If there’s one game genre that I don’t think get’s enough representation despite having a massive number of passionate fans it’s grid based strategy RPG’s. Growing up addicted to Final Fantasy Tactic’s has left me with a tactical RPG itch that is rarely scratched these days. Thankfully now that the Banner Saga series is making it’s way to the Nintendo Switch I can enjoy this great Norse inspired tactic’s game anywhere I go.
Originally released back in 2014 after a successful Kickstarter campaign, The Banner Saga is a party based strategy RPG set in a fictional world inspired by many aspects of Norse mythology. Your choices throughout your adventure in Banner Saga have real impact and real consequences to your overall experience. The game’s story is interactive, meaning your decisions can lead to drastically different outcome’s or completely new event’s that other players may not witness in their game.
The game’s story is presented in a text based visual novel style for the most part. Some scenes are fully animated in the same illustrated art style the rest of the game features, but for the most part the story is experienced via text dialogue.
The story is told by switching back and forth between two groups of characters, each located in different part’s of the game world whose paths eventually cross later in the game.
Because your choices have very real consequences in the game it is possible that a number of your caravan’s party member’s will die throughout the course of the game. To offset this Banner Saga’s story contains quite a lot of character’s that are able to be recruited into your party.
Many of these character’s possess their own traits that will make them more or less valuable to you in battle, depending on your battle strategies and playstyle. Some move greater distances than others, can deal damage over a larger area, or attack from further away. This allows you to put together a team with unit’s from a number of different classes and contain abilities the complement your strategies.
Because of the large number of story character’s it was hard at times to keep up with who was who and which one of the two stories they were a part of. And while many of them felt like great key character’s to the story other’s felt like padding character’s used to bulk out the army just in case other character’s from your story died.
Banner Saga’s core gameplay can be broken down into two main sections. The visual novel based story moments, travelling with your caravan and the strategy based combat stages. If you’ve ever played Final Fantasy Tactic’s or already own Mario + Rabbid’s Kingdom Battle on your Switch you’ll be able to grasp the concept of the battle systems fairly quickly.
You take turns moving your party of 6 chosen characters around the grid and use the various attack types and special abilities of your units to eliminate all of the enemies in the stage. Hopefully before they’re able to kill off all of your’s.
It’s the moment’s post battle where you’re often presented with the dialogue sequences where you’ll inevitably end up having to make one of the many choices that will change up how your Banner Saga story plays out. Will you assist in settling disputes? Decide what to do with your caravan’s resources? Decide not to let someone into the party? Just about every decision made has some kind of repercussion, and you never know if it will have a positive or negative impact down the line. Some have near immediate repercussions while others may come back to bite you way down the track when you’d pretty much forgotten about making the initial decision in the first place.
The game for the most part maintains a steady increase in challenge as you progress. There are however moment’s where there was a sudden spike in difficulty where I had to re-evaluate my party and strategy a number of times before successfully claiming victory. This sudden spike did take away from the steady pacing of the game a bit but good news, if it does affect you the same way and you don’t want to try and try again, you do have the option to lower (or increase if things are too easy) the difficulty in the game’s options with no impact to you or the overall story.
While the main highlight’s of the game are definitely it’s engaging story and it’s strategic battles. Special mention need’s to be awarded to it’s soundtrack and score piece’s. I’m a big fan of listening to various video game soundtrack’s while working and the Banner Saga soundtrack has made it’s way onto my regular playlist.
If you’re a fan of tactical, strategy RPG’s then Banner Saga should definitely be on your radar, if it hasn’t been already in the last 4 years. It’s illustrated art style combined with it’s incredible story and soundtrack come together to create one of the best strategy RPG’s you can own on the Nintendo Switch. And while the game has been ported to mobile devices before, it’s here that the game feel’s most at home when you’re not at home.
A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the Australian distributor for our Banner Saga Nintendo Switch review.