First things first, be warned; there are story element spoilers ahead. If you want to avoid them, just know that we give this game an A grade, so go download it now.
If you’re still here and have played the first installment of Banner Saga, you already know a few things. First, you and your troupe are still traveling, looking for a safe place to survive the Drudge incursion. Second, the world is not very accommodating to you and your companions.
Third, Iver’s missing arm switches sides periodically, but we won’t hold that against him.
If you have not played the first installment of the Banner Saga, the sequel is still a fun game and easy to get into and play for hours at a time.
First Spoiler: When you start the game, you get to select your character/hero. You can be either Rook or his Daughter Alette. In the story, the character you choose plays and the other is announced as being dead. A bummer to be sure, but there it is—no more daddy/daughter quality time. This does provide some drama and motivation for how you play the story out.
As you lead your rag-tag band of survivors across the wilderness, you will need to stop to train fighters (the Dredge may show up at any time), trade, rest, and award promotions and skill points to your fighters.
The game will, at some points, offer you the option to increase the number of clansmen and/or fighters. Balance these carefully as the fighters consume more resources but offer better protection. More clansmen help with the foraging for food bit, but they can’t help repel enemies.
Speaking of fighting, the combat sequences are fairly standard turn-based affairs with a square grid playing field.
Since the field is square as opposed to hexagonal, you will need to be extra careful with troop placement (with squares, the diagonal is not considered “adjacent” and your melee combatants will be unable to attack an enemy on the diagonal).
Next Spoiler: Some of your new allies come in the form of a new species to the game, the Horseborn (yes, very much like centaurs). Use your new hoofed friends well and deploy carefully in combat and you will find them a welcome addition.
One odd point regarding combat: I am a bit nonplussed at some of the results of the damage per round inflicted by team player. Like most games, if there is a probability of hit/miss when you wield your weapon in the enemy’s direction, the program either calculates the odds or uses some sort of random number generator to determine whether you hit your target. My issue here is the large Varl berserker (who is, very appropriately, wearing a bear skin) has a base damage of a paltry 1 point. If a large male humanoid berserker wielding two battle axes can go toe to toe and only do one point of damage against a stationary human archer (I scored this several times on the normal difficulty level), it seems a bit lopsided, especially when said archer seemed to have no problem tagging the large Varl for three or four points per hit.
I can appreciate a fair fight and some effort on the part of the player on the normal difficulty setting, but this was a just a wee bit unexpected.
As with the first installment of the Banner Saga, the looks are very much like a graphic novel and well designed. The vignettes for the combat scenes are nice with plenty of bad guys, obstacles, and the always fun disappearing psycho chickens. The traveling scenery goes from bleak winter storm to sweeping vista, all with your banner flying in the breeze.
When it comes to the character dialog, you get to make some choices and determine how the story plays out. The NPCs will react differently based on your response, but you are always in a river with a reasonably determined destination. You can save multiple game profiles and each profile can offer a couple of save points from which you can start so you can try different combinations of decisions and actions to see where the story goes, so good re-playability score there. Even just going through the game once is worth several days of serious play, so you get good value for money for the game.
Banner Saga 2 is not a non-stop combat fest; it’s more story telling with periods of action. If your thing is fast paced first-person shooters, this may not be your cup of tea. But if you appreciate story-driven tactical combat as much as we do here at Public Access Gaming, then Banner Saga 2 is a great addition to your virtual box of games.