Discussion The Patient Gamer - The Banner Saga 2 - The Scandinavian Trail Part 2

GodisanAtheist

Diamond Member
Nov 16, 2006
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My thoughts on the first Banner Saga here.

The Banner Saga 2 is a bit of a misnomer. Generally when we think sequel, we think improved graphics, engine, etc. The Banner Saga 2 doesn't really have any of that. Its really an extension of the first game, looks exactly the same, and plays exactly the same. There are some additional gameplay features, new unit types, some animations and voice work that the first game did not include, but certainly nothing that elevates the game beyond a second episode in the three episode series.

The first thing to get out of the way is that you can import your last save file from TBS into TBS2 and continue the story with the same set of heroes you ended the first game with. I always appreciate this feature in a game, even when it never feels cleanly implemented. All the usual problems of dropped storylines, characters than can die in the first game getting diminished roles in the second, and the ever present "its been a couple years I don't remember what's going on even if the game expects me to" are all present here.

That said, TBS2 feels like one step forward and one step back in many ways and an over correction of some misguided complaints revolving around the first game.

The combat encounters have generally improved. You have a couple new unit types to play with that add some depth to the gameplay. Encounter objectives have been broadened a bit beyond "kill everyone" to sometimes just take down one specific unit or destroy an obstacle to proceed.

The game fumbles a bit here because it never really clearly tells you what the win objectives are for a specific encounter (objectives should just be displayed on the game's HUB), outside of some vague vocal queues from some of your heroes. For example, one encounter required that I use my units to "attack" and "clear" chunks of ice on a road while enemies continuously spawn behind me. Thing is this is the one and only time I encountered a win objective like this in my playthrough, so without telling me I had my guys carving through enemy units while my units stated "we need to clear the road!" as if a scripted event was supposed to play out after I survived a couple of enemy waves. Once I discovered some chunks of ice on the corner of the map were targetable, it was too late and my units were too worn down to hold off the subsequent waves and break through the ice structures on the field.

TBS2 does well not really having a lot of hard "fail states" so when you lose certain encounters the story progresses but you lose some resources as tribute and the game keeps chugging, so there is that at least. Doesn't stop some of the encounters from feeling unfair after the fact because you didn't really know what you had to do to win, and you could have won if you had known from the start.

TBS2 is also a bit more forward with the choice and consequence. While the first game would sometimes have decisions you made hours ago suddenly have an effect of the story, the second game tends to keep the decisions you make for your caravan and the consequences of those decisions immediate or very close together. I suspect this was the result of complaining on the part of players who didn't like how making a nice decision now could have really bad consequences much later where you couldn't simply save scum your way out of it.

I personally found this to be the wrong decision. The choice and consequence of the first game felt organic. Issues took time to crop up in the background or sometimes were the culmination of several of your decisions. TBS2 makes the decisions feel a bit too gamified and the consequences are a bit too immediate. To its credit the consequences of decisions aren't always obvious, so sometimes being a nice guy results in bad things happening and vice versa. That said, it could also simply be the result of needing to prune the number of world states the game can end with to avoid going into TBS3 with 100's of possible combinations of living and dead characters.

Lastly, given choice and consequence is such a major element of the game, I would have appreciated a bit more clarity on some of the major end of game decisions I was expected to make. As the second game in a pretty bleak trilogy, the game does sometimes have a bit of a "Game of Thrones" sort of vibe where really anyone's life and allegiance can shift at any time. In the end I ended up siding with Rugga (even if he was a despicable character) in an attempt to save the folks outside the walls of the capital, only to discover that this would mean I would be fighting the Varl in the city and split everyone's forces into their own factions. Additionally, I screwed up the final Iver vs Bolverk fight again because I figured out what I had to do a bit too late in the fight... so it looks like Bellower is back and Alette's death was for nothing...

Despite the shortcomings of the game, the story is truly gripping, and I want to see how the last part of the series wraps everything up. I'll likely be playing through TBS3 sooner rather than later so I can finally get some closure after the helluva cliffhanger this game left off on.
 

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