, in fact, I lost a Varl during a battle because I’m new to the game not confident enough with the mechanics of the system. It all happened too soon and I just wasn’t ready to face something that looked like it pooped humans.
You can pre-purchase the game now at a discount, but you’ll have to wait three weeks before it becomes available. Buying now gives you the ‘Insane Viking’ pack, full details and more can be found by clicking the handy widget below.