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E3 2015 – Hands On and Preview of Banner Saga 2

By Terry OBrien on July 07, 2015 | Previews | Comments

E3 2015 – Hands On and Preview of Banner Saga 2

At June’s E3 event in Los Angeles we got to speak with some of the good folk over at Stoic, and also some hands-on time with Banner Saga 2, and let me tell you, as a huge fan of Banner Sage, this game looks to be an amazing extension of its well-received progenitor.

If you have ever finished a game saying “why can’t there be more, just like this, but more”, well your prayers are being answered here in Banner Saga 2. More story, more choices, more consequences of your choices, more of the great art that made Banner Saga stand out so clearly, more…everything.

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Speaking to the guys from Stoic about Banner Saga 2, it seems that this is the game they really wanted to make the first time around, but that they didn’t have the resources for. Taking the money generated by Banner Saga’s success, the team got to go back and really expand on everything, taking the time to go back and do it exactly as they wanted to.

Banner Saga 2 picks up very nearly where Banner Saga 1 leaves off, you and your people in disarray, and you trying to herd them all to safety. Saga 2 also throws you into the deep-end quickly, forcing some very difficult decisions upon you from the get-go, with a wide range of consequences that might not be immediately apparent. In fact, that lack of “god-like” perception is one of the hallmarks of the series, you don’t know the consequences of your decisions, you must make them with only the knowledge you have at the time. And consequences don’t always turn up immediately, sometimes you will suffer or benefit weeks or months after you made a particular decision. It’s things like this that create the immediacy the Saga is famous for, and in Saga 2 all these things are magnified.

Banner Saga 1 had a fairly simplistic combat system, Saga 2 expands upon this as well, providing more troop types, more special abilities and more battlefield victory conditions, all of which combine to really give the battlefield a lot of tactical depth. Given that either side can receive reinforcements at any time, in the form of late-comers, or passers-by, or even troops sent to flank enemy positions arriving at just the right… or wrong… time.

Handling your herd of the dispossessed has also had some layers added. Whereas before the player might have thought it expedient to allow their Clansmen to starve to death, rather than use up precious resources to preserve them; now your Clansmen can be sent out o perform tasks like hunting and gathering, or even to spread the good word of your leadership, creating good will amongst those you meet and lead.

What’s that, you haven’t played Banner Saga 1? Not to worry, while Saga 2 is a sequel, in the truest sense of the word, as nearly every decision from your Saga 1 game will carry over in some way into Sage 2, Banner Saga 2 can certainly be played as a stand-alone, without ever having played Saga 1. Also, during play you will decide between playing CHICKAND DUDE, whose approach to leadership is very different and can provide lots of replay value, as you try tactics and decisions in lots of different ways while striving to succeed.

Som’s Hands On with Banner Saga

Although I haven’t played Stoic Studio’s first game in the series, I found Banner Saga 2’s gameplay to be fairly intuitive and accessible to start.  It’s fairly easy to learn the basics of the game’s tactical combat, but once you do, its depth and difficulty become readily apparent.  Your health and attack power, for instanced, are intertwined, meaning that if your characters start getting waxed by the opposition, they’ll also become weaker in battle.  It’s pretty brutal!

Banner Saga 2 seems to build upon the original game in every way, beginning with its unique art style and continuing with the types of characters and far-reaching choices you’ll encounter.  It’s beautifully realized with pretty spectacular stylized cutscenes.  If you enjoyed the original, it’s likely that there’s a lot more of that here, with a number of gameplay additions.