The Banner Saga

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The Banner Saga
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Developer(s)Stoic
Designer(s)Alex Thomas
Programmer(s)John Watson
Artist(s)Arnie Jorgensen
Composer(s)Austin Wintory
EngineCustom
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, others planned
Release date(s)25 February 2013 (Factions multiplayer game)
14 January 2014 (Chapter 1 single player campaign)
Genre(s)Tactical role-playing
Mode(s)Single-player and multiplayer
DistributionDigital distribution (Steam, gog.com[1] and others[2])
 
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The Banner Saga
TBS logo transparent.png
Developer(s)Stoic
Designer(s)Alex Thomas
Programmer(s)John Watson
Artist(s)Arnie Jorgensen
Composer(s)Austin Wintory
EngineCustom
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, others planned
Release date(s)25 February 2013 (Factions multiplayer game)
14 January 2014 (Chapter 1 single player campaign)
Genre(s)Tactical role-playing
Mode(s)Single-player and multiplayer
DistributionDigital distribution (Steam, gog.com[1] and others[2])

The Banner Saga is a Viking-themed tactical role-playing video game by Stoic, a trio of indie game developers formerly of BioWare. It was released as a single player campaign, The Banner Saga – the first game of a projected trilogy – on 14 January 2014, as well as a separate free-to-play online multiplayer game, The Banner Saga: Factions, in February 2013.

Development[edit]

The game's developers – Alex Thomas, Arnie Jorgensen and John Watson – left BioWare after working on that studio's MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic, with the intention of making a game for their own enjoyment.[3] The project was financed through the crowd funding platform Kickstarter. It was opened to pledges on 19 March 2012[3] and met its funding goal of USD 100,000 in the course of the next day.[4] The project eventually accumulated USD 723,886 from 20,042 backers.[5]

On January 14, 2014 the game was released in the digital distribution via Steam and on February 5 in the promised[6] DRM-free version on gog.com. Initially released for the Windows and Mac platforms, later ports to Linux, iPad, PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade are planned. Originally scheduled for a November 2012 release,[5] the single-player campaign was eventually released in January 2014, following the February 2013 release of the multiplayer game The Banner Saga: Factions.

Stoic's application for a U.S. trademark for "The Banner Saga" was opposed in January 2014 by King, the developer of the game Candy Crush Saga, on the grounds of being "confusingly and deceptively similar" to King's trademark for the word "Saga". According to Stoic, this dispute could hold up the release of a sequel.[7]

Gameplay[edit]

A development screenshot of the game's turn-based combat component

The Banner Saga[edit]

The core of the game is a single-player campaign of turn-based combat engagements inspired by games such as Final Fantasy Tactics and Shining Force, with the player controlling and being able to build up a party of characters with complementing abilities.

According to the developers, their aim was to create a "mature game for adults in the vein of Game of Thrones or The Black Company". They intend to engage players emotionally by allowing them to build relationships with the game's characters and shape the outcome of the story through an array of conversation choices.[8] The game eschews certain conventions of action-oriented computer role-playing games such as the focus on a young lone hero's story, looting and buying items, or reloading a saved game state after defeat. Instead, the developers intended to tell the story of the player's caravan as a whole, and encourage players to accept and deal with the consequences of any defeats they may encounter.[9]

The first game in the Saga centers on the return of the Dredge, a warlike race that despises humans led by the Bellower, a nigh invincible Dredge who leads them on a warpath on human and Varl. As a wandering army sent to fight against the Dredge and find a weakness for the Bellower, many difficult decisions are made by the caravan that would shape the fate of both man and Varl.

The Banner Saga: Factions[edit]

The turn-based multiplayer combat component was released on Steam as a free standalone game, called The Banner Saga: Factions, prior to the release of the single-player game. Factions became available to backers on 18 February 2013 and to the public on 25 February.[10] It allows players to pit teams of six combatants, chosen from 16 classes, against each other.[11]

Setting and style[edit]

Concept artwork from the game

The game is set in a Viking-inspired fantasy setting, chosen by the developers so as to avoid what they considered the "overdone 'elves, dwarves and orcs' dynamic".[8] With a visual style influenced by Eyvind Earle's art for the 1959 Disney film Sleeping Beauty, as well as the work of Ralph Bakshi and Don Bluth, The Banner Saga's art features primarily hand-drawn animation sequences, characters and backgrounds.[8]

Factions uses the city of Strand as its main UI, with players selecting different buildings of the city to access various playmodes and functionalities. Additionally, "the city will evolve as the story unfolds".[12]

Soundtrack[edit]

The fully orchestrated score was written by Austin Wintory, the composer of the soundtrack of Journey.[5] It features Malukah, Peter Hollens, Johann Sigurdarson and Taylor Davis as soloists. The ensemble that performed the music was the Dallas Wind Symphony.[13]

Reception[edit]

The Banner Saga: (single player)[edit]

On launch day, the first "chapter" (read game) of the projected single player campaign trilogy obtained an aggregate score of 82 out of 100 (based on 32 critical reviews) on the Metacritic website, signifying "generally favorable reviews".[14]

According to IGN, The Banner Saga excelled both in its art and in its varied story full of meaningful choices. The reviewer also approved of the game's tough, but rewarding combat system and bleak, but beautiful soundtrack, while considering that the game could have explained key gameplay mechanics better.[15] Eurogamer also praised the game's art and elegant combat system, while criticizing the lack of variety in combat.[16] Hardcore Gamer commended its feature-quality production values as well as its deep and engaging combat.[17]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Release: The Banner Saga on gog.com (February 4, 2014)
  2. ^ buy now on stoicstudio.com
  3. ^ a b Curtis, Tom (19 March 2012). "When ex-BioWare devs make their own strategy RPG". Gamasutra. Retrieved 19 March 2012. 
  4. ^ Mattis, Jeff (21 March 2012). "The Banner Saga reaches Kickstarter funding goal in under two days". Shack News. Retrieved 22 March 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c Kickstarter. "The Banner Saga". Retrieved 21 April 2012. 
  6. ^ Watson, John (12 January 2014). "Get your Steam Key!: A DRM-free version of the game is under development now and we are still working with GOG to distribute soon. This will also be available to all backers even if you downloaded a Steam copy.". Kickstarter. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  7. ^ Karmali, Luke (23 January 2014). "The Banner Saga Sequel Blocked by Trademark Claims". IGN. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c Mattas, Jeff (6 March 2012). "The Banner Saga 'in the vein of Game of Thrones;' Kickstarter launching soon". Shack News. Retrieved 19 March 2012. 
  9. ^ "Interview with Stoic on Banner Saga". Live Pixel. 23 August 2012. Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  10. ^ "Banner Saga Out Now For Backers, Everyone Next Week". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved February 20, 2013. 
  11. ^ Pinsof, Allistair (19 September 2012). "Preview: The Banner Saga Factions". Destructoid. Retrieved 21 September 2012. 
  12. ^ "The City of Strand". Stoic. 13 July 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  13. ^ Wintory, Austin. "The Banner Saga". Bandcamp. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  14. ^ "The Banner Saga". Metacritic. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  15. ^ Johnson, Leif (14 January 2014). "HIGH NORSEPOWER". IGN. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  16. ^ Harman, Stace (14 January 2014). "The Banner Saga review: Trooping the colour". Eurogamer. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  17. ^ Thew, Geoff (2014-01-14). "Review: The Banner Saga - Chapter 1". Hardcore Gamer. Retrieved 2014-01-19.