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The Banner Saga Complete Pack – A Review (Xbox One)

Stoic and Versus Evil have release the Complete Pack of The Banner Saga games onto the Xbox One, in one glorious package.  The Banner Saga Complete Pack includes The Banner SagaThe Banner Saga 2, and Survival Mode.  For those of you that have never played The Banner Saga before, this is the one pack to get.  The Banner Saga began life as an idea from ex-Bioware developers, Alex Thomas, Arnie Jorgensen and John Watson.  The trio took their idea to Kickstarter, and The Banner Saga was quickly funded, drawing in over $700,000.

Story

The Banner Saga takes place in a legendary world that is inspired by Viking legends.  Everything will feel somewhat familiar, and yet completely alien.  The sun has stopped moving in the sky, and perpetual day has set across the land.  Human and massive human like creatures called Varls, are beginning to feel that something is wrong with the world.  You begin play as the Varl Vognir, tasked with escorting Prince Ludin to the Varl capital of Grofheim.   On the way to Grofheim, the caravan runs into an ancient evil called the Dredge.  The Dredge kill many of the caravan, including Vognir, but the caravan finally reaches Grofheim only to find that the capital city has been overrun and destroyed by the Dredge.  This destruction is only the beginning, as reports from all over the Varl homeland come in that the Dredge are destroying cities.  The remnants of the caravan, then join other survivors to help defeat this ancient evil that has crept across the land.

The story for The Banner Saga and The Banner Saga 2 are very viking like in their telling.  The landscape is bleak, the enemy is relentless, and no hero is safe from death.  I would compare it to the feeling one gets from watching the new season of Game of Thrones, but without the sex, backstabbing, and scheming.  I know what you are saying, “but those are the best parts”, but this story feels just as compelling without those bits in it.  I was immediately drawn into the story, completely enthralled by the pacing and storytelling, then was left wanting much more when I finished the first game.  Good thing the sequel is in here too!

Game Play

The game play for The Banner Saga can be divided up into two categories:  combat and not combat.  While not in combat, you are in charge of dialogue options, and a very Oregon Trail-like experience as your caravan moves across the landscape.  Combat is the bread and butter of both games, however, and can be very challenging, even on Easy.

Combat is turn based and set on a grid.  Each combatant will go at different times, and are shown on a queue in the HUD.  Combatants all have their different strengths and weaknesses, as well as different stats.  The Varl are massive and hit like trucks, but are slow and plodding, while the human combatants are much more agile, but more fragile than their Varl counterparts.  The Banner Saga makes combat pretty difficult by having each individual have two stats, one is armor and the other is health and strength combined.   You will have to deplete a target’s armor before having a chance to do any real damage to them.  This means you will have to be strategic with your placement of combatants, and the attacks that they use.  This is not a game that you can rush in and win at.

Combat also adds in a third stat that can be used, that of Willpower.  Willpower becomes that wild card you can use to give yourself an extra boost, whether it’s move one more space, or do a little more damage.  Willpower is limited, so using it becomes very strategic.  Your characters will level up, allowing you to learn new skills and talents.  You can also practice with your heroes in camp, to learn their abilities in combat and see how it actually affects combat.

Your party of heroes can be changed out during the game, and will need to be as characters die.  Decisions and failure in combat will have direct consequences on the rest of your game.  Loose a particular hero early on, and you will have to deal with that absence until you can find a replacement.  Characters can be switched out while in camp, and talents can be selected to give your party a good balance of skills that compliment one another.

Aesthetics

The Banner Saga is visually and musically gorgeous.  The visuals of the game are hand drawn and look like an old style animated movie, like the 1978 release of The Lord of the Rings.  The aesthetic is stylized Viking mythology, so the creatures, villages, and heroes all look like they could be right out of a Viking story, but with a little extra thrown in.  Colors are appropriately muted when they need to be, to continue the feeling of dread that the game presents.

The music of The Banner Saga is fully orchestrated and created by Austin Wintory, the composer of the fantastic score for Journey.  If you have never played Journey, that game had to carry the entire narrative solely based on the musical score, since there was no dialogue at all.  What Wintory brings to The Banner Saga is nothing short of incredible.

