The Banner Saga was released back in 2014 for PC and then a few years later releases for PS4 and Xbox One followed.
Sadly, I missed out on playing it on any of these platforms, which is a real shame. The Banner Saga is simply excellent. The combination of tactical RPG and The Oregon Trail style travel sections makes The Banner Saga a unique and original title.
It also greatly helps that the writing and visuals are both exceptional. Every element of The Banner Saga works to deliver a truly complete package. The lack of any real voicework is a shame, but not one that can derail the experience.
The Banner Saga Review Switch
The Banner Saga drops you into a story in the middle. There’s barely time to learn the nuances of the world you’re in and the different characters before you’re off on an adventure.
In the Viking inspired world that The Banner Saga takes place in, the sun has stopped moving in the sky. At the same time, the Dredge, an ancient race, has returned and is hell-bent on destroying humanity.
This world is inhabited by both humans and Varl. The Varl are a giant, horned race who live long lives and remember the last time the Dredge warred with mankind. It’s at this point that you’re thrust into the story. It’s better experienced for yourself, but the story focuses on two groups travelling to escape and defeat the Dredge.
What really shines about the narrative is how important your decisions are. Seemingly innocuous conversations can have wide-ranging effects as can winning or losing battles and who you choose to bring into your party. I was often surprised to see that a choice I’d absent-mindedly made hours ago had a significant consequence later on.
Graphic Novel brought to life
When you’re not engaged in conversations or watching your caravan travel across the frozen countryside, The Banner Saga puts you in an isometric battle grid. Like Final Fantasy Tactics and Fire Emblem, there are unique systems in place that govern how characters move, attack and interact.
In The Banner Saga, characters have both an armour stat and a health stat. When attacking, you can choose whether to damage armour or go straight for the enemy’s health. As a health stat is damaged, so too is the character’s strength. This means that as you do damage, the enemy’s get weaker and in turn do less damage to you.
Careful though, because if you rush in and take too much damage, there’s no way you’ll be able to fend off the Dredge. They’re big and heavily armoured. If you don’t chip away their armour at first, your smaller characters’ attacks are likely to just bounce off.
There’s a significant depth to the strategy in The Banner Saga and the more you play, the more you learn. Even after several hours, I was learning the systems. The problem is that the game doesn’t do a great job of explaining things to the player.
There’s a lot of trial and error required, but thankfully, even failure pushes the game forward.
Viking Warfare on the Go
Visually, The Banner Saga has always been very pretty. The visual style is reminiscent of Don Bluth films and Heavy Metal, though unlike the latter, it’s not filled with heaving, naked breasts from start to finish.
On the Switch’s screen, The Banner Saga looks even better than on the TV as some of the imperfections are obscured. What’s even better, is that by using the touchscreen, The Banner Saga is much easier to play than with a controller.
That’s not to say playing with a controller is difficult, but touch controls are better in some circumstances. Either way you play, The Banner Saga on Switch is great. Helped in no small part by the portability of Nintendo’s console.
The Banner Saga is a game that begs to be played in short bursts and with the Switch, it’s the perfect game to play on your commute. Imagine, you’re on your way to work, defeating the Dredge scourge and before you know it, your journey is complete.
The same can’t be said of the game which takes roughly 10-12 hours to finish. However, since your decisions have such wide-ranging consequences you can play again and get a different outcome.
All in all, The Banner Saga is just as good as it’s ever been on Switch and maybe even better thanks to the Switch’s portability. It’s definitely worth playing if you’re like me and haven’t done so before. And if you’re a fan, maybe it’s time to have another go.
The Banner Saga was reviewed on Switch using a digital code provided by the publisher.