The Banner Saga 2 Review

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Independent
Developer:Stoic
Release Date:2016-04-19
Genre:
  • Role-Playing,Strategy
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
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Introduction

The Banner Saga 2 is a tactical role-playing game from Texas-based Stoic Studio.  It's the sequel to 2014's The Banner Saga, and it continues the story started by that first game.  The Banner Saga 2 was released in 2016, but I recently took a look at it while preparing for The Banner Saga 3.

In The Banner Saga, you managed a ragtag group of survivors as they made their way from the human lands to the capital of the varl (giant, horned humanoids), fighting creatures called dredge all along the way.  In The Banner Saga 2, with the varl is disarray due to the events from the first game, you head back towards the human lands hoping for better results.

If you have a save from the first game, then you can import it into the sequel and continue your story directly.  For this case, your characters, their levels, their equipment, and their kill counts carry over.  But if you don't have a save, then you have to choose which character between Rook and Alette survived the first game, and you end up with a standard party that made "canon" decisions.  Importing, obviously, is much better.

Characters

Unlike most role-playing games, in The Banner Saga 2 (just like in The Banner Saga) you don't create your own character.  You simply make decisions for the main characters in the story.  If you like analogies, then it's sort of like if you're playing a Lord of the Rings game with Frodo as your main character.  The One Ring gets destroyed at the end no matter what, but maybe you don't take Merry and Pippin with you, or maybe you send Gimli on a suicide mission and he gets killed by orcs.

Still, you get to develop the characters who travel with you.  Each character is defined by five attributes: strength (which doubles as damage and health), armor (which protects against damage), break (which allows the damaging of armor), willpower (which powers abilities and exertion), and exertion (the amount of willpower characters can add for extra strength or break damage).

Characters also have passive and active abilities based on their class.  These can be things like Stone Wall (which gives the character damage resistance), Tempest (which allows the character to hit multiple enemies), and Bloody Flail (which allows the character to hit an enemy four or more times, and deal strength or break damage each time).  For most of the game, you have a crowd of characters following you, but you can only take six into battle with you at once, which means you have to make some tough decisions about which abilities (and characters) you find the most useful.

When characters earn enough kills to gain a level, you have to spend renown points for their advancement.  Renown is mostly gained from winning battles, but you can also get some from events and achievements.  Interestingly, renown is the game's only currency, and it's also required for purchasing supplies and equipment, so you have to be judicious with its use.

When characters gain a level, they receive 2 points for improvements.  In The Banner Saga, characters could only reach level 5, and you could only spend these improvement points on their attributes.  But in The Banner Saga 2, characters can reach level 10, and rather than let attribute scores get out of hand (which would make it too easy to one-shot weak characters), Stoic Studio added talents.  Talents are passive abilities that characters can learn if they max out an attribute.  For example, when characters max out strength, they can choose between Robust (which gives them a chance to resist strength damage) and Artery Strike (which increases their critical chance).  So talents give you lots of new options for how to develop your characters.