Tag - The Banner Saga

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)


 

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.

The Banner Saga Announces Fan Art Contest

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AUSTIN, TX – January, 24rd 2014 – Hot on the heels of the critically acclaimed indie release The Banner Saga, indie game development company Stoic, and publisher Versus Evil, today announced an art contest for fans based on their experience in the game, using runic inspired designs.

“The Banner Saga has been applauded by reviewers and fans alike for the art style, something we are incredibly proud of. We’ve seen such great fan art for the game that it made sense to ask our fans to assist us in designing a real life banner. We are looking for designs based on the traditional Viking runic art style as seen on the Godstones in the game,” said Stoic’s Art Director Arnie Jorgensen. “One way of recording history in early Viking times was for each family to contribute (sew) their own ‘saga’ onto their clan’s banner. Similarly, we plan to include some of the best designs submitted in this contest to create a twelve foot banner depicting our fan’s experiences with the game, creating a community ‘saga’.”

The ‘Creating the Banner’ contest is now officially open for entrants to submit their original ‘Viking-style’ inspired designs at http://www.creatingthebanner.com . Winners will not only get their design included on the final life-sized banner, but they will also be sent a mini replica of the final banner for display. Full submission guidelines, rules and regulations can be found on the contest website. Submissions must be in by 11:59pm PT on Thursday March 13th, 2014.

The Banner Saga is available now for $24.99 through Steam, UPlay, GameFly, GameStop and Gamers Gate for PC and Mac. A digital Deluxe Edition is also available through select retailers for $29.99 and includes the game and complete official soundtrack composed by Austin Wintory.

The Banner Saga Review (PC Steam)

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The only thing we like better than seeing the little guy make their funding through Kickstarter is seeing them then turn out a product that is as good as hoped for, maybe even better. The Banner Saga was a project with a lot of heart and some smart payoff for investors, if you donated $50 you got to design your own crest for the game as well as getting a terrific special edition. 2,735 people went for that donation level alone (with about 1,000 more crests from higher donations) and the $100,000 target was surpassed and hit $723,886. So what made The Banner Saga such a hit before it was even funded and did it live up to the hopes of those who forked out the cash?

Description:
Live through an epic role-playing Viking saga where your strategic choices directly affect your personal journey. Make allies as you travel with your caravan across this stunning yet harsh landscape. Carefully choose those who will help fight a new threat that jeopardizes an entire civilization. Every decision you make in travel, conversation and combat has a meaningful effect on the outcome as your story unfolds. Not everyone will survive, but they will be remembered.

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Features:

  • Player choice that drives your own narrative – Every decision you make in travel, conversation and combat has a meaningful effect on the outcome as your story unfolds.
  • Over 25 playable characters from 2 different races, human and varl, the horned giants – embark on your epic journey with a variety of characters from 7 different classes, each with unique abilities and upgrade options to fit your play style.
  • The journey is as important as battle – Your role in building and managing your caravan as you travel the vast frozen landscape is critical to not only your own survival but the survival of an entire civilization.
  • An epic Viking saga brought to life in 2D glory – Beautifully hand drawn combat sequences and animations, accompanied by an evocative score from Grammy-nominated composer Austin Wintory, will immerse you into a fantasy realm inspired by Norse mythology.
  • Multiplayer Combat Enhanced – Sharpen your combat skills in the free multiplayer game “Factions.” As you play through the single player game you’ll also unlock new characters to use in multiplayer.
  • Not another generic fantasy: Drawing heavily from Norse culture while creating its own identity and mythology, The Banner Saga takes a low-fantasy approach to viking themes. Giants: yes. Horned helmets: no.
  • Strategic combat: Recruit a large roster of unique characters throughout the story, each with different abilities that interact in combat in a deeply tactical way and personalities of their own. The Banner Saga harkens back to classic turn-based gameplay with a strong emphasis on tactics over brute force and endless grinding. Victory or defeat and even the permanent loss of a character depends on which characters you choose to take into battle and what decisions you make afterwards.
  • Travel across gorgeous landscapes: The choices you make as events arise have a huge affect on how the story plays out- who survives, who dies, and what’s worth saving. Add people to your caravan as you travel, or lose them when tough decisions arise. You’re not just fighting to save nameless strangers, you’re fighting for your neighbors, your family and your way of life. We want you to care what happens to them.
  • An emphasis on story: Your choices in dialogue and throughout the game truly affect the story and the people around you. A mature story for adults means forming relationships and making tough decisions; not sex, violence and swearing.
  • Risk in gameplay: A lot of modern games play it safe- you know you’ll defeat the evil and save the day. In The Banner Saga you can’t take anything for granted. We want it to feel like a good tv mini-series; the world doesn’t revolve around you, it’s about how you deal with change.
  • DRM-Free, and available on PC and Mac

