|Pub: Versus Evil|
|Players: Single-player, multiplayer|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Not yet assigned a final ESRB rating.|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
The Banner Saga 2 picks up where The Banner Saga 1 left off, but if you haven’t played The Banner Saga 1, here’s a quick spoiler for you. It’s the end of the world and horrible monsters called the Dredge have begun raiding towns. You play are Rook and Alette, a father daughter archer team that is leading their people under a banner (get it) to safety in these dark times. Now for the massive spoiler, at the end of the game one of you has to give up your life in order to kill a massive Dredge, and the player gets to decide.
So considering that The Banner Saga 2 picks up right where the first one leaves off, you’d expect that neither Rook or Alette could be the main character. After all, one of them is going to be dead. However, the developers went so far as to make the entire game, twice. Yes, you ae basically getting two games in one with The Banner Saga 2, one in which you play through as Rook, and one in which you play through at Alette. You’ll meet different characters, encounter different trials, and fight in different battles depending on which character survived at the end of The Banner Saga 1. If you didn’t play the first game, don’t worry, you can just start up The Banner Saga 2 from scratch choosing to play as either character of your choosing. This is a godsend for people who are going to want to go back and see the other story path after they complete the game once.
The gameplay of The Banner Saga 2 is still largely the same as The Banner Saga 1, You’ll have three distinct portions of the game, the management portion, the caravan portion, and the battle portion.
The caravan portion of the game plays out a lot like Oregon Trail. You have a number of different villagers in your party, and it’s your job to safely guide them across dangerous lands to safety. This means keeping them stocked with food, allowing them to rest, making decisions that will keep them happy, and so on. It’s in this portion of the game that you will make many of your important story decisions.
The management portion of the game is what occurs when your party stops at a town or rests. This is where you will level up your characters, purchase items, food, and other supplies, and generally plan where the next leg of your journey will take you. You always have to strike a balance between purchasing powerful weapons and equipment for your battle party, and keeping your villagers fed.
Finally, there is the battle portion of the game, which operates off the same grid based system that the first game did. As before, your characters will have two important stats, strength and armor. Strength is both their HP, and their attack power. Armor, is the amount of damage that is soaked from an attack before it is dealt to your strength. In general, your goal is to reduce enemies to low strength, but not to kill them until the battle is almost over. Enemies with strength that is below your armor total only have a percentage chance to do only one damage, and since the game always alternates turns, one for you, one for the enemy, you want the enemy to have as many ineffective strength one enemies as possible.
The developers knew that this wasn’t exactly the most compelling form of combat, however, and decided to switch things up a bit for The Banner Saga 2. Now, battles have numerous different types of victory conditions. Sometimes a battle won’t end until you defeat a powerful boss enemy. Other times, you have to survive for a certain number of turns. Still other times you will need to move an important unit from one side of the battlefield to the other. It really changes up the flow of battle, making it feel less repetitive. Many battles also have barriers or destructible terrain on them now, which alters where you can move, and it’s worth noting that an enemy will always attack terrain if they can’t attack you, which allows you to lure enemies into position in order to deal them a lot of damage.
Characters can level up in new ways in The Banner Saga 2. Perhaps most importantly, they can now choose between several different abilities when they level up. In The Banner Saga 1, characters only got one ability which was dependent on their class. This allows you to diversify your characters a little bit more and gives you reason to include multiple characters of the same class, which there wasn’t much reason to do in The Banner Saga 1.
Outside of battle, you also have new abilities in the caravan portion of the game. For example, your villagers and clansmen, now have the ability to go out and scavenge, or to act as traveling merchants for you. Before, they were simply mouths to feed, and a way to lose morale if enough of them died. Now, they can pull their weight.
But what’s really worth noting, is just how beautiful the game is. The Banner Saga 1 was already beautiful, using an old style of rotoscoping to make the game feel like an animated movie. But The Banner Saga 2 is even better, with smoother animations, more detailed backgrounds, and far more imposing landscapes to travel through. If you enjoyed The Banner Saga 1 for its visual aesthetic, you will love The Banner Saga 2 that much more.
Honestly, that is what can be said for the entire game. If you liked The Banner Saga 1, The Banner Saga 2 is right up your alley. If you didn’t, then you probably aren’t going to be converted by it’s sequel. I personally think that The Banner Saga 1 was one of the best strategy games to come out in the last few years, and The Banner Saga 2 will easily do the franchise name justice.
The Banner Saga 2 is due out later in 2015.
Angelo M. D'Argenio
Senior Contributing Writer
Date: June 24, 2015