GB Feature: The Banner Saga Review

31 Jan 2014

The Banner Saga is both one of the first notable RPG releases of 2014, and the subject of our first review of a year that promises to be rich in new titles, especially when compared to the barren 2013. A few words on the game's main narrative:

The Banner Saga takes place in a fantasy setting liberally inspired by the Norse sagas of yore, with an apocalyptic tinge to its pitch: the Gods are dead, and recently the sun has stopped dead in its tracks, locking the lands in an eternal day. Things take a turn for the worse when, from the perspective of two distinct groups made of pre-made unique characters, you witness the beginnings of what seems to be a full-scale Dredge invasion, the Dredge being an enigmatic race of silent black-armor-clad giants that seem unbeatable, and already caused trouble to the humans and Varls (a race of horned giants) in the past.

It's a story that seems doomed not to end well, one that plunges you into the events from the very beginning with little regard for your confusion, expecting you to be able to immediately make choices that will carry heavy consequences for the characters you've just met. While the finer details of the game's lore can take a while to pick up, the broad strokes are simple enough to understand, and Stoic has done a good job at giving the players the information they need without resorting to exposition dumps, with very few exceptions. As I've said, the choices you make all have an impact too, and the game does an exceedingly good job at putting you into the shoes of a leader forced to make tough calls in a desperate situation, having to deal with the perils of battle on one hand, and starvation and illness on the other.