The Banner Saga 2 continues the saga with this sequel, featuring a bleak and barren Nordic world created by developer Stoic. Hand drawn art, an impressive musical score, and turn based tactical game play all return in this highly rated sequel. First off, I have to admit, that there are 2 genres of games I just do not get on with, as I personally do not enjoy them. Not saying they are bad genres however, just not my cup of tea. Tower Defense and Turn Based combat. For me, they are boring, slow and tedious at the best of times. But in recent weeks, I have had to eat my words. Defense Grid 2 for tower defense and now Banner Saga 2 for turn based combat genres have made me eat some humble pie. It tasted nice enough, but shame there was no cream to go with it. To say I was impressed with Banner Saga 2 is a huge understatement. The visuals and the musical score grabbed me with invisible hands, and held me in front of my TV. Not letting me go until I was given my fix of a rousing Nordic world full of doom and gloom. Sometimes, all the happy and cheerful approaches to games just don’t cut it, and being brought down to earth by misery can tell you a whole different story.
The artwork was one of my favourite aspects of Banner Saga 2. It reminded me of cartoon styles used back in the 80’s. Simple, and easy on the eye. It doesn’t have to be the most amazing HD graphics that make a game, and on occasions like this, it works. I have always been of the mindset that game play comes before graphics. Especially since I have been a gamer for 31 years. I grew up playing some of the ugliest games ever, some not all mind you, and still had a great time playing these games. Graphics do help further the cause of a good game though, so not ruling them out. In the case of the Banner Saga series, the graphical style that has been implemented, is a style I am glad they have gone with.
The option to import your save file from the previous game has made all decisions from the previous game worthwhile, or so I am told. I have never played the entry in the series, and now I feel that Ii have missed out in a rather big way. Now Ii am scrounging my way through the house, checking down the back of the sofa, under the fridge, anywhere really, just so I can make that all important purchase, to enable me to experience the whole series. But it’s turn based combat. I said I don’t like the genre. Only Final Fantasy VII has ever had a grip on me from said genre, and nothing since. I am impressed, the developer has managed to turn a gamer who shuns that type of game, into a mouth-watering fan. Got to hand it to them, they have created a masterpiece, and one I will probably play again should I have the time to invest.
The cast of characters and the choices you make for them affect more than just dialogue, and will change the entire game. This type of game play mechanic is becoming more prevalent in the recent years, what with TellTale Games Walking Dead series, and Dontnod’s Life is Strange and their episodic story telling. The only problem with episodes is having to wait so long for the next one to become available. For me, Banner Saga 2 does this right and has it all available from the get go. But back to the game. The characters return from the previous game, and on to pastures new. The scenery has changed from what I have been able to find out from those who have played them both, and the new locations add variety, and keep the visual side of things fresher. This shows progress in the journey and the world around them.
New classes have been added to the game, such as the Tracker class, or even the Centaurs, which will change how you approach the battles within the game, giving you the chance to learn something new in the series rather than just plod on thinking you know it all. Keeping you on your toes, and not letting things get stale. Well played Stoic. The battlefield adds destructible and Indestructible objects to further change the game, and again, make you work on perfecting your strategies. Some may like this implementation, others not so much. But if they had kept it the same, they would have been accused of not trying to keep the game fresh. Either way, it’s happened.
It did take me a while to become accustomed to the turn based combat, and as I have always preferred real-time battles, I found it hard to get stuck into at first, but the story woven in with a beautiful sound track, more than make up for this in my opinion. It is a niche genre for sure, and not one that would entice everyone. But should story driven, or turn based gaming be your forte, you could do a lot worse than Banner Saga 2.
On the whole, I have enjoyed my experience playing a game that I had previously overlooked, and shown no interest in whatsoever. I decided to give this game a go for review purposes, and am grateful that I did. Sometimes, a change of scenery is a refreshing one, and an experience that you will come to love without realising it. Quite a shock for me personally. Maybe in the future, I will give genres I avoid like the bubonic plague more of a chance. But I do not include anything like Let’s Dance, or any singing game. They can stay well clear of me, as I dance like your drunk uncle at a wedding and sing like a strangled seagull. Otherwise, I will remain open to a game I would normally ignore.
I would heartily recommend that you pick this game up and engross yourself in this bleak and miserable Nordic world, and meet the cast of characters whose existence can be decided upon by you and you alone, as you make the choices that manipulate all around them. Then take turns to hit each other, in a unique style of fighting that has never transcended into the real world. Which would probably make you look a bit silly, drunk outside the pub at closing time and fighting a random bloke over some girl who doesn’t even like either of you.
In closing, I had an engaging time playing Banner Saga 2, and would suggest you look into it as well, whether you are a fan of the turn based combat or just curious about it. You may find yourself surprised, just as I, at how engrossed you will become. I didn’t intend too, but here I am. Reviewing and all. be more open-minded, I guess is what I am saying, as it doesn’t hurt to broaden your horizons from time to time.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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