While the first Banner Saga set the stage for the end of the world, Banner Saga 2 ups the ante in spectacular fashion. With an increasing focus on more volatile, dynamic characters like the Varl berzerker, Bolverk, Stoic adds yet another splash of color to the delightfully dreary world it has crafted.
Banner Saga 2 strikes a slightly different tone from its predecessor, adding more mystical elements, and more conflict between characters, but players will once again have to make difficult choices to survive. The game continues to raise the stakes leading up to the final battle, after which I was left with burning questions I am impatiently waiting for Banner Saga 3 to answer.
Note: Save data, which includes major character decisions from the original Banner Saga, can be imported to Banner Saga 2, and will carry over to Banner Saga 3 when it releases.
Picking up moments after the conclusion of the original Banner Saga, Banner Saga 2 has players assume the role of either Rook, the resourceful hunter who led the caravan in the first game, or Rook’s daughter, Alette, a gifted archer, strategist, and leader in her own right.
I chose to play as Alette, and it was a treat watching her grow as a tactician, leader, and role model over the roughly 15 hours I spent with the game. I often chose to put myself, and the caravan, at risk to save those in need (as I did in the first game), and Stoic did a fantastic job creating real consequences for those choices.
Alette has many hurdles to overcome over the course of the game. In addition to the constant fight for survival, the caravan is full of those who do not know her, or trust her, as well as they do her father.
There are those who doubt her leadership because of her youth, or gender, and some have grown despondent after all they have endured, leading to rifts in the caravan. I won’t spoil anything here, but the events and twists leading up to the final battle had me asking questions I can’t wait for Banner Saga 3 to answer.
GAMEPLAY & CONTROLS
None of the gameplay systems or controls change from the original Banner Saga; the sequel is still a rock solid strategy RPG with a wide range of classes and heroes to choose from.
Banner Saga 2 makes its mark by introducing new wrinkles to missions, which expand the strategic options for players. Some additions include destructible obstacles on the map which can provide cover, and new races such as the Horseborn.
While other characters can only move and attack once per turn, Horseborn fighters can charge in, attack, and then retreat, enabling incredibly effective hit-and-run tactics. With a more varied roster of heroes to choose from, it becomes even more difficult to choose who to take to battle.
GRAPHICS & SOUND
I lavished praise on the graphics and sound for the original Banner Saga and, if anything, they have only improved. The game’s stylish art, done by the fantastically talented Arnie Jorgensen, is reminiscent of the works of Eyvind Earle, depicting stark landscapes simultaneously familiar and alien.
Banner Saga 2 delivers even more vibrant art and music that accentuates the spectacular world the game takes place in, and provides an eye-popping contrast to the series of tragedies that befall the characters.
Banner Saga 2 was the first game I played in the series, and it drew me in to a fantastical, and doomed, world I quickly fell in love with. It is hard to watch characters fall apart or doubt themselves, but the fact that such spectacle and fantasy remains believable is a testament to the absolute mastery Stoic has over the medium.
If you enjoy strategy games, and stories which don’t shy away from the true cost of war, you should absolutely buy Banner Saga 1 and 2. Games this good don’t come around very often.
Platform – Nintendo Switch eShop Download
Publisher – Versus Evil
Developer – Stoic
Release Date – June 7, 2018
Price – $20
Genre – Strategy, Role-Playing
Players – 1
Size – 4.5 GB
Brian Barnett has loved video games ever since his uncle Jimmy introduced him to them at the ripe old age of five. His wife, Audrey, was also introduced to video games by her uncle, lending credence to Brian’s theory that behind every gamer, there is a cool uncle.
Since playing Super Mario Bros. on the NES, Brian has had a passion for Nintendo games. The first thing he did when he started earning money was save up and buy himself a Game Boy, and they quickly became inseparable. Through the years, this led to his special love of portable game consoles, so the release of the Switch is the perfect storm of Nintendo action he has been waiting for.
In addition to his gaming obsession, Brian enjoys playing drums, writing and listening to music, and hosting a weekly video game and nerd culture podcast.
He is an extrovert, and loves talking about and playing games with others, so let him know if you want to team up and play together!
Plays: Switch, New 3DS, SNES, NES, GBA, PC, Xbox One, PS4, Vita