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Additional funding allows us to give you:

  • A bigger, richer world. More characters in combat, more animation, more diverse landscapes, more music, engaging animated cutscenes, and more multiplayer options. We have a huge story we want to tell and this will let us deliver it in the most compelling, meaningful way.
  • Porting to more devices. Our first release will be on PC and Mac, but funding would allow us to convert the game to iOS, the Kindle Fire, consoles like XBLA and PSN and maybe even portable gaming devices like the Vita.
  • Localization (translation) in more places. Viking culture is huge in Europe and turn based strategy is big in Japan. We’d love to bring The Banner Saga to both of those places and anywhere else we find significant interest.
  • The game the way we think it should be. By crowdfunding this project we won’t be tied to publishers telling us to change the giants to orcs or dumbing the story down for children. We think this means a better game for everyone.

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Hands On:
Okay, this sounds like a pretty lofty goal for an indie project but the team, comprised of SWTOR heavy hitters Alex Thomas, John Watson and Arnie Jorgensen (who first worked on Justice League America for DC Comics) seemed up to the task. When I started The Banner Saga up I knew I was in for something special. The opening screen harkens back to old cartoons like the Rankin and Bass film, “The Hobbit” and Ralph Bakshi’s “The Lord of the Rings” in its gorgeous, hand-drawn beauty  – but with a soundtrack equally beautiful.

Next comes the choosing of the crest that suits you best. If you are one of the approximately 4,000 players who got to design your own crest the decision is easy, for the rest of us it was a bit tough. I found one that looked practically custom-made for me and dove into the game itself.

The beauty of the opening screen follows into the opening cinematic that has you making important decisions right away. Perma-death is always present in this game right from the beginning, as it sets you up for your first battle only minutes in. The fighting gameplay is done in an isometric, turn-based movement/action style similar to Jagged Alliance or Omerta where you first decide where to move your character in a limited distance of squares then decide which action such as attack or defense to take. This portion of the game is also hand drawn and definitely a work of art with character animations and background scenery that matches the rest of the gameplay.

In so many games if your character falls in battle they are fine or just need healing afterwards. In this game your multiple choice decisions can get one of your best characters killed and if they fall on the battleground you have a really strong chance of never seeing them again. It stings the first time you get a scene where another member of your party tells you that the town chieftain died because of one of your choices or that your favorite warrior won’t be joining you on any more battlefields. Heck it stings all the times after that but it also makes you think very carefully about your next move.

Without giving anything away about the storyline, it is very epic in scale while at the same time feeling very personal since your choices decide the ending. This alone adds to re-playability then you add on multiplayer in which you get more playable characters by unlocking them in single player storyline choices and battles and you will definitely get your money’s worth out of this first chapter. The plan is to make the Banner Saga a trilogy which brings up my only real question, since they got seven times the funding they needed, do they consider the other games funded now or are we going to see another Kickstarter in Stoic’s future? Whatever their decision they have already announced that your decisions in this chapter will carry over to the next.

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Last Call:
The Banner Saga with it’s beautiful hand drawn art and great storyline harken back to epic hand drawn cartoon movies from over the years while giving a modern take on the turn based strategic fighting game. The story will pull you in, your decisions will weigh on you and your choices in combat will literally mean life or death for the characters. The only complaint about The Banner Saga is not knowing how long it will be for the next chapter.

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