I initially picked up The Banner Saga just to have something to tinker with while I ate lunch, when I couldn’t play fast-paced games. But instead of a 30-minute detour, I got an incredible 10-hour epic saga that kept me glued to my chair for the entire day. I literally could not stop. It’s been years since I was so engrossed in a world and its characters.
The Banner Saga is an impressively deep and compelling RPG, with turn-based combat, that cares about every little decision you make—even the ones you think don’t matter.
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How It Works
- You play multiple characters, each in charge of leading large-scale expeditions across a world suddenly in crisis.
- In the choose-your-own-adventure sections, you make decisions as an individual through dialogue trees and action options.
- In travel sequences, you make decisions as the leader of the caravan that have effects on everyone traveling with you.
- In combat sections, you shift into an isometric, turn-based grid and control a group of characters.
- Through all of that, you’re trying to balance the needs of your caravans, which need resources and people to thrive, with the needs of a world in danger of being entirely destroyed.
- Each of those choices leads to more choices and leave permanent consequences lingering behind.
- You will feel so many emotions about so many characters.
Why You Should Play It
- The world is deep, and feels real and historied in a way that every RPG tries to be. But few succeed as well as The Banner Saga. Here’s the heart of the world: There is a new, uneasy alliance between ancient rivals, the humans and varls — giant viking-men who do not die of age but cannot give birth. The gods are recently dead but not yet forgotten. Monsters are rising on all sides.
- There isn’t a single throwaway character in this world. Every person you meet is wonderfully made and intriguingly unique, even the “bad” guys. One of the caravans deals heavily with a father-daughter relationship that’s complex and beautiful.
- Those characters are what make the story so deep. Every dialogue is interesting, every choice important, every death agonizing. This is the most attention-demanding story I’ve experienced in years, maybe even a decade. Like I mentioned in the intro, I simply could not stop playing it until I finished it. I’m glad it was only 10 hours, I have no doubt I would’ve skipped sleep.
- Each decision you make has a surprisingly deep and resonating consequence that often leaves you with doubt if you made the right choice. Or if there was ever a right choice at all. It’s haunting in all the right ways.
- You cannot undo. You cannot choose when to save. Every choice is permanent, weighty, and feels important. I want to play this several more times to see what all of the choices I could’ve made will do. Can I save more people this time? Can I avoid the tragic errors of before?
- Did you even look at the art? This game is gorgeous.
- The turn-based combat is solid. It’s not the reason you should play this game, but I did find the armor and health mechanics fun and the challenge was just right for me on Easy mode.
- Only three videogames have ever sent me into a philosophical meditation after playing it. The Banner Saga is one of them. This isn’t just a game. It is a story that transcends its medium and transports you into a world.