Final Thoughts

The Banner Saga is but one step into this fantastic world that you get when you purchase The Banner Saga Complete Pack.  The story is engaging, the aesthetics is incredible, and the game play is challenging and addictive.  Between both games, you are looking at over 30 hours of game play for just the main story line and the extras.  Completionists will be looking at far longer.  While the game is not perfect, it is pretty darn close.  I did find certain sections to slog down for me, and the difficulty curve can come right out of nowhere and smack you in the face.  Other than that, The Banner Saga Complete Pack is most definitely worth picking up.  The Banner Saga Complete Pack is available now on the Xbox Store.


The Banner Saga Complete Pack Review Score

(4 out of 5 Stars)


 

Banner Saga 3 Kickstarter Launches

AUSTIN, TX – January 24th, 2017 – Stoic, an independent game development company, today announced that the crowdfunding campaign for Banner Saga 3 is now live on Kickstarter. The 30 day campaign aims to raise at least  $200,000 to bring the award winning, BAFTA-nominated series to a worthy, climatic conclusion. The turn based strategy game, which is steeped in viking culture, originally came to be made after a remarkably successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2012 which allowed the team to raise the bar on production and development plans and saw the first game, The Banner Saga, launch to critical acclaim. Banner Saga 3 will be the third and final part to this epic, story-driven saga.

“We’re going full circle and returning to Kickstarter where it all began. In 2012, the backers were instrumental in bringing the saga to life, smashing our initial funding target that led us to increase the scope, fidelity and production values of Banner Saga”, said John Watson, co-founder and Technical Director at Stoic. “We’re proud to be indie, and despite the stellar support we get from our publisher, Versus Evil, we’re not taking any outside funding to bring this series home, we’d love Kickstarter support to add additional features that are simply beyond our current budget”.

In Banner Saga 3, players will embark on their final journey beyond the wall of Darkness to traverse the world unlike anything encountered in previous sagas. The beautifully hand drawn Viking role-playing adventure will once again test the player’s resolve through epic tactical battles against deadly adversaries where a player’s choice directly affects their personal journey. The lives of your clansmen and their families have never been more significant than in the final act of the series. Banner Saga 3 stretch goals for the Kickstarter campaign will aim to enhance the game further if the initial funding goal is met, ultimately this will include more content to help drive the story and add even more production value to the final game.

The Banner Saga launched to critical acclaim and has received several awards and nominations, including winner of the 2014 Geekie Awards for “Best Video Game”, winner of 2014 Game Developers Choice: “Best Debut” award, finalist placement for “Excellence in Visual Arts” category at the Independent Game Festival, three BAFTA Award Nominations, and was the winner of Pocket Gamer’s 2015 Best Adventure/RPG Game and Best Android Game of the Year. The sequel, Banner Saga 2 has also received several nominations and award wins, including a Pocketgamer Gold Award, a nomination for Best Strategy Game at the 2016 Video Game Awards, and has been selected as a finalist for the 20th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards in the Strategy/Simulation Game of the Year category. Banner Saga 2 was also a runner up for Best Strategy Game in RPG Fans best Strategy Game and Hardcore Gamers Best of 2016 Awards and is available now for PC, Xbox One, PS4, Android and iOS.

To learn more about The Banner Saga Trilogy visit its brand new website at: http://bannersaga.com

Console Release Date Announced For Banner Saga 2

BALTIMORE, MD – May 12, 2016 Stoic, an independent game development company, and Versus Evil, one of the leading independent video game publishers, today announced that Banner Saga 2 will launch on Tuesday 26th July, 2016 on PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system and to the Xbox One via the ID@Xbox self-publishing program.  Banner Saga 2 recently released on PC and Mac where it received excellent reviews across the board. Check out the accolades trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MN1lPeZWr5M

Banner Saga 2 is the exciting sequel to the award winning, BAFTA nominated, indie hit The Banner Saga, an epic Viking role-playing strategy game where a player’s choice directly affects their personal journey.

“We are happy that we were able to create a development schedule where the console version of Banner Saga 2 could come out shortly after the PC version,” said John Watson, Technical Director at Stoic. “Although our team size dictated what we could do with the first release, we knew that a two year wait for the sequel was just not acceptable, so we worked extremely hard to ensure that console gamers could continue their journey in a timely fashion. Our goal for Banner Saga 3 is to simultaneously ship on all platforms!” he added.

