‘The Banner Saga’ is a viking inspired turn-based role playing game with beautiful visuals and an engaging combat system. I found the plot was slow to get started, and the game ended abruptly and a bit unsatisfactorily. Overall, I’m not entirely sure what to make of it.

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Throughout the course of the game you’ll travel to various locales, manage your resources, fight dredge, upgrade your characters, and make lots of little decisions about the running of your caravan. There is a lot of reading to do in this game, and you’ll periodically have decisions to make about who to allow into your caravan, how to deal with unruly members of your group, and how to react to sudden, violent situations outside of battle. All of your choices will have consequences, some of them apparent right away (most obviously in a character getting killed), and some not having an impact until much later. This gives the game a lot of replayability. It can also be more than a little jarring when in the space of about two sentences, your favourite character gets killed.

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You’ll also need to make decisions about how many supplies to buy. You use renown both to upgrade your characters and to buy supplies. This means you’re often making a choice between guessing how long until the next village, or whether to strengthen your characters. This also makes it particularly galling when a character you’ve spent a lot of renown on upgrading suddenly dies… The trade-off worked well though, and I would anxiously watch the day count rise and my supplies dwindle, hoping to spot a village over the next rise. Once you run out of supplies, your people start dying. Aside from not wanting to lose any people, this can have consequences for ‘wars’, when the player party, and the warriors in the party who you don’t control, enter into fights with dredge.

The battle system was a highlight of the game. Characters have defence and attack points. Your attack points also function as your health, so as your health goes down, your ability to do damage also goes down. The fighting is turn based, however the turns rotate between you and the computer, so right up until there is only one enemy left, you’ll only get one turn at a time. This has implications for how you approach battles, as trying to kill one enemy at a time won’t work well if you leave the rest of your enemies at full health (and thus with high attack), and still getting the same number of turns as you.

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The music and the visuals of the game were also beautiful. It was a pleasure to see the caravan roll across the cold, dangerous world, mountains and monuments rising in the distance.

The downsides of the game were that the main plot took a long time to pick up steam. For most of the game I felt like I was just running away from dredge, with no real purpose. The story does get better later though, but then abruptly ends without answering any of the questions of the story, or giving any real resolution. I was very surprised when the credits rolled.

Overall, the ‘Banner Saga’ is a beautiful, engaging game with lots of replayability, however the abrupt and unsatisfactory ending tarnished my enjoyment of it considerably.

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