The Banner Saga Review: Making Difficult Decisions On and Off the Battlefield

What happens when innovative tactical game play and brilliant storytelling meet? The Banner Saga. That's what happens.

The Banner Saga is a nice change of pace from most games we see today. Not only is it a tactical RPG requiring difficult decisions like in a game a chess, it has an extremely interactive story. What you do in the story is often more important than what you do in battle. I commend Stoic Studios for creating a game like this.

Recommended Videos
Story: 9/10

There are several reasons this story is fantastic. I love the text/choose your own adventure approach to the game. It was refreshing and nostalgic way to read through the story.

While traveling, I got a sense of the classic game, Oregon Trail. Scenarios constantly popped up that could threaten the caravan, plus you have to keep your supplies up to stop people from starving. Decisions you make along the way will determine how many battles you have and how many supplies you get.

The power of choice couldn’t be more important than in The Banner Saga.

There are times when there are voice overs, which are excellent, but they do not happen often. It made me pay closer attention to the story because I had to actually read through what was going on to make my decisions. I also listened to the voiced parts more carefully since they did not happen often.

The story itself was quite enjoyable. I always wondered what would happen next, and if I made the right choice. You get connected to the characters very easily, plus you might have a unique experience because of the multitude of choices that you make throughout the story. Make no mistake, the gameplay is fun, but the story is this game’s selling point.

Game Play: 8/10

Now for the combat. It is your standard tactical RPG, such as Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem, but with some unique qualities. Each unit has two bars to keep track of. One is the health bar. This bar determines not only how much health a unit has, but the strength of their attacks as well. As their health goes down, so does the damage they deal.

The other is the shield bar. This determines how much damage a unit will take. A high shield will cause little to no damage from attacks. Doing damage to shields will not damage the unit, but it will make them vulnerable to take more damage. This concept puts another layer of strategy in the game. Deciding when to damage shields or health can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

The innovative battle system in The Banner Saga will have you hooked.

Leveling is different as well. There are two things that determine leveling, or promotion, as it’s called in this game.

First, each unit has to defeat a certain number of units to get promoted. This does not mean you can just put them in a fight either, they have to finish off the unit to earn credit.

Second, once a unit has achieved the required number of kills, you must spend a certain amount of Morale, the game’s currency, for promotion. Both required kills and morale cost go up as a unit continue to get promoted.