The Banner Saga
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know The Banner Saga is a downloadable, turn-based tactical combat game set in a mythology-rich fantasy world. Fighting is observed from a raised isometric perspective, so combatants appear relatively small on-screen. But battle animations are intense. Players will see human characters stabbed and beaten, with blood spurting from wounds as they yell out in pain and fall to the ground. The story is told mostly through still images accompanied by text that includes mild profanity and references to alcohol and drunkenness. Players are forced to make difficult, narrative-altering decisions that will impact the personalities and dispositions of the primary protagonists. The player's choices may be those of a thoughtful and compassionate leader, a cruel despot, or someone in between.
What kids can learn
Language & Reading
Thinking & Reasoning
Responsibility & Ethics
- making wise decisions
- learning from consequences
Engagement, Approach, Support
The gorgeous presentation and straightforward combat interface will grab fantasy-loving strategy fans immediately. Viking enthusiasts will adore the detailed, Norse-inspired folklore.
Strategy-heavy combat forces kids to think through their options and plan multiple moves in advance, almost like in a chess match. They'll learn mostly through trial and error, avoiding making the same mistakes twice and building off their successes.
In-game instructions and hints explain facets of combat, but it's up to players to develop their own strategies. Kids in need of help likely will need to turn to friends and unofficial online resources.
What's it about?
Set in a snowy, lonely world, THE BANNER SAGA tells the story of humans and a race of ancient horned giants working together against an encroaching evil called the Dredge. Relentlessly pursued through the cold wastes, players lead groups of fighters and clansmen from one town to the next, trying to keep as many of their people alive as possible. Play is broken into two categories: turn-based combat and decision-laden narrative. The fighting sequences are set on grids where the player directs the movement and attacks of a small roster of characters with varying weapons and abilities, paying attention to various stats that affect each fighter's performance. The story sequences play out in still images and text and involve difficult decision making. Should you let the female members of your small caravan become fighters to better defend the group? What do you do with a drunken troublemaker endangering the entire group? Should you solicit advice from your bitter rival? If you do, can you trust it? All these decisions will have impacts, large and small, on your caravan's strength, security, and likelihood of survival.
Is it any good?
Fans of mythology-heavy fantasy and smart, turn-based tactics will devour this delightful indie gem for PCs and Macs. The Banner Saga satisfies straight out of the gate with gorgeous hand-drawn art that breathes life into both its frigid, forlorn world as well as its diverse cast of complex and colorful characters. A sumptuous score composed largely of traditional Viking-like songs completes the game's spot-on, Norse-inspired fantasy setting. And it only gets better once you start playing. The engaging story draws from the sort of drama, scenarios, and characters found in contemporary fantasy novels and charges players to make some very hard decisions that come with unpredictable repercussions. Things won't always unfold as you intend or to the advantage of your heroes, and the narrative is more convincing for it.
With such terrific storytelling, combat risks taking a backseat. But its chess-like depth -- which forces players to remain constantly aware of combatant positions, abilities, and statistics -- remains as compelling a dozen hours into the game as it is at the start. The Banner Saga is a bit pricey compared to other games of its ilk, and it ends a bit too abruptly, leaving tantalizing story threads dangling (likely because it's the first of several planned installments), but few turn-based tactics games deliver such a complete package of combat, storytelling, and presentation.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about what it means to be a leader. What sorts of traits make for a strong, beloved leader? Is it possible to be a good leader to groups of people that include strongly opposed factions?
Talk about how women are presented in The Banner Saga. Some are meek, while others are fighters. At one point, players can choose whether to train female members of the clan to become archers -- to the anger of their fathers and husbands. What did you choose?
Families also can talk about the impact of violence in games. This game has blood and killing, but it's presented in a manner much different from that in a first-person shooter or third-person brawler. Which has more impact, and why?