The Banner Saga is a remarkable and outstanding work. When its creators asked Kickstarter's users for a hundred thousand dollars, they did not expect that they would raise the sum seven times higher. Such a huge influx of cash allowed them to create an unconventional, highly thought-through and mature RPG game, and plan two sequels to advance (eventually the title will become a trilogy). The money has not been wasted: Stoic's studio has made every effort to please both the fans of the extensive dialogues and the nonlinear storyline and the tactics of turn-based skirmishes. However, it is not all - the authors created interesting, referring to the mythology of the Nordic universe, and the whole have featured a distinctive, atmospheric sound and visual setting. What more could you want?
The gameplay is divided into three spheres - exploration, dialogue between characters and fighting. The first one is the least complicated: during the featured campaign, we follow the fate of two groups trying to reach the marked point on the map, experiencing various adventures along the way. From time to time, switching between the army of giants escorting the prince of the people (the first team) and a small group of refugees fleeing the ancient evil (second). Goals of the march are imposed on the player, but he himself must take care of the food for his subordinates and their morale, occasionally break camps, as well as choose specific routes for the entire caravan. In a sense, the strategic layer influences the other levels of play: for example, if we do not allow our wives to sleep, it will affect their will to fight during battles.
The creators of the game paid a lot of attention to the characters they created. From the beginning of the game, we have a set of main and minor heroes that are crucial to the overall plot. However, there is nothing to prevent the team to join the next daredevil, met along the way - it must be treated with each other because of their personality, goals and intentions, often deeply hidden. It is worth pointing out that the continuous increase of the team can bring catastrophic results because some heroes can plot against us and even murder unfavourable companions. In this respect, The Banner Saga can be extremely surprising - some turnarounds and story swings can change the course of events, turning history into slightly different tracks. Let us emphasize that everything remains reasonable and meaningful - there is no randomness here, but a partially nonlinear scenario leaves us with a very wide room for manoeuvre.
During numerous conversations with allies and independent characters, we must carefully select words and make hundreds of ambiguous (also morally) decisions that depend on the future of the expedition. It happens that with the consequences of our choices we meet only after some time, but most often the effects are immediate - for example, taking under his wing a few additional soldiers will affect the number of stocks we hold, and the order of firing the forest will be made immediately. It is quite a separate matter that the real results of some of the provisions may radically differ from those we have intended - noble deeds often produce frightening effects, including the death of the main heroes or people who have trusted them. The lack of black and white distinctions is a feature of The Banner Saga - which is more interesting that the production does not offer the ability to freely write the game state, but only the autosave option. This makes it impossible for us to "safely" take up any challenge, simply by pressing the F5 key and seeing what we pay for. For this reason, everything must be carefully considered, otherwise we will have to return to a much earlier part of the story or ... to reconcile ourselves with the bad consequences of our moves.
The last significant element of the game is tactical battles, played in turntable mode on fairly large boards. It is with them that we spend a great deal of time - not only because they occur very often (only some of them can be avoided through dialogues), but also because of their level of difficulty. While "easy" clashes should not give you the least amount of trouble, the more demanding you can get in the way of players who have taken careless steps in the rest of the gameplay (for example, sending the best of the warriors to a suicide mission or starving their army). This does not change the fact that the clashes themselves can bring a lot of fun - especially if we have a small team of high-ranking heroes who, without the shortage, massacre several times more hostile forces. Our "strike squad" consists of up to six characters (with varying skills and statistics) that can be equipped with magical artefacts. It is worth mentioning that during the battles, the random factor has been reduced to a minimum - there are no dice rolls, all calculations are made by simple statistics of the characters and external modifiers (such as special combat capability or proximity of a friendly shield). This allows us to plan every move in detail, and blame ourselves only for failure, not just the mechanics of the game.
The word of praise belongs to the creators for the setting of the game. The graphics consciously relate to Disney's old two-dimensional fairy tales (specifically to Eyvind Earle's work, which is responsible, for example, for Peter Pan), giving players hand-painted landscapes and creating very characteristic characters. This is really great - movie cutscenes and dialogue scenes could be found in a full-fledged cartoon if they only add more dynamism and diversify camera shots.
Equally warm words have to be directed towards the soundtrack creator - Austin Wintory, known from the musical setting for Journey and flOw, this time beat himself. The compositions in the game perfectly build the atmosphere of production, including motifs associated with the Vikings and frosty Scandinavia - sometimes uplifting and energetic, in other moments subdued and barely audible. There are no catchy "melodic" melodies that would fall into your ear or be let out of the game (unless during an RPG session), but it should be emphasized that they are responsible for the atmosphere of the mysterious world in which the gods were consumed by Ragnarok.
The Banner Saga has a few shortcomings: mention only some of the failure of the game and limited exploration of the terrain - we continue to pursue the goal, we can not look around or deviate from the designated route (outside the established locations). It is also debatable whether the once-completed fun is worth returning for the second time - the entire title takes about 10 hours, during which we only make several decisions that affect the story told rather than the medium details. The vast majority of the time we will devote to the already known battles that we can actually do differently than before, but they will not surprise us anymore. So it is important to ask yourself: Is it worth the effort to look at the other end and save the team members we recently sacrificed?
In addition to the above doubts, however, you must admit that The Banner Saga is a unique work in its class - it successfully combines the eruption layer with tactical battles, offering history, many memorable characters and fabulous setting. Although definitely not a proposition for everyone (especially gamers who are looking forward to action, hand-holding, and decent action, they will feel disappointed), however, it is recommended to all those who long for elaborate, slightly melancholic tale. If you feel sentimental to Scandinavian sag or sad cartoons, then this is a mandatory proposal for you.