The Banner Saga 2 (PC) Review

By Brandon (Michael) Howard 19.04.2016

Review for The Banner Saga 2 on PC

The original Banner Saga title was the product of three former BioWare employees who left the company to create a new venture. In vein with ongoing instalments from that particular company, the aptly named The Banner Saga 2 directly follows the first title, allowing players to import their data and continue on, allowing the choices and characters to carry over. What new challenges await the company of Human and Varl? Following the earlier preview, Cubed3 finds out in the full release.

While some prior knowledge of the first title certainly does help, The Banner Saga 2 is able to slip new players in without too many ripples. For those coming over from the first game, choices made near the end (and, indeed, throughout) will profoundly impact the starting line-up of characters. For those starting fresh, either the hero, Rook, or his daughter, Alette, take lead of the company as they trek to safety.

The choice between father and daughter is one of mutual exclusion, for reasons that become readily apparent. While they do have their own individual strengths and weaknesses as characters in battle, other party members can easily fill out the missing roles from a purely combative perspective. The cast is pretty massive, with over two dozen characters spread across a fairy wide variety of classes. The diversity allows for a lot of wiggle room it terms of strategy needs from objective to objective, and also gives some fun options for unique and interesting parties.

Screenshot for The Banner Saga 2 on PC

The combat missions against the monstrous stone warriors known as the Dredge provide the majority of physical obstacles the band must overcome, and they, too, have their own roles and strengths. Battles are acted out on gorgeous, detailed grid-based maps not unlike those in Final Fantasy Tactics, with characters from both sides taking turns in combat. Characters can move and attack, ideally positioning themselves around obstacles and party members to take the least amount of damage.

Damage is a little more unusual in this series compared to a lot of the other popular strategy titles out there. Instead of a flat pool of health, characters have both health and armour stats. The more armour a character has, the less overall damage they take to their health. To effectively down a character without wasting turn after turn, armour must be stripped from targets before those fatal blows can be struck. There are still a lot of options and tactics to utilise, and it can be a bit mind-boggling at first. Aside from their normal strength, defence, and movement options, characters can utilise their willpower to perform feats outside their normal ability. Whether adding that extra point of damage needed to fell the boss, or that extra space of movement to reach a far-off foe, willpower is an extremely valuable stat that has to be managed, although units can regain a point by resting during a turn.

Aside from the fight against the constant threat of the Dredge, the caravan must also survive the long down-river trek to their destination. Each triumph in combat awards renown, which is the sole source of currency in-game. Renown is used to upgrade fighters, purchase new gear, and perhaps most importantly, to purchase supplies for the company. As the caravan grows, so too do the supplies it needs to survive, making it a constant priority when budgeting.

Screenshot for The Banner Saga 2 on PC

Keeping fighters happy, healthy, and fed is a worthwhile (if not somewhat ambitious given the limited resources) endeavour, however. A rested, well supplied party gains an increase in morale, which grants bonuses to willpower in battle. Managing these needs and bonuses becomes essential as the difficulty begins to ramp up later on in the story. Aside from the more obvious physical needs, there are still other ways to increase, or decrease, the company's morale.

Throughout the story, Rook or Alette are given choices, ranging from the mundane leadership roles, to the life and death choices of war. These decisions aren't generally earth shattering, but they can definitely impact the party's morale. Does the group stand their ground against the Dredge so refugees can make it to safety, or do they cut their losses and make a break for it themselves? Choices like this not only impact the morale of the party, but they do so in a way that directly relates to gameplay.

If the heroes can survive that extra round of combat, they're obviously rewarded with more renown, which in turn allows for upgrades and further chances for survival. The question becomes if they can survive that additional onslaught. Victories in this fashion have a two-fold purpose, between raising the spirits of the caravan, and securing an edge when it comes time to pay the bills.

Screenshot for The Banner Saga 2 on PC

While not all of the dialogue choices have such drastic and far-reaching effects, they still help paint the picture of Rook/Alette's role as the leader. The choices they make impact the lives of hundreds; not just the heroes who fight alongside you, but all those who follow under their banner. The interactions between characters are really well done, and the overall narrative is engaging from start to finish. It's honestly hard to say whether the combat or the characters are more enjoyable, and it makes it really hard to put the game down.

All that aside, it's a really pretty game. The style feels really in tune with the Viking reminiscent fantasy setting, and the character portraits look fantastic. It's really worth mentioning the level of detail in the in-game maps, because they're just such a cool feature. Each battle map doesn't just end past the grid being fought on, and combat rages on beyond those tiles. It, along with all the lore contained in the world map, and all the interesting and engaging characters make for a really immersive experience.

Screenshot for The Banner Saga 2 on PC

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

The Banner Saga 2 is an absolute joy, with its simple, yet deep, strategy, and its hard-hitting narrative. Not only is it a worthy successor to its predecessor, but it honestly can stand on its own as an introduction to the series. It is a lot to get into at first, and the barrier for entry might be a bit high for those unfamiliar with the genre, but it's absolutely one of the most compelling strategy titles out right now, for those willing to get their feet wet.




Versus Evil





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


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