Publisert: 17. april
I have quite a bit of love for this game, but I'll say one negative thing about it: the combat system, while getting points in my book for being unique, ultimately rewards a gameplay style that is unintuitive.
For those who haven't played it:
The combat follows a strict
turn-based system. It's always Your Team -> Their Team -> Your Team -> Their Team until one of the parties has only one surviving member, which then takes the turns into sort of a "blowout mode" where the entire opposing party gets to move for each of the single unit's moves.
A character's combat effectiveness is in large part determined by their remaining health. A character with 0 health missing will do more damage than a character with 3 points of health missing that is otherwise identical.
These two factors work together and lead to an interesting quirk - contrary to most tactical games where grouping around a single unit and removing it quickly provides the greatest strategic benefit by removing the total number of enemies faced, in the case of the Banner Saga, it ends up being best to leave weakened units alive rather than finish them.
If you're having trouble understanding, take this example. You have 3 units at max health and the enemy has 3 units at max health. There will be 6 turns in a "rotation", one for each unit. The order will be A1-B1-A2-B2-A3-B3. If you were to completely defeat one enemy unit, there would then be 5 turns in a "rotation", one for each unit, and the order will be A1-B1-A2-B2-A3. Now, the next turn will be B again, but it will be B1, who is a fully powered unit. Had you left B3 alive at one or two hit points, the turn would be given to B3 instead, and since B3 is very weak, any damage dealt by it would be greatly reduced. If B1 and B2 do 6 damage each while B3 will only do 2 damage, A1-B1-A2-B2-A3-B3 results in 14 damage to your party across three turns, while A1-B1-A2-B2-A3-B1 results in 18 damage over three turns.
By eliminating the weakest unit as opposed to leaving them in the battle, you have reduced the time between turns for the two strongest units the enemy has. The strongest tactical decision will be leaving multiple enemies at low health to force the enemy team into "wasting" turns on the ineffective units while reducing turns for the most powerful enemies.
I want to emphasize that I do appreciate the benefits and wrinkles of this system, one would be parties who have a dwindling number of units are granted an automatically incrementing advantage. I also appreciate the flavor of the "rout" mechanic where the lone surviving unit must give priority to each remaining opponent - it makes battles feel decisive when you're on the good end and makes them feel hopeless when you're on the receiving end.
My complaint with this "flaw" as I view it, is that it seems to be a very "meta" strategy. That is to say, it feels at times like you're gaming the combat system as opposed to making tactical decisions -- killing the Big Bad last after maiming the rabble to ensure you only get thumped 1 of 6 turns instead of systematically answering and removing threats.
Regardless, this is a game I highly recommend. Mechanically, it has several other devices that are quite novel. Both the Armor and Exertion systems lend themselves to interesting decisions and interactions.
Flavor-wise, the game is outstanding. It really makes you feel like a survivor fighting an unstoppable enemy and the grinding attrition of daily survival.
Do be aware: this is part one of a trilogy. I did not know that when I started the game. Without getting too spoilery, there are quite a few WOW
moments at the end of the game that lead into a final battle that is frankly anticlimactic. Knowing it was only the opening chapter of a grand story would have made things much more satisfying the first time around.
If you haven't played this game yet but are considering it, you're already interested enough to buy it. The art and music are breathtaking and though your decisions end up not being the most eventful in the long run, they always result in immediate and sometimes totally unforeseen consequences.
Banner Saga is great! Buy it!