A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Kids can learn about strategy and consider the sorts of responsibilities and difficulties associated with leadership in this challenging game of turn-based tactics. Combat sequences force players to work out their own lines of attack and defense, factoring a variety of dynamic variables, including ally endurance, enemy positions, and the movement capabilities of all parties. Outside of battle, players need to wrestle with the sorts of hard decisions faced by any leader, balancing influential individuals' demands with the needs and safety of the larger group. The Banner Saga is a surprisingly thoughtful adventure likely to appeal to pensive players.
This traditional fantasy story forces players to think hard about decisions made during wartime. Sacrifice, loyalty, family, and the difficulties that come with leadership are recurring themes.
Positive Role Models
Players get to shape the personalities of the main heroes. They can act like leaders or cowards, show compassion, or be unforgiving. They also can choose how to deal with misbehaving subordinates, strangers, and captured enemies. The decisions players make will determine whether the protagonists are worth looking up to.
Ease of Play
The turn-based action is pretty straightforward to start, but nuances reveal themselves as play progresses. Players who aren't attentive to these subtleties likely will find themselves struggling. Thankfully, you can switch among a trio of difficulty settings at any time and without penalty.
Violence & Scariness
Hand-drawn human and humanoid characters engage in turn-based combat (some of which can get intense) with swords, axes, bows and arrows, and other medieval-style weapons. Characters yelp, stagger, and bleed small splashes of red blood when struck. They fall to the ground and remain prone when defeated. Important characters die.
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Infrequent language includes words such as "damn" and "ass."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Dialogue includes frequent talk of getting drunk on mead and being hungover the next day.
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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.
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.
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