Visit our sponsors! (or click here and disable ads)
Banner Saga 2 Preview at IGN + Teaser Trailer
Preview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 13 June 2015, 00:13:32Tags: Stoic Studio; The Banner Saga 2
In contrast to many other developers, Stoic Studio, creators of The Banner Saga and its upcoming sequel The Banner Saga 2, seem positively averse to marketing and hype. In fact, we've heard almost nothing from them since the sequel was announced last December. Lately, however, there are winds of change in the air. A couple of weeks ago, Stoic released a short Banner Saga 2 teaser trailer, and now, there's a preview of the game at IGN, which I'll quote in its entirety:
If I were to name the one thing The Banner Saga had going for it when it came out last year, it would be "heart." It wove a dire, utterly human, heart-wrenching tale with humble threads. Much like last year's Child of Light, it felt like something that existed because its creators needed to make it, not because the free market demanded it. As much as it charmed me though, the RPG/resource management nerd in me didn't find its gameplay quite meaty enough. Still, I'm thankful that the state of the industry is such that we can have The Banner Saga 2, though I'm even more thankful that there's just a bit more to chew on this time around, whether you're making decisions on the battlefield or off.
Without getting into spoiler territory, the story picks up mere weeks after the closing events of The Banner Saga, and things have not improved. In fact, depending on the choices you made towards the end, the situation at the start of the game will be rather desperate, with characters struggling to cope with the repercussions. All your choices from the original carry over, shaping the experience as early as the title screen, and continuing on all the way into the combat itself.
Combat variety was a bit sparce in the original, but The Banner Saga 2 has made clear efforts to remedy that, some of which are present right from the opening tutorial battle. There are new units on both sides of the battlefield, giving you a greater number of problems to solve, and a deeper toolbox to solve them with. Dredge Skullkers are mutated hounds that hunt in packs, turning invisible and surrounding characters only to strike in ferocious unison. The Dredge Direguard on the other hand is a support unit that can turn parts of the battlefield harmful to your army while buffing his allies. Take one out though, and the rest of the Dredge scatter. Do you deal with his buffed cohorts, or do you take him on directly to try to end things quickly? Decisions like this make combat more interesting and challenging.
Another variable is how your decisions during story events affect combat scenarios. Towards the end of my demo, i had to chose how my caravan would meet a sudden Dredge ambush, and each option resulted in a different starting situation for the fight. In fact, my choice got an important character killed, though their sacrifice wasn't in vain; they had cut a swathe through the enemy forces, giving me a significantly easier time than I normally would have had. This is still one of my favorite things about The Banner Saga: not only do your decisions matter, but you never know how they will matter, or to what degree. It shuns the gamey convention of telling you exactly what will happen before it does, leaving you to go purely on instinct, and to suffer the tension of discovering what your actions have wrought.
Everything has a cost here, even if it isn't a material one. The new Shield Maiden has a special ability that will weaken an enemy's armor, but at the expense of her own. You can now dual class a character, giving them access to more than one class ability, but they'll never reach the raw level of power they would have had you kept them dedicated to their first role. You'll have more opportunities than ever to recruit caravan members for your army, But they could be scouring the surrounding area for additional supplies instead. What good are soldiers who die of hunger before they raise their sword and shield?
As the second in a proposed trilogy, it goes without saying that you should play its predecessor before moving on to The Banner Saga 2. If you were among the people who felt the first was just too short for your liking, your mind won't be changed this time out, as this installment is about the same size as the first, and will likely leave as many unanswered questions too. That's just fine for me though, given what I get in return. There's a gravity to this series that's pretty scarce these days; a commitment to consequence and storytelling that never comes up to breathe. The Banner Saga 2, like its prequel, is quite satisfied with being "not for everyone," which is probably why it feels just right for me.