I wish that my review for The Banner Saga 2 could be as simple as, “Buy the first game, then buy this game. You will not regret any of it!” Sadly, I am not allowed to do that. However you should play both of these games in order and to completion — Something, even with all my gushing, I have yet to accomplish. I reviewed The Banner Saga about six months ago and fell in love with everything about it. Unfortunately my attention span is that of a chipmunk, and something else shiny took my attention away from it. I regret that decision now knowing that I could have imported a complete save file into the sequel and the world would be mine. I had to start a completely new game which led me to a character choice. This choice basically told me the end of the first game, but I still plan on going through it. If you’ve not finished the first game, do not fire up the sequel until you do. Fair warning.
Once your character has been chosen, you are immediately thrust into battle, and this comes right after you’ve defeated your main nemesis in the first game. Doing so changed nothing in the world. It is still breaking and the Dredge are still a scourge across the land. Your plan is to sail to safety by getting to Arberrang’s impenetrable walls. On the way to the docks you encounter a small town, Boersgard, that is under attack. Without a second thought you hurl yourself at the Dredge and save the remaining villagers from a terrible fate. There you meet some new characters that have joined the Saga. Aleo, the chieftain to the town you have saved, probably has the biggest part moving forward. His face kept popping up during travel and provided me with problems to solves and such. This time you go all “Viking” in the game — instead of watching everyone travel as a huge caravan, you are now seaworthy and have to stop on shore to rest and gather supplies.
Stoic Studio brought the same battle system over from the first game, which makes sense. After the first tutorial and the eventual title screen, you are thrust into Chapter 8. I thought that was an insanely nice touch for all the players, seeing that this is an opus of epic proportions. The battles are still turn-based strategy where you maneuver your team to victory on the battlefield. The newest addition to the battle systems are obstacles. Now you may have to smash through some to get to the enemy. This will affect your moves and should change your thinking on the battlefield. This is the series that piqued my interested in the Fire Emblem series, so if you’ve played one of those games and enjoyed the battles, then The Banner Saga is the saga for you. Basically, your battle takes place on a grid and you must move your team around that grid while being mindful of how far they can move and how far their attacks can reach. Each party member has different attacks and different specials; Use these to your advantage to defeat all the Dredge before they defeat you.
The amazing visuals are back as well. The character design that shows the love from the designers is there with every furrowed brow or subtle reaction. As I said in my review of the first game, the visuals remind me of the old Hobbit cartoons I use to watch on television; that still hits me hard right in the nostalgia. I’ve also never really been able to play many table top games seeing as I have a lack of friends. Stoic Studio has turned The Banner Saga into a console version of a table top game. The voice-overs and written text relay that table top feeling so well that I want to get into table top gaming so that I can continue the awe inspiring adventures once the saga has ended. The score that whistles through the game is so subtle and yet so perfect. It never takes away from the game, but it gives it so much. If there were Grammy awards for video game music, Kayne West would be upset because The Banner Saga score would have won both times already.
I cannot recommend this game enough. It is beautiful, well written, properly scored and perfectly controlled. The only huge negative that I could think of was the fact that the loading times seemed a bit too long. I don’t remember the first game having long loading times, but it seems that number 2 needs more help booting up the scenes and gameplay. The other negative was my own fault — not finishing the first game and spoiling the ending for myself. Anyone who played the first title needs to play this one. Anyone who likes table top games, anyone who likes Fire Emblem, heck, anyone at all should enjoy this game. Grab the first one, play it, grab the second one, play that, and then patiently wait for the third.
The Banner Saga 2 is one of July’s free Xbox Games with Gold