Hands-On Preview: The Banner Saga 2
The Banner Saga 2 continues to be a gorgeously animated game. With purely 2D style art, the game can focus on the fine details and impose the Northern Europe aesthetic easily. Not only are the backgrounds and conversation art beautiful, but the animations are also nice to look at, even when it is your character getting smashed to death. Cloaks will move perfectly with a character’s strike, and the enemy models give a sense of “other” with their blank eyes and cobbled together armor.
Thankfully, the strategy RPG elements of the game also return, with abilities, willpower points, and choke points. Your team of heroes face off against foes that are much more powerful, and can be easily overwhelmed if you run into battle. One early fight sees a single character face off against seemingly insurmountable odds, yet the developer assured me that he knows the fight is winnable since he did it, and made it less difficult. I attempted to succeed but failed quickly, though the game continues despite your defeat.
Like most strategy RPGs, combat is about placement and timing. Aligning your team in the correct position to quickly dispatch a foe before he can counterattack is key. When striking an enemy you can choose to damage his armor, which opens up his strength for more damage later, or simply hack at his strength, which doubles as both his attack strength and health. You have humans and horn bearing Varls, the latter of which take up four spaces on the map.
When combat is all over, you will return to town to talk amongst the rabble and purchase supplies for the days ahead. You never have quite enough to cover all your bases, as your company is always in need of something beyond reach. Conversations also never yield the conclusion you want, as leaders within your gang have complaints and desires that you can’t promise or offer.
While my time was short with The Banner Saga 2, I was impressed with the visuals, though the combat is tough to get your head around at first and results in more than a few deaths. Thankfully the game will also be coming to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 alongside the PC version when it releases later this year.