E3 2015: Hands-On with Banner Saga 2

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I was vaguely familiar with Banner Saga thanks to their success on Kickstarter and the amusing lawsuit they got from Candy Crush Saga but I had never played the game myself. The game was certainly well regarded though, so I was excited when I had a chance to try out the sequel while at Versus Evil’s booth at E3. That praise for the series was well warranted, based on the demo I played of Banner Saga 2.

Banner Saga 2 is a tactical RPG with some light simulation elements. In it, the player starts off by picking the leader of a tribe of Vikings from two candidates. From there, they have to make decisions, on things like gathering supplies or dialog choices with other characters, to help lead the tribe in the right direction. The player’s decisions can have a huge impact on the way the tribe tackles problems and survives, and they can even end up affecting if certain characters live or die. At least in the demo, the decisions the game asked me to make seemed important, but the demo was such a small slice it was hard to tell exactly how much effect the might carry.

The Banner Saga 2 - Announcement Screen 1The Banner Saga 2 - Announcement Screen 2

When it comes time to battle, the game becomes a grid-based tactics game. The player must control each character to move around the map and defeat enemies. The developers said that one complaint from the first game was that there wasn’t much variation in battle objectives so they specifically addressed that for the sequel. In one of the battles in the demo, the player could chose to try to take on numerous foes to win or they could push through and try to focus on an enemy leader for victory. I’ve always enjoyed the tactical RPGs and the combat in Banner Saga 2 played very well. There was a good variety of characters to choose from, each with some unique traits and attacks that could lead to players finding their own specialized approach to combat.

All of the gameplay is topped off with a beautiful artstyle. The Viking world the developers have envisioned is rich and detailed as the unique Norse look makes the game stand out from the typical fantasy worlds that many RPGs employ. Even the characters are stunning with some subtle animations that help accentuate conversations in the game or powerful attacks during battle.

The Banner Saga 2 - Announcement Screen 3The Banner Saga 2 - Announcement Screen 4

Being primarily a console gamer, one of the reasons I hadn’t tried the first Banner Saga was because it actually hasn’t released yet on consoles. I was told that the first game should be releasing soon for PS4 with a Vita version in the works as well. Which is good because some choices in the first game can carry over into Banner Saga 2. The wait for the second game on PS4 shouldn’t be as long, I was told, as they’ll be able to lean on the first game’s port when working on the second one.

Regardless of when they come out on PS4, I think Banner Saga and the sequel are games RPG fans should keep watch on. Banner Saga 2 looks to be a game that shouldn’t be missed.

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Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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  • Conor MacSuibne

    This review would’ve been vastly improved had you bothered to play the original first.