Banner of the Maid (PC) Review

By Athanasios 07.02.2020

Review for Banner of the Maid on PC

In the country of its birth, Banner of the Maid has been a relatively successful, indie strategy-RPG, with some great, isometric, pixel graphic-powered battlefields, and beautiful anime character designs within the visual novel-style storytelling part, where the player views the French Revolution from the perspective of Napoleon's sister, Paulina Bonaparte. Lucky for the westerners who wanted to take a look at it, the recent English localization makes it possible for those who don't know Mandarin (50% of the human race?) to enjoy Azure Flame Studio's unrelenting tactical battles.

Taking place in late 18th century Europe, and during the events of the French Revolution, Banner of the Maid follows Napoleon Bonaparte's younger sister, Pauline, as she leads her own army branch, which she aids with her mysterious 'Maid' powers. Those weebs who are now imagining her in French maid attire, dust-cleaning enemies to death... are definitely this critic's kind of people - but no. A Maid in here is basically a woman with special powers, something influenced by the legends surrounding the Maid of Orléans, also known as Joan of Arc.

Sadly, and despite the low-key fantasy elements at hand, both the plot and the characters are all completely forgettable. You'll be hard pressed not to skip dialogue sequences, as they are as dry as reading an assembly manual. People say things, but you won't really "feel" anything. After winning a campaign, for example, many words will be used to say something like "This battle was so hard, but we won," and then you'll move on to the next scene. There was an attempt to have Pauline contemplate on the nature of the conflict at hand, but it's all painfully skin-deep.

Screenshot for Banner of the Maid on PC

Maybe the magic of the narrative has been lost in the process of translating it to English, but maybe the story was simply not good to begin with - it's hard to tell, really. On the bright side, the actual localisation has been pulled off mighty fine, despite the inevitable mistakes here and there, like a handful of typos and grammatical errors, which never manage to ruin the experience - too bad there was nothing to ruin in the first place, though. In the end, if you want something that provides a reason to keep on fighting, this is not an SRPG worth a single minute of your time - you are better of reading The Letters of Napoleon to Josephine. In other words, this is all about entering the isometric fray, and using your grey matter to command and conquer.

This is a fairly simple SRPG, with a gameplay loop that's easy to follow. You play 1-vs-1 matches, with characters being able to move on a grid, and then attack, or use an item or skill. It's basically a game of chess, with various types of terrain and weather effects that change your efficiency, like how grass adds to your evasion ability, or how rain forces you to use more ammo, and with small number of different kinds of troops, who follow a simple, rock-paper-scissors logic, with heavy cavalry beating cavalry, riflemen beating heavy cavalry, and so on. Now, it should be mentioned that Banner of the Maid can certainly be enjoyable, despite the lack of something more innovative. This is fun... and then you realise that it's not, and for a multitude of reasons.

Screenshot for Banner of the Maid on PC

The first flaws come in the form of a subpar, amateurish UI that slows the action down, and looks and feels more like the standard menu that appears when pushing 'Escape.' Then there's the heady lack of quality-of-life "modernisms," like a fast forward button for when the enemy plays (vastly important in a SRPG with lots of trial-and-error), or how the battle animations, which show the battalion that corresponds to each character do its thing (which is great), can only be turned off completely and not skipped. These are nitpicks, though. The real problems lie elsewhere.

Banner of the Maid can be very challenging. That, of course, isn't an issue. A tactical RPG ought to be something that pushes you to become a better strategist. What makes this more annoying than difficult, is that it discourages planning ahead. A great deal of the - surprisingly long - campaign, is about getting screwed due to a sudden, mid-battle event, like the arrival of some reinforcements, and so on. That's not something new in the genre, but you got to have some wiggle room in order for players to alter their strategy. This doesn't provide any, forcing you to restart again and again...

Screenshot for Banner of the Maid on PC

Long story short, you either do the moves you are "required" to do, or lose the game. Even worse are some of the extra challenges, which are additional objectives that award you with items, and so on. These add even more trial-and-error, with some challenges being nigh impossible, unless your units are 100% ready to face them. Occasionally challenges aren't even explained correctly, or don't even register your mistakes, meaning that there was no point in struggling to overcome them. Finally, there's the plague known as the COM units. These are AI-controlled characters that usually have to be protected. The problem? It's hard to understand what's going under the hood of these, and, as such, you will have to replay a level many times so that you can learn how to keep them safe.

There are things that can be done outside of battles, but no matter how upgraded your army is, it all boils down to the actual combat, which is simply not that polished or entertaining. The only joy here is the audio-visual quality. The crispy-clean pixel art style of the isometric battlefield is great, and the same can be said about how the tiny characters animate - it's kind of funny how French soldiers scream orders in Chinese, but that's tolerable. The visual novel aspect is even better, with a nice variety of historical figures getting an anime beautification; particularly the ladies. Remember those renaissance paintings were bosoms were barely contained? Now imagine those overflowing cleavages getting a generous… otaku-fication.

Screenshot for Banner of the Maid on PC

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

A good tactical game makes you feel dumb when losing, but Banner of the Maid makes you feel cheated, as it's less about forming a plan, and more about retrying missions to discover what exact "route" to follow. Add to this a heavy lack of balance, some annoying friendly AI, and a needlessly long length, and this makes this Chinese-born SRPG hard to recommend. Its flawless pixel art style, and sexy anime look, are really the only things of any worth here.

Developer

Azure Flame Studio

Publisher

CE-Asia

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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