Banner Saga 2 - XB1 Review

The Banner Saga 2 picks up right after the end of the first that I covered last week. "The day has been won" - but the war is a long time in coming. Your choices for either good or bad will follow right alongside you in this chapter's challenge for survival as you continue to lead those that would follow.

One thing that I noticed off the bat is the graphical quality of the second entry is higher than the first. The same incredible art style is back but it looks more crisp and the accompanying text is both larger, an issue that I had with the first, and much more legible. Already things were looking up and it only got better from there.

If you've lost your save file, played on a different console, or simply decided to start the series here and watch the video recap of the first that is provided from the main menu, the biggest choice from The Banner Saga is put in your hands. Loading up a new game you are asked to either import a complete saved game or to choose who became the hero of the first. No other choices will make an appearance save anything you may have imported. If you haven't played the first even watching the recap contains heavy spoilers so be warned.

The other noticeable factor of the second entry is that the choices this time around aren't "harder" to make but are more punishing especially if you try to take the slower and more sensible route when driving your caravan forward. *spoilers* The one that stuck the most was that one of your ships started to take on water. You can either call the fleet to a halt and patch it up now, tell them to simply patch it on the go, or you can ask the shipwrights on the best course of action. Asking for the best course of action as to the best possible way to fix it and the damned thing not only sinks but kills most of the people that were on it as the drown in the river. Not quite what I was aiming for when wondering if we could just patch it or if we had to land. *end spoilers*

Being indecisive the first time around was bad. Being indecisive this second time around is even worse and will get more of your people killed than saved and in some cases even waste the resources that you need to keep them alive in the first place! This is something that I continued to enjoy about the series as the happy fairy tale choices aren't present. If they seem like they are? It's honestly too good to be true. The brutal nature of this world and the greed of humanity alone will see to that.

Combat, other than being a bit smoother, brings back the same amazing turned based tactical experience. If you didn't import your save file don't worry as units start already leveled up to at least level 3 and they are ready to go. If you did then you will have a bit of a better idea as to who is in your party and who isn't based off of past decisions.

What I continued to enjoy about the combat system was the each party, yours and theirs, each get a turn in order as to how they were set up back at camp. If someone reaches zero hit points a gap will not occur in your turn order but simply move your next person up. If either party reached down to one unit left then the Pillage Mode would activate in order to quickly finish everything up as there's no more your turn / their turn and instead to make things move faster, every unit in order even if they get four turns in a row to your one. Since the flip side of that is also true the only thing you can really complain about if that you didn't manage your forces well enough and that's why you're in that situation.

How combat is resolved hasn't changed and makes for both interesting, amazing, and frustrating encounters at times. Hit Points and Attack Scores are the same number. This means that the more damage you take, the less damage you will do. In order to make sure that you aren't down and out in one hit, Defense Scores are also present and act in a similar way. If a unit's defense is higher than the attacker's offense then minimal damage will be done allowing them to stay in the fight for a bit longer.

Even the tutorials mention to take out a unit's defense before going for their attack but sometimes, especially since the numbers are "low" and "20" is considered freaking high, you don't want an enemy with "17" to hit you even with a defense of "13". It'll hurt and you'll never be able to catch back up. Since there's no time limits on taking your turn, take your time as you'll need to. The battles are tough and only get harder depending on the decisions you make as your caravan makes its journey.

The music of the first ranged from non-existent at times to maybe I want to turn down the base a bit since the walls were shaking. It was a quiet experience from that aspect with the dialog and the graphics taking much more of a front seat and it worked. Not taking as much as a back seat the music is more prominent this time around and the soundtrack is great to listen to from in camp management to tackling your enemies on the field. It was nice to hear and adds a bit more immersion than the vast silence that the snow and ice covered hills once provided.

Overall as much as I enjoyed the first Banner Saga I enjoyed the second even more so. With the small adjustments to the graphics and the visual elements in general, it felt like an even better packaged experience. I don't think that I need to mention it, but, I'll be eagerly awaiting the release of the third and final entry into the Banner Saga.

Game Information

Microsoft Xbox One
Stoic Studio
Versus Evil
Turned Based Strategy
Single Player
Other Platform(s):
Sony PlayStation 4

Provided by Publisher

Article by Pierre-Yves


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