By William Haderlie / April 7th, 2016
Stoic and Versus Evil have released a preview build of the highly anticipated indie sequel, The Banner Saga 2. I have spent some significant time in the world of the game and I’m back to tell the tales. While I had a lot of interest in the first title, enough to purchase it on Steam, it has alas remained in my Library and on my growing list of shame due to being busy playing so many other games. So this gave me a good excuse to enter this world with a fresh set of eyes. Like a blast of cold wind out of Jötunheimr, a blow to the head from Mjölnir, or a scream of rage from modern Viking Metal, The Banner Saga 2 comes charging out of Viking lore and onto your computer screen. And loving Norse mythology like I do (I own no fewer than 4 books on the mythology, a couple books on the history, and too many fictional ones to count), this was right up my alley.
The sequel picks up immediately following the events of the previous game. And, something that is still very rare, you can import your save file from the first game and all your choices will be brought along with it. If you did not play through the first game, or do not wish to import that over, you will be asked to choose your main character and you will be confronted with how that choice was reflected in the final battle of the first title. You have the choice of Rook or his daughter Allete, but they are not simply pallet swapped equivalent versions of each other. Each one faces different circumstances with the clan. Especially since the person you did not choose died in the final battle of the previous game.
And choices with how you cope with that aftermath and decisions that you make on the road are about half of the game. In that respect this can resemble a modern Oregon Trail at times. But not in a bad way, you will likely want to go through the game many times to find out how all your choices effect your journey across the land. Choices will result in people living or dying, people joining the clan or not, and too many other outcomes to list here. The other half of the game is a tactical grid based strategy RPG. It mostly resembles other strategy RPGs, so you should be able to catch on fairly quickly. But be warned that the difficulty can be pretty brutal even on Normal. On Hard you are in for a very challenging experience so I would only suggest that for series veterans. There are a lot of character types, too many for me to get really used to during the demo, but you do have the chance to Spar in the Training tent and get some much needed fighting experience without any consequence. You can even gain the fighting experience needed for Promotion. But you do not gain any Reputation for those battles, and you need Reputation in order to actually apply a Promotion (level up).
That being said, though, the Preview build they supplied was pretty hefty and took me 7 hours for one playthrough. It comprises Chapter 8 through 11 of the story. But I should point out that this game starts on Chapter 8, it continues onto the overarching story of the first game which had Chapters 1-7. Even though they recap the events of that story, I still feel like you would be better off playing the first one before this one, I think you would get more out of the experience. Playing through the first part (they say this is about 1/3 of the game) certainly made me want to go back and play the first title as well. Even if I didn’t already own it, I would have purchased it based on what I’ve played of this one. And that speaks well for how there second entry is shaping up. There were already new races of friendly creatures straight out of mythology, and also new enemy types to confront. So it’s not only the story that is expanding with the sequel, but the entire world that they are building here.
The last thing I’ll mention in this preview is the art style. That and the Norse folklore are what drew me to the title in the first place. And if anything, the sequel looks even better than the first game in action. This is one of those titles that if Marty McFly had taken it back to the 1980’s in a time machine, he would have blown everyone’s mind. This looks straight out of Rankin/Bass or Don Bluth’s dreams. The artwork they made famous in their movies can now be played on our computers, and that stayed constantly lodged in my head through the whole experience. Well, that and some brutal Viking Metal courtesy of Amon Amarth. I swear, my beard grew a beard of it’s own there was so much Norse manliness.
The game releases on April 19th for PC on Steam. They are also planning on a Playstation 4 and an XBox One release later in the Summer. The game will also feature prominently at PAX East in a couple weeks, even hosting it’s own panel. So if you are attending that event, you will have a chance to both play the title, and also to chat with the creators about all that went into this impressive indie game. This was certainly right up my alley and from what I’ve played I recommend it very highly. So we’ll keep you up to speed on this title and you can expect to hear more from us at Operation Rainfall when it releases on April 19, 2016. Here is the release trailer so you can check out it’s gorgeousness for yourself. Also check out their official website here.
PCSteamStoicStrategy RPGThe Banner SagaThe Banner Saga 2Versus Evil