Vikings seem to be an in-thing again. There’s that really cool TV show of the same name that’s on par with Game of Thrones in terms of action and intrigue, though certainly not with as big a fan base. Then there’s Thor, kicking ass and taking names in the Marvel cinematic universe (did you hear the rumour, he might be teaming up with Hulk in the next Thor movie! How cool is that!)
Meanwhile on the gaming front there’s the Banner Saga, the strategy RPG that released to critical acclaim when it first appeared back in 2014. Now the franchise (and I guess you can call it that now, this is actually the third game in the series, but more on that later) is back with the Banner Saga 2 set to release this week.
You continue your journey after the climactic events of the original game. Depending on how you went, in a sort of Mass Effect style, will determine what characters are still alive and who may have passed on. It’s a neat little touch that ties things together, but is in no means a deal breaker even if you haven’t played the first game. I do suggest that, however, since the story may be a little lost on you otherwise.
If you’re unaware of what the Banner Saga is, or have just seen it from afar and thought ‘ooh, that does look cool’, it’s action/strategy RPG hybrid is worth looking more closely at. It’s not unlike other games of its ilk like Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics, of which I’ve mentioned a few times I’m a fan of. Before each battle you’ll get the chance to choose your team, then place them on the battlefield where you think they’ll compete the best at. From there, you take turns with the enemy AI to play out your strategy, moving characters, attacking or healing, and so on and so forth.
The strategic combat will no doubt be its strength, along with the need to look after your caravan outside of battle, but the hand drawn animation is a big selling point for the series. A cross between Disney, Anime and those old old 80’s cartoons I grew up with, it’s amazingly fluid and detailed and must have taken forever to develop. Seriously, if you haven’t seen the animation, have a look at the trailer below. It’s incredibly impressive, especially when coupled with the musical score by Grammy-nominated composer Austin Wintory that adds a lot of weight to each battle.
The Banner Saga feels like just that, a saga. We’ll be seeing plenty more from the series in the future thanks to developer Stoic’s hard work and amazing dedication to that art style, but why not go try Banner Saga 2 yourself when it hits Steam this Wednesday at 10% off, or treat yourself to the deluxe edition which includes the soundtrack. It might be the closest we’ll get to an unofficial game based on the Viking TV series, just don’t expect any Thor cameos.
Mark Isaacson is a freelance journalist who greatly enjoys a good Viking battle, and mead.