The Banner Saga would be the first turn based game I would play on the Xbox One. I was not sure what to expect, I had seen the game advertised before and liked the art style. In no way was I prepared for the narrative focused journey that I was about to embark on.
Like I mentioned, The Banner Saga uses a turn based component for its beefy combat sections. You are able to control a roster of characters with unique abilities and traits. Each character allows the player to play to certain styles, ranging from close range swings to firing a bow from far away. You will easily fall in love with certain characters, and just as easily hate other ones. This is where the narrative focus of The Banner Saga comes to play.
Essentially you are put into a viking inspired world stuck in constant twilight. You will take control over numerous characters as you influence decisions and engage events. This means that you can have a completely different game the second time you play it. This narrative can carry consequences as your characters can die depending on what you do, meaning you may want to find a good balance of danger and keeping out of things.
Now lets get to the nitty gritty, a turn based game strategy on console!? The Banner Saga handles it delicately, making it easy for new comers to the genre to pick up the game and go. You control a character at a time and move them along a square grid, moving more depending on the role of the character. It is a simple system with characters having a health and amour meter to take care of, the more damage to the amour, the easier it is to knock down the health. I find that the combat is simple enough for players while also invoking a sense of strategy as you place your characters around the map. One bad move or, poor timed attack could cost you in the long run, meaning you can’t just expect to go head first into danger.
You’ll find yourself being pushed and punished for the decisions you make, difficulty can get scary all of a sudden making for a real challenge on the battlefield. I find this quite refreshing when you need to put the lives of the characters into your hands, making a decision at a dangerous time could go good or bad for you. While playing the game I found myself losing characters and having events play out which I knew were the result of my quick nature to get shit done. Causing me to adapt and figure out new strategies, which felt like it set me back as a player quite a way.
When you’re not in battle you will likely be travelling between a variety of locations on the map. While travelling you can watch as the army treks, with the day counter on the top you get a feeling for how long the journey is for the characters. I wanna quickly mention the soundtrack here as it fits the atmosphere perfectly. You get a sense for the cold wastelands that you are exploring, making it enjoyable to simply watch characters on a screen move from one place to another. While you might not notice it all the time it simply enhances the experience I was expecting to get out of a Viking age story.
You might also be finding the time to upgrade your troops when not fighting, depending on their performance in combat you will be able to upgrade stats and abilities for certain characters, giving you a sense that you as well as the characters are growing in knowledge and strength.
The Banner Saga does a lot of things well, the animation, music, narrative and combat is all neatly packed together to make a fun, working experience. You might find that the game ends a tad bit abruptly however, but I think this is due to the story being told over 3 games. I have yet to play 2 so I cannot say for certain at the moment. As someone who enjoys narrative based games, I can say that Banner Saga does a good job at keeping choices and consequences at the front of your brain. Some games seem to give you the illusion of choice, to make you feel like you did something. In Banner Saga you know if you’ve done something because what happens next is a direct response to that. I’m excited to watch the universe and story grow over the next game.
The Banner Saga scores an 8/10.