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The editors at GameInformer have doled out an interview Stoic co-founder Alex Thomas about The Banner Saga, the strategy/RPG's premise, and the successful Kickstarter campaign that helped make it a reality. An excerpt, as usual:
What interesting twists are you adding to the game's strategy combat?
Thomas: The biggest difference between our combat and other turn-based games is that as allies get wounded they do less damage. Their strength represents their attack damage and their health. Normally this would create a classic death spiral, where a wounded unit becomes less and less useful and the metagame turns into a series of first-hit-wins. We mitigate this by giving each character an armor stat. You have to get through the armor before you start chipping away at strength, and there are many different ways to do this and different strategies for being effective. For the most part we completely avoid random chance, and by the end of a battle it can get really tense having a lot of beat-up warriors scraping for the kill.
Can characters have more than one special skill, or swap out their skills?
Thomas: Each character has a passive and active ability. The passive ability is always there, and usually defines the class in some way. For example, raiders can make a shield wall, so any time they stand next to allies they gain a bonus to their armor as well as giving it to their ally. Active abilities use willpower, which is a finite resource that characters can use to do bonus damage or move further. Most active abilities work in tandem with other characters to make broader team strategies. In addition to these, each character can equip an item, which have unique passive effects in combat. It'd not unlike adding a second passive ability. When we started designing the combat we knew we wanted abilities to have a distinct value instead of giving the player a long list of abilities, ninety percent of which become useless. What we found out was that players were already feeling overwhelmed with options between the strength/armor/willpower mechanic and having two abilities per character to keep track of. On top of that there are roughly 25 unique characters in the saga which you can use to mix and match teams.