So much can be said about this epic Viking-themed, tactical role playing game. Lets start with some history. The first Banner Saga was developed by Stoic, a trio of indie game developers formerly of BioWare, and published by Versus Evil. It was released on January 14, 2014 and is the first of a trilogy.

The first Banner Saga
A City in The Banner Saga

Alex Thomas, Arnie Jorgensen and John Watson all left BioWare after working on Star Wars: The Old Republic. They financed their project on Kickstarter, opening to pledges on March 19, 2012. The goal of $100,000 was met by the next day, going on to earn $723,886 from 20,042 backers. The first Banner Saga was released on Steam via Versus Evil on January 14, 2014 and by the next year it had spread to the various console and mobile platforms.

The first Banner Saga
One of the God Stones in The Banner Saga

Immediately upon start up, the art work starts speaking to the player. The hand drawn style coupled with a deep and resonant music score makes this game a welcome change from most AAA titles. Using the Viking theme was an attempt at avoiding the often used orcs, elves and dwarfs. This helped form the very deep lore and desolate atmosphere of the world. As you progress the world around you changes, making both art and music seem even bleaker.

Stoic stated that their goals with the first Banner Saga came down to two core concepts. They wanted players to build relationships with characters and shape the outcome of the story, while telling the story of the players’ caravan as a whole. Stoic hoped this would urge players to stick to their choices and accept consequences. This makes the game play very similar to The Oregon Trail with the exception of tactical combat. And giants.

The first Banner Saga
The caravan in action, crossing an ancient bridge.

The story of the first Banner Saga is shaped by how you decide to react to various situations. Every so often when traveling a random event will happen. Some have good outcomes and some have quite the opposite. Your choices could make a party member temporary missing or force a player to use that hero in the next combat. Yes even hero death is a possibility. Naturally there are a lot of boons to come of these events too, however you might need to do multiple playthroughs to find them all. Best of all, you data from the first Banner Saga will effect the story in the next game! Just like Mass Effect.

To wrap this up I would like to say that I enjoyed this game much more than I thought I would. The simple play style together with this doomed world and fascinating art, I could easily give this game an eight out of ten. In fact it scored 82 out of 100 on Metacritic and gleaming reviews from IGN, Eurogamer and GameSpot to name a few. This is defiantly worth a look if you are looking for a casual game.