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?
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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.