I don’t think I’ve ever been properly introduced to Viking culture. I’m certainly aware that they existed, and most of the stuff associated with them was really cool, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually spent any real time with them. I never got around to watching the show Vikings, but I’m pretty sure there were Vikings in Thor, right? It just so happens that The Banner Saga 2 was not only a game I wanted to play, but one filled with Vikings!
I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never actually played the first Banner Saga. It falls in a long line of games I’ve always wanted to play, but I never got around to. From the looks of things, not much has changed. Thankfully, the game provides a video recap of all the events from the first game, so I didn’t have to go in lost.
The player takes control of Rook or Alette, who must lead a caravan of followers and fighters as they search for a way to end the scourge of cursed soldiers known as Dredge, as well as a giant mountain-shattering serpent. Players must manage soldiers, friendships, and supplies in order to keep everyone alive through this perilous journey.
The Banner Saga 2 plays a bit like Fire Emblem, a bit like Oregon Trail, and a bit like a Telltale game. As you progress on your journey, you’ll need to manage supplies to keep ships intact and mouths fed; frequently stopped by small events that will test your ability to lead and each choice having consequences down the road. Battles take the form of a turn-based strategy RPG, with each player moving within a battle grid and systematically defeating your enemies while minimising casualties. Outside of combat, players can engage in conversations with fellow clanmates that will influence how they think of you and judge your leadership.
The real pièce de résistance of The Banner Saga 2 (and even the original) is its sense of style. The game is gorgeous with a beautiful hand-drawn aesthetic, beautiful animations and a great soundtrack. A lot of time and effort clearly went into giving this game its own unique feel, making it feel like an actual world.
The gameplay, however, is not without some problems. The battle interface can be a bit too cluttered with certain HUD items overlapping and obstructing things like health and character position. Also, the Oregon Trail-like travel sections are ridiculously slow-paced. It feels like it takes forever in-between encounter moments and I started to find myself getting bored.
All the elements are there for something really interesting, but watching my convoy crawl across the river at a slugs pace just made me tune out. I get the feeling this game might have originally been aimed at mobile devices, since when you pause the game, there’s an option to “rate this app”; lingo I feel is usually reserved for the mobile sphere. If that’s the case, then this pace would make sense. But as a sit-down PC experience, it’s a bit dull.
Overall, I recommend The Banner Saga 2. If you’re a fan of Fire Emblem, Oregon Trail or any of the Telltale games, then you’ll find something to enjoy on this. If, like its predecessor, it goes to mobile, I’d probably say grab it there. You’ll get a fuller experience from it on mobile, and those are words I’m hesitantly glad to say.