Versus Evil and Stoic release a new vignette trailer for The Banner Saga 3 in a new series of trailers
Sigmund Freud once said “The only purpose of life is the process of existence, i.e. eternal struggle for survival,” and in The Banner Saga 2 survival becomes your only goal. You crave it, fight for it, and you kill for it, making sure your fallen allies didn’t die for nothing and the threat of extinction dissolves to nothing, never becoming a reality.
The Banner Saga 2 picks up after the tragic ending of the original, assuming the role of the character that survived. If you played the first game on PC, all of your choices will carry over into the sequel, so the character that fell to the Bellower will remain dead. It’s a shame you can’t input choices at the start if you played the first game on another system (as I did exactly that on PS4), but it isn’t the end of the world. You get to choose whether to start with Rook or Alette as you make your way to the city of Aberrang, struggling to cope with the loss of your loved ones, trying to lead an army and keep your people safe. The dredge are still at large, but death is still your biggest enemy.
There have been few games over the last few years to have a narrative as engrossing or as moving as The Banner Saga, and to have such a huge role in how it plays out can be a blessing and a curse. This one is no different from the last, providing another exceptional story where you will see characters you love die in the most tragic of circumstances. The smallest decision can warrant a death sentence for your people and the closest of friends can meet an untimely death. The story is tethered by cut-scenes, static animations, and dialogue boxes where you will have to do your best to raise morale and preserve breath in everybody’s lungs.
There is plenty of opportunity to train your heroes and upgrade their statistics, with markets giving you the option to buy items harbouring additional skill points for the ones you choose to bestow them to. These items can help improve the probability of deflecting attacks or bolstering a hero’s armour, so it is always worth checking in on the marketplaces. You can also rest along the road so your clansman, fighters, and varl gain more morale, but this takes up supplies so it can be tough to know what to do for the best.
Like the original, you travel from city to city, crossing tough terrain and encountering adverse weather conditions and armies of all races. You will need to make sure you have enough supplies or people will die and morale will decrease rapidly. You can buy supplies at markets in certain strongholds or even pillage campsites you encounter along the way; it all plays in to what kind of leader you chose to be and how civil and fair you want to be.
The battle boards have been fleshed out, providing story beats as the battle rages on and the scourge of the enemy attempts to wipe you out. Not only do you have to kill each enemy, but characters will speak to one another between turns. Short cut-scenes can also pop up providing context to the emergence of new waves of enemies on the battle boards, and environmental damage can happen whilst fighting, too. You never know what you’re in for when entering battle and it keeps each fight unique from the last.
Combat remains relatively unchanged, with each hero having allocated health points, armour, and willpower points to use. You’ll get to set your formations before battle and depending on the statistics of your heroes, you’ll be able to move further or attack at long range, with the willpower ability letting you push the limit of your move. Once an enemy dies, you will gain an additional willpower point which you can add to any of your heroes.
Each battle is different and every enemy has various ranges of armour and health, so each fight remains completely unique. The thrill of victory is thoroughly enjoyable, especially when you’ve put a good 20 or 30 minutes into a single encounter. One of the biggest additions is a completely new race: the Horseborn. Not only do they provide depth to the story, they feature added bonuses in battle, such as escaping after landing an attack. You will have to fight them as well so it is important to learn their attacks and special abilities inside and out as they play a big part in The Banner Saga 2.
Once again, the music is absolutely stunning; Austin Wintory has once again provided a deeply poignant score and it compliments every moment. Whether it’s during the heat of battle or the sorrowful instances of loss, there is always a track that fits beautifully. During some of the dialogue, sound effects will play as you read what’s being described on screen: if you read there is water trickling through the dank and dark walls of a cave, you’ll hear dripping water. This attention to detail showcases Stoic’s dedication to making The Banner Saga 2 authentic, and with the delicious art style looking even brighter and more pronounced than the first, it’s a better and more refined experience all round.
The Banner Saga 2 is a work of beauty, both in the way it looks and the way it plays. The story is superbly written and the combat makes you earn those victory horns. With the addition of the Horseborn and dynamic battle boards, The Banner Saga 2 is even better than its predecessor.
The battle boards have been improved.
Art and music will blow you away.
Horseborn add a great dynamic to combat.
No option to input previous choices if you played the original on a different system.