The Banner Saga (Switch) – Review
Follow Genre: Turn Based Tactical Role Playing Game
Developer: Stoic Studio
Publisher: Versus Evil
Platforms: PS4, Android, Xbox One, iOS, PC, Linux, Mac, Switch
Tested on: Switch

The Banner Saga (Switch) – Review

Site Score
8.4
Good: Atmosphere, Battles, Choices
Bad: Characters have the same poses over and over, Unclear UI in handheld mode
User Score
8.0
(1 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)

The Banner Saga is a game that garnered a lot of attention thanks to its picturesque graphical prowess, its harsh theme, the impact of the choices you made and the gratifying combat experience. The series is still getting a lot of time in the limelight, especially now since the third installment of the series will be released soon. Now, the first game has been ported to Nintendo’s Switch, which seems to be the popular thing to do as of late, but we did not mind to revisit this game from 2014 with some added touchscreen support. Gut wrenching choices awaited us, in the midst of conflicts and a grand voyage.

Story

In The Banner Saga you will be thrown into a world that seems to be slowly becoming barren, and this is because a mysterious enemy called the Dredge. Nobody seems to know a whole lot about them, but they simply slaughter everyone they come across. Due to this, the human race and the Varl, which are basically half-giants, have started working together to protect their homesteads. It’s clear that both races don’t really like each other, but they have a bigger fish to worry about, hence the somewhat makeshift cooperation. Nonetheless, in the game you’ll switch between two travelling groups, one with the Varl in charge, the other with a human commander, making for an interesting flipside after every chapter. Overall the story is brought by a lot of text dialogue and not everything is clear at the very beginning, but the game has something that allows you to keep pressing forward.

Graphics

Even though the game was considered an indie title, the graphical style of The Banner Saga is simply amazing. You’ll be treated to hand drawn cutscenes, backdrops and conversation screens, which look astonishing, even when playing in the handheld mode. Even though the conversations aren’t always fully animated, they are brought to life with small movements, breaking the impression you’re looking at a still life, which adds a lot to the game’s atmosphere. Other than that, even the combat sequences feel as if everything has been drawn by hand, as the characters have so much personality that it seems as if you’re watching a very decent animated movie, that enjoyed a high budget behind the production. Simply put, even though the second game and third game will probably have an even higher standard in terms of graphics, this first game does not feel dated at all.

The game does have a few minor downsides that mess with the graphical quality. For starters, every character will always assume the same position during conversations, which gets a bit weird after you’ve spent several hours with the game. The second remark would be the UI when playing in the handheld mode, in which the explanation texts and even the different structures of a camp are barely readable.

Sound

You’ll be met by proper sound design in The Banner Saga, which is always great when you’re dealing with a very strong game in terms of atmosphere. We only regret that the voice acting portion is quite low, as you’ll only be treated to some fine voice acting during cutscenes, and not during the many conversations you’ll have when playing through this title.

In terms of music, you’ll not be left disappointed, as the music properly sets the pace of the game, as well as the right atmosphere for every encounter and battle you’ll face. You can go from an upbeat and cheerful track to something more dire, filled with heavy drums to let you know the game means business.

 Gameplay

The Banner Saga is a strategic RPG, with a lot of choices that truly impact the story. You’ll be wading through many difficult combat sequences, all while making choices for the people that follow your command, hoping they will survive the tough choices that have to be made. Nonetheless, there’s a proper mix between dialogues, managing everything and the combat portion, making this a very interesting, but heavy game.

Combat follows a fairly familiar turn based gridded layout, in which, no matter the size of your party or the enemy’s, you always take alternating turns, making sure everyone gets the same amount of combat time. It only changes when one party is being reduced to one warrior, leaving said party in a disadvantage, as the game will not allow you to take alternating turns anymore. There are a lot of tactical elements thrown in the mix, as each character has armor and strength, the latter being the HP of said character. If you dish out damage to the armor first, you’ll be able to deal extra damage to said character’s strength the next turn. If you want to dish out even more damage, you can use your limited supply of willpower, to add some extra damage. This can be useful for a finishing move, instead of leaving an enemy with one strength, allowing him to attack you once more. If you play on the normal difficulty, your characters can get injured, if they are downed in combat. Injured characters will be weaker in the coming battles, if they haven’t recovered yet. It’s advised to keep your party in a healthy state, especially at the beginning of the game, as you will have a limited supply of warriors.

Every time you kill a foe, you will gain renown, which can be used to level up your warriors, but it is also the currency in the game to gain supplies, which creates another difficulty level, as you’ll need stronger warriors to overcome what is thrown at you, but you also need supplies. You’ll need to keep your supplies in check, as the more people join your caravan, the more supplies will be consumed. It’s a nice system, that works, but it’s not always that easy to choose the proper option.

Even though more and more games allow players to choose their own direction in which they want to flow, more often than not, the choices don’t have any real impact or repercussions, making it a very linear and somewhat bland experience in terms of story. The Banner Saga does account the choices you make, and you’ll have to make do with what you have chosen, creating a different flow than if you would have made another choice. This is probably what makes the game both harsh and charming at the same time.

The controls will take some time getting used to on a console when it comes to a strategy title such as this one. Nonetheless, the tutorial is rather extensive, and allows you enough time to learn the ropes. That being said, we were surprised that the game received full touchscreen support, allowing you to duke it out with several flicks of your finger(s). While many will stick to the conventional controls, it’s still nice to see that the developers took the time to implement one of the Switch’s functions, which is something often overlooked when porting games to Nintendo’s latest console/handheld hybrid.

Conclusion

Even years after its release, in a ported state, with only added touchscreen support, The Banner Saga remains a stellar experience for fans of strategic RPG games. You’ll be enthralled by the visual presentation, the choices you’ll have to make, the depth of the combat and of course the world in which you’ll be travelling from start to finish. If you own a Switch and you’re looking for a strategy game with a good story flow to sink your teeth in, we can wholeheartedly advise this one.

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Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)
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The Banner Saga (Switch) - Review, 8.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
Ibuki
Ibuki


Aspiring ninja.

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