The awaited second portion of the Banner Saga trilogy is finally at our door step. Stunning hand drawn animation coupled with a tactics style combat invoke strong reminders of classics such as Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics. While any one who played the first game can tell you this much, here are some of the changes Stoic Studio has made.
Combat has been integral to Banner Saga so far, and we see no change in that fact here. Players have one unit move and attack each turn. Each unit has Strength and Armor stats which govern combat effectiveness. Strength is both attack power and the unit’s hit points, while Armor is subtracted from the attacker’s Strength to decide damage. These carry over from the previous game. However, Stoic Studio added more variables to this formula, extending combat interest and making things just a little less repetitive.
To keep things fresh, new types of enemies including support units and four-legged creatures with new skills have been added. One of the skills that I’ve seen was the ability to camouflage itself. I can say from experience in XCOM that not knowing where the enemy is in a strategy game is terrifying! Enemies can now get reinforced from off screen, keeping the balance of combat shifting. This can make battles much more difficult, however defeating every enemy is no longer the only way to win! New victory conditions, including defeat the enemy leader, have been added. This, in my opinion, was very smart of them, keeping the same goals for every fight gets old fast to casual gamers.
The experience for your characters is still Renown, only now, at certain levels, they can learn a new ability. This mechanic hasn’t been talked about much yet, as Stoic is still perfecting it, but one of these skills has been said to ‘double your pillage’, meaning entering a mode where the enemy isn’t granted a turn after your unit. Usually only available with only one enemy standing to not drag out a fight, this skill you can get with Rook will let you pillage with two enemies left on the field.
That’s not all, Clansmen are no longer worthless! They will pay the rations they use back by spreading good word about you and hunt to replace the food they use. Clansmen can also be trained into fighters at the cost of more upkeep. Also to the benefit of NPCs in your caravan, you are presented with more choices in the world. I.E.
You do not need to play the original Banner Saga to enjoy the mechanics of this game and how it’s delivered, however it is the second of a trilogy and if you are like me, you should start at the beginning of the story. That being said, if you do have a save from the first game, levels and deaths will carry over to Banner Saga 2. The story will adjust for the absence of dead characters, making the story even deeper and a solid reminder of Mass Effect.
With a musical score from Austin Wintory, composer of the original Banner Saga and Journey, Banner Saga 2 looks like it won’t disappoint. It hits stores April 19 so keep your eyes open.