I was late to the party with The Banner Saga, having only played the first game when it was released on Switch. After doing so, I was hooked.
Set within a Norse mythology inspired universe, The Banner Saga features men, the large and almost invincible Varl, the Dredge and, in The Banner Saga 2, the Horseborn.
The Banner Saga 2 continues the story we left in the first game and acts as the darker, second Act. Everything great about The Banner Saga is improved in The Banner Saga 2. However, The Banner Saga 2 isn’t content to just rest on its laurels.
The Banner Saga 2 Review Switch
There are a wealth of improvements and new features that make The Banner Saga 2 stand head and shoulders above the first game. And just like the first game’s release on Switch, The Banner Saga 2 on Switch, is a perfect port.
Like its predecessor, The Banner Saga 2 is a tactical turn-based RPG. The majority of gameplay is spent doing battle with various enemies on a grid. However, it’s outside battle that most of the action occurs.
You see, The Banner Saga 2, isn’t just a typical RPG. Instead, it has an epic story to tell and one that would be worthy of the best of Robert Jordan, Tolkien and George R.R. Martin.
Rarely is the storytelling in games this good and what’s more impressive is that it’s largely told through dialogue and action, not large swathes of text. The Banner Saga 2 hits the perfect balance between show and tell and manages to make you care about your ragtag collection of characters.
A Story Worth Telling
I’d even go so far as to say that I care more about my characters in The Banner Saga 2 than I do in any other game. These people are my people. They’re my family and after hours of striving to protect them, to help them survive and working to make the right choices, I want to do right by them.
It’s not just about the end game result anymore. I truly want to see these characters victorious and happy, because they deserve it. And the reverse is true of the less likeable characters. Those who’ve wronged my team. I want them dead. I want them to suffer and I want to be there to make sure they never harm anyone again.
Clearly, The Banner Saga 2 had a profound emotional effect on me, but I don’t think it’s possible to play it without feeling something. It’s an incredible narrative achievement for video games and one that I think should be looked at as an aspirational goal.
What exactly is this amazing story? Well, that’s a little harder to explain. The world has been stuck in an infinite day since the sun stopped moving across the sky. At the same time, the ancient enemy of man and Varl, the Dredge, have returned.
The world feels as though it’s ending to the people who live in it and they’re right. A giant serpent has come to destroy the world and it seems all hope is lost. Or is it? The story that lives across The Banner Saga and The Banner Saga 2 is best experienced rather than listened to or read about.
Please just trust me when I tell you it is easily one of the greatest video game stories ever told.
A Game Worth Playing
It’s not just the fantasy setting and mythology though, The Banner Saga is a human story at its core. It’s a story about the courage of regular people when put to the test. It’s a story about the bond of friendship forged in battle and the relationships that save us from the worst the world throws our way.
Aside from the story, which alone makes The Banner Saga 2 worth playing, the gameplay is a sharp and engaging as ever. If you import your save from The Banner Saga, all the decisions you made, all the characters you saved and all the experience you earned are there waiting.
If you start from scratch, Stoic does a great job of approximating most of it.
That means that all the levelling up you’ve done and all the points you’ve spent upgrading your characters’ fighting abilities are ready to go. That’s not all though. You’ll meet all new characters on the road, some who’ll be with you all the way and others who may or may not.
The Horseborn are an excellent new addition to The Banner Saga 2 and add a brand new dimension of strategy to battles. Available in both melee and ranged forms, the Horseborn ‘s special ability is to be able to move a second time after taking an action.
This opens up a huge range of strategic options such as blocking enemies, making use of other specials and more. The Horseborn’s poison and pin abilities also help to control the board and ensure you’re able to wipe out your enemies. Being The Banner Saga though, you’re likely to lose quite a few battles and with them, a few of your favourite characters.
The Dark Before the Light
What struck me the most in The Banner Saga 2 was how it upended conventional gaming wisdom and kept surprising me throughout. Not to give too much away, but at one point, I’d been working towards an end goal for most of the game, only to have it ripped out from under me, reversed and used against me.
All the hard work I’d put into it, all the decisions, battles and experience that I’d used, were now being used against me. And that’s the lesson in The Banner Saga 2. You’re fighting a war of attrition. One that can’t be won, but only prolonged,
You’re always going to lose friends, allies and family along the way, but the end goal might just be worth it.
The Banner Saga 2 was released earlier this month for Switch and if you own Nintendo’s handheld, I implore you to buy a copy and play. If you’ve not played the first Banner Saga, then buy that one too and play them both. You need to be ready for when The Banner Saga 3 is released on July 26, 2018.
Quite simply, The Banner Saga 2 is one of the finest games I’ve ever played and continues one of the very best stories ever told.
The Banner Saga 2 was reviewed on Switch and a digital copy was provided by the developer.
Game Title: The Banner Saga 2
Everything you loved about the first game, only better - 9.8/10
The stakes are higher, the decisions are harder - 8.8/10
Improved gameplay, more strategy - 8.6/10
Best played on Switch - 9.2/10
As with the first title The Banner Saga 2 on Switch is the same great game with the added bonus of being portable.
In the sequel, developer Stoic has ratcheted the stakes and tension to unbelievable levels and succeeded in creating a universe filled with real, living characters.
Acting as the second Act of the story, The Banner Saga 2 is a darker, bleaker tale, but one that ends with a slightly hopeful tone. It’s definitely a game that should be played and is best played on Switch.