“This sequel continues to build on the legacy Stoic has created with the Banner Saga.  New players can jump right in and play without any concern of not playing the original game.   We didn’t want anyone penalized if they were jumping into this story for the first time.“ commented Steve Escalante, General Manager at Versus Evil.  “However, the diehard fans who completed the first game will be able to continue their own saga based on all the choices they made in Banner Saga 1. The Stoic team has done an amazing job of ensuring this sequel is better than the first and addressed many comments their community had including improvements to combat, a wider variety of characters to play and interact with and the addition of more animations and cinematics,” he concluded.

To celebrate the launch of the sequel, the team recently released an “In Memoriam” trailer, an entertaining homage to the first game which is renowned for making gamers make some difficult choices which result in the loss of several beloved characters. The trailer, which was created by Penny Arcade contributor Kris Straub, can be viewed here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSxrkcmDCpk.

The Banner Saga, which launched to much critical acclaim has received several awards and nominations, including winner of the 2014 Geekie Awards for “Best Video Game”, winner of 2014 Game Developers Choice: “Best Debut” award, finalist placement for “Excellence in Visual Arts” category at the Independent Game Festival, 3 BAFTA Award Nominations, and winner of Pocket Gamer’s 2015 Best Adventure/RPG Game and Best Android Game of the Year. The sequel, Banner Saga 2 for PC is available now through most digital retailers including Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/281640/

To learn more about The Banner Saga and Banner Saga 2 visit:http://bannersaga.com

To learn more about Versus Evil visit: http://www.vsevil.net

The Banner Saga Console Launch Date Revealed

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AUSTIN, TX – December 16, 2015 – Stoic, an independent game development company and Versus Evil, one of the leading independent video game publishers, today announced that the epic Viking RPG strategy game The Banner Saga is coming to the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system and to the Xbox One via the ID@Xbox self-publishing program on Tuesday, January 12th, 2016.

The Banner Saga, which launched to much critical acclaim on both PC and mobile devices has received several awards and nominations, including winner of the 2014 Geekie Awards for “Best Video Game”, winner of 2014 Game Developers Choice: “Best Debut” award, finalist placement for “Excellence in Visual Arts” category at theIndependent Game Festival, 3 BAFTA Award Nominations, and winner of Pocket Gamer’s 2015 Best Adventure/RPG Game and Best Android Game of the Year.

“We have been working on porting Banner Saga to consoles for some time” said John Watson, founder and technical director at Stoic. “Porting the game certainly presented technical challenges that we needed to overcome, and gave us an opportunity to redesign the user experience for console controllers. We have managed to merge the story and gameplay from Banner Saga with a refined controller interface to make it a very enjoyable console gaming experience.”

The Banner Saga is a single player driven Viking saga, where a player’s choice in travel, conversation and combat determines the outcome of their own personal story as well as the survival of an entire civilization. The game also features stunning 2D animation and art, a unique tactical combat system and a cast of unforgettable characters, all of which drive this epic journey forward. Players will enjoy a beautiful and haunting original score by Grammy nominated, two-time BAFTA winning composer Austin Wintory conducting The Dallas Winds orchestra, as well as a powerhouse trio of acclaimed YouTube sensations: Peter Hollens, Malukah and Taylor Davis.

“Launching the Banner Saga on next gen consoles is a huge step forward for Stoic and the brand” said Steve Escalante, general manager of Versus Evil. “With this latest achievement, the Stoic team is able to work on more platforms and reach more customers with its games and technology.  This is not a small thing to consider for such a small team.  Looking ahead at what this could mean for Banner Saga 2 gets really exciting.”

Localized in French, German, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Italian languages, The Banner Saga was one of the earlier funding successes on Kickstarter, which originally launched in partnership with independent games publisher Versus Evil.

To learn more about The Banner Saga visit: http://stoicstudio.com/

To learn more about Versus Evil visit: http://www.vsevil.net

Stoic Reveals The Banner Saga: Warbands Miniatures Game

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Austin, TXJuly 30, 2015 – A trio of like-minded independent companies, video game developer Stoic, miniatures board game creator MegaCon Games, and video game publisher Versus Evil today announced The Banner Saga: Warbands, a miniatures board game based on the successful and critically acclaimed video game franchise The Banner Saga. With production already underway, a Kickstarter campaign will also be announced soon.

While no details about the miniatures board game have been released yet, an interest list is now forming and the MegaCon Games team, who are currently attending GenCon in Indianapolis this weekend at booth 1449, are soliciting fan interest for the forthcoming release. A website has been set up at www.bannersagawarbands.com for fans to receive more information as it becomes available.