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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)


 

Guild of Dungeoneering Mobile Launch Trailer

DUBLIN, IrelandJuly 21, 2016 – Independent developer Gambrinous, in partnership with indie publisher Versus Evil today proudly announced the release of their card based role-playing game (RPG) Guild of Dungeoneeringfor iPhone, iPad and Android™. The innovative and entertaining new card driven dungeon-crawler combines dungeon building, exploration and combat mechanics with nostalgic ‘hand drawn’ style graphics on graph paper. The game, which does not need an online connection to play, is now available to download on the App Store for iPad and iPhone, and Google Play for Android devices, for $3.99/€3.99/£2.99. Guild of Dungeoneering promises to release major content updates on a regular basis.  Early adopters of the game will be rewarded from the start and get all future updates for free, while others that wait to play the game will have to pay an additional amount when the game launches major in-app purchases.

“We always knew Guild of Dungeoneering would work incredibly well on tablets and phones,” said Colm Larkin of Gambrinous. “I’m proud to say it’s an even better version of the game than the one we launched for PC exactly one year ago today. We’ve reworked the interface to make sure players have the best possible experience on mobile, and kept everything else that made the game so wonderful: from the singing bard and our hour-long soundtrack to our massive single player campaign.”

Guild of Dungeoneering turns traditional dungeon crawling on its head by putting a new spin on classic game play – rather than controlling a dungeoneer, players build their dungeon around him (or indeed her). Each dungeon uses a random deck of cards where players can expand the dungeon and strategically place loot and monsters to lure their dungeoneer in the direction they want him to go.  When their dungeoneer confronts a monster, either willingly or not, players take control of their hero and their battle deck, a living deck based on the class and items your dungeoneer possess, and fight to the death where the victor will be decided. Over time, as players collect enough gold and gain more experience at the expense of their dungeoneers, they will be able to build out their Guild by adding rooms to attract more-powerful adventurers, unlock better weapons and special cards for their Guild deck all in the name of fame and fortune.

“Guild of Dungeoneering brings to life the dungeon crawler in such a unique, fun way through cards that ooze character,” said General Manager Steve Escalante. “Through its nostalgic, hand drawn look, its clever use of music and deep adventures, Guild of Dungeoneering has captured the imagination of TCG and Roleplaying gamers on PC and Mac.  We are so excited that you can all now play this wonderful indie title on handheld devices too! “

For more information about Guild of Dungeoneering, visit www.guildofdungeoneering.com.
Available on the App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/guild-of-dungeoneering/id1085272239?ls=1&mt=8
Available on Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=air.com.gambrinous.guildofdungeoneering

Banner Saga 2 Survival Mode Released For Free

BALTIMORE, MD – Thursday, June 23rd, 2016Stoic, an independent game development company, and Versus Evil, one of the leading independent video game publishers, today announced the release of an exciting new game mode for Banner Saga 2 owners – ‘Survival Mode’.  Throwing down the ultimate challenge in turn based, combat battle tactics, Survival Mode pushes players to the limit as they try to survive 40 back to back combat levels.

“Survival Mode is something we’ve been working on behind the scenes for a while now,” commented John Watson, Technical Director at Stoic.  “This is an entirely new experience within Banner Saga 2.  Our goal was to create a fun, tactical game mode where fans can play from a different perspective which focuses on strategy and the hard cost of death in combat.  We modified how the combat worked from the core game based on feedback from our community and put it through a closed beta to make sure that it was fun.  Thanks again to our dedicated fans for their continued support.” he added.

In survival mode players have to assemble a ‘combat’ team from a wide range of existing Banner Saga heroes. Once their team is complete, combat begins, but beware, perma-death in battle is real and once lost, a hero can not be brought back.  Each victory grants ‘Renown’ (one of the major currencies in the Banner Saga), which can be used to unlock more Heroes to replace ones that have fallen.  Items now drop in combat, or can be purchased with Renown,  so that you can constantly improve your combat team.  A 30-second timer keeps the action moving and leaderboards track how each player ranks against others.  All three difficulty levels are included in survival mode, so the hard core challenge is available to those who think they can make it all the way through.

“Although Stoic is a tiny indie studio and their time is precious, they have shown an unrelenting commitment to fans of the Banner Saga by producing more content for them to enjoy. ” said Steve Escalante, General Manager of Versus Evil. ”The Banner Saga 2 just became a much bigger game with the core experience already lauded as one of 2016’s best games and now this new, free game mode included. We hope to get this update in the console launch later this Summer as well as make it a part of our mobile experience.” he concluded.

The FREE Survival Mode is available now for Banner Saga 2 owners (on PC and Mac).  Banner Saga 2 is also currently available to buy on Steam, GOG, Humble Store, GreenMan Gaming, EA’s Origin and other digital PC and Mac stores.

The Banner Saga and Banner Saga 2 which launched to much critical acclaim has received several awards and nominations, including winner of the 2014Geekie 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. Banner Saga 2 is out now on PC/Mac and will be coming to consoles on July 26th 2016 and mobile devices later this summer.

To find Banner Saga 2 on 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.versusevil.com

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

Habitat Also Announced for PS4

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(Austin, TX) – July 30, 2014 – Indie publisher Versus Evil, in partnership with Seattle based indie developer 4gency, today announced that Habitat: A Thousand Generations in Orbit will be coming to PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system in 2015 in addition to PC, Mac, Linux and Xbox One. In Earth’s orbit, where crisis is guaranteed, Habitat is the only strategic space survival game that uses orbital debris to build the future homes of humanity and where hope for survival relies on the creativity and resourcefulness of the player. An Early Access build for PC, Mac and Linux is now available through Steam, Amazon, Humble Store, GameFly, Gamer’s Gate, GreenMan Gaming and Nuuvem priced at $14.99, £10.99 and €14.99.

“Since development began on Habitat, it has always been our wish to bring our space survival simulation to as many platforms as technologically possible”, said Charles Cox, founder of 4gency.“We are incredibly excited to announce that Habitat will be launching on PlayStation®4 in 2015 and can’t wait to see how the creative PlayStation community reacts to Habitat’s gameplay mechanics.”

In Habitat gamers have to build and manage the future homes of humanity from orbital debris they find in space junkyards surrounding Earth’s orbit.  Leading their team of engineers, they will have to build and fly space stations in a zero gravity setting, mastering physics driven flight simulation to explore space. In order to thrive and grow they have to manage their population and their population’s environment.  In the event of a threat they will have to turn their space stations into deadly weapons using pieces of debris picked up such as rockets, lasers and particle accelerators to fight and ultimately survive against attacks from the enemy.  This is a space survival game where crisis is guaranteed and the only chance for survival is to be creative and decisive in the face of disaster.