The Banner Saga delivers tactical role-playing with fabulous fantasy artwork

BY GreenBot Staff

Published 12 Dec 2014

nter can be a very dour, taxing time, holiday stress only exacerbates what the seasonal shift begins. That may be motivation enough to pour hours into a fluffy, colorful diversion like Cy Crush Soda Saga—but I have an alternate suggestion. Invest that time into an altogether different kind of Saga that’s ideally paired to the season: The Banner Saga ($10), a richly presented, albeit somber Viking-inspired tale about fighting to stay alive in a world falling to pieces.

rhaps not the most uplifting fare, but it is fascinating—plus it’s the perfect game to explore during extended holiday downtime /or travel. The combination of tactical action, caravan management, choose-your-own-adventure fantasy elements lend the game impressive depth plenty of intrigue.

Hardly a banner year

bannersaga dialogue

Conversations inform much of the story, you’ll switch between different sets of characters across the campaign.

at do you do when the sun suddenly stops in the sky horrifying beings start decimating your neighbors? In The Banner Saga, you respond by forming a caravan traveling from city to city, fighting those evil beings as your faction fluctuates in size mood during its constant march for survival. Death is common, both during combat story interactions, no matter how amazingly beautiful the backdrops may be, it’s decidedly a downbeat affair.

But at least the action can be pretty exciting. The Banner Saga takes cues from strategic role-playing classics like Final Fantasy Tactics for its combat, which finds your squad fighting foes on a grid-bound battlefield. It’s complex sometimes could be explained better, but in time, the characters’ differences abilities reveal themselves. You’ll start to underst the benefits of formations the order in which your warriors attack, adjust to maximize impact.

Combat is only a small part of this fantasy campaign experience, however. Between battles, you’ll take part in the narrative through dialogue exchanges, which allow you to make decisions that affect the storyline character interactions. It feels very much like an old-school fantasy gamebook experience in spots. so, the caravan management presentation can’t help but lightly recall The Oregon Trail. They’re both perilous treks, only here, there’s quite a bit less dysentery.

Dazzling, but dreary

bannersaga caravan

As a crowdfunded project from a small team, The Banner Saga isn’t extravagantly animated. However, the artwork remains absolutely stunning, especially during scenes in which your caravan parades across the lavishly drawn countryside.

bannersaga combat

Understing the nuances of the turn-based combat can take time, but the basics are clear: you move, then you attack or use a special ability. Devising advanced tactics will help you survive the tougher battles that emerge later in the campaign.

bannersaga choices

You’re often prompted to make a snap decision based on a bit of text: an ally is in danger, unknown men want to join your caravan, or someone is causing trouble. Your choices help affect the makeup demeanor of the entire convoy.

bannersaga heroes

Each hero you comm can be upgraded multiple times as a reward for kills on the battlefield. There’s strategy in how you align your party before action, as well, since weaker ranged fighters are best kept behind burly brawlers on the grid.

y it’s worth your money

The Banner Saga provides a sizable mobile campaign—a good dozen or more hours on first playthrough—with solid incentive to play again to test different decisions dialogue choices. It’s really interesting to see how your choices affect the flow of the quest, all the way through to the ending, the challenging combat keeps things interesting beyond the off-the-battlefield events conversations. so, a sequel was just announced with an eventual mobile release planned, so take solace in the fact that there’s more to come once you close out this chapter.

Beyond its unique concoction of tactical role-playing resource management, The Banner Saga also happens to be one of the most attractive games on Android today. It’s light on animation, but the h-drawn backdrops are utterly gorgeous; even the battlefields themselves, eventually laced with the blood of your foes comrades alike, are a sight to behold. The Banner Saga is a rich enticing fantasy adventure, it’s a perfect companion for your holiday travel slog or quiet moments hidden away from the extended family.