Last month we told you a preview of The Banner Saga, indie project by Stoic Studio, developed by Alex Thomas, Arnie Jorgensen and John Watson, three former Bioware members, which has found multiple acclaim on Kickstarter and is finally available to the general public of Steam.
The time has come, in this cold January, to descend into the sunless lands of The Banner Saga and draw the necessary conclusions.
Where the plot is king
As we already told you last month, The Banner Saga tells of the alliance between humans and the Varl, long-horned giants, and of their resistance and escape from the army of Dredge, armored giants apparently driven only by their own murderous instincts to exterminate any living thing that gets in their way.
The whole adventure revolves mainly around Rook, a battle-forged archer, his daughter Alette, who is also an archer and ready to follow her father to the end of the world, and Iver, a Varl who would do anything to protect his best friend. , but which hides a dark past.
During their journey, the three will meet many friends and poor people in difficulty, but they will also have to deal with the climatic pitfalls and above all with the fickleness and wickedness of living beings.
The entire adventure takes about ten hours to complete, depending on the player's skill, and features several twists and turns, as well as the possibility of losing hard-trained warriors over the course of spoken interludes between battles.
The Banner Saga keeps the motivation high until the end, leading the player into an escalation of events that will complete Rook's journey, depending on the choices made during the seven chapters.
Once the game is complete, you can restart it by changing your choices, trying to save those who did not make it, and find more facets to the Stoic Studio title, even if the first trip will surely be the best and engaging.
Forged by battle
The Banner Saga mix the mechanics of a classic graphic adventure, including multiple choices that affect the plot, interactive dialogues between characters and events narrated with a manic description that will lead to different consequences depending on the player's actions, to those of a strategic management GDR, with the classic chessboard battles, where we will be able to move our heroes and guide them to victory, including special moves, physical attacks and victories decided by the player's strategic ability and not by the level of the character.
In fact, although it is possible to enhance our protagonists (twenty-five different characters in total ndGuido), you will never face random battles to increase the experience or to get new items, all the battles of The Banner saga take place for specific reasons and are used to continue the tale of Rook and his company.
Unfortunately, if on the one hand the absence of random clashes does not slow down the continuation of the adventure, on the other they cancel the secondary missions, completely absent from the title of Stoic Studio.
If ever one of our heroes falls in battle, we will find him injured for a few days (while he will recover completely after the battle, in case you have to play Easy ndGuido) but you will have to be careful, as already explained above, during the events narrated between one battle and the other, your choices may lead to the final death of more than one of our comrades, with no way back or safety, a wrong click could result in the loss of the strongest soldier in the company.
The importance of travel
The management part of The Banner Saga finds its fulcrum in the Caravan, and in its travel far and wide for the vast map of lands conceived by Stoic Studio.
The player's task is to keep up the morale of the troops and ordinary citizens who will join the group of Rooks and associates, managing food, choosing the right place to rest and adopting the best choice in the numerous events that will appear on the screen between a village and the other.
It will not always be advisable to accept strangers into the group, who could turn out to be thieves or murderers, while at times the trust given may reward you with rare tools or extra supplies.
The day counter will scroll regardless of the choices made, reducing food supplies and limiting the morale of the group from time to time. low morale could lead to internal riots or less efficiency on the battlefield, mistakes that the player will learn not to make in order not to find himself with his back to the wall in the last stages of the game.
Unlike battles, the management of the Caravan does not suffer from differences between one difficulty and another, always placing its bases on the player's adaptability and on the choice of what is best for the group, it will often happen that you have to sacrifice a coveted character enhancement, to buy the supplies necessary to keep the morale of the troops high.
An intelligent and well-designed system that will test even the most hardened management player.
The beauty of two dimensions
Another aspect that struck us in the preview phase was certainly the powerful visual impact of the title. Each character is drawn in a unique and flawless way, remembering the Norse warriors and true humans, exhausted by battles and age; the Varls mirror their brutal personality and instill fear as they peer into the player in the numerous cutscenes.
Everything finds its apex in the travel sequences, where we will see many small characters marching on breathtaking backgrounds all with an amazing 2D animation worthy of the best AAA titles.
Austin Wintory's music amazes and excites, giving that touch of Norse epic, and a sense of epicness to the battles against the Dredge, and will surely carve a place in the hearts of those who face the title of Stoic Studio.
Unfortunately, the dubbing, which lacks charisma and sometimes even sins in the interpretation, is not at the same level, also thanks to the lack of subtitles in the few spoken scenes; finally we underline the fact that in order to make the most of the title it is necessary to have a good knowledge of English.
The Banner Saga is a title capable of thrilling and challenging all types of players, and will certainly find space among the AAA giants coming out in this 2014.Verdict 8.5 / 10 When I die, I want a Viking funeral Comment The Banner Saga managed to enchant me from the first hours of the game, the atmosphere, the characters and the music hunt the player and convince him to continue on his journey, trying to save as many lives as possible from the tragic fate. Hoping that the second chapter will soon see the light, we can only promote and recommend the first title of Stoic Studio to all fans of graphic, management and strategic adventures. Pros and cons ✓ Strong visual impact
✓ Engaging music
✓ Increasing difficulty x Absence of extras and side missions
x Dubbing not always up to par