The GWJ CRPG Club - Game 12: Banner Saga (In Progress)

Played a good bit tonight. Really getting into it now. Got my first character killed Out of curiosity I looked up online whether you could save him by picking the right answers. Yep. Had to resist the temptation redo it. Luckily the save system isn't conducive to that, and I've since resolved to just play through naturally and avoid spoilers. Sadness and loss will be the order of the day I'm afraid.

I get the impression this guy will be far from the last to die under my leadership, so I'd best get used to it. Maybe if I play through again I'll do full spoilers for the optimum ending.

I've just scratched the surface of the battle system so will hold any verdicts on it for later. One thing I did notice is that it seems to evoke the feeling of warriors gradually wearing each other down to the point of battered armor and exhausted blows- very different from the quick lethality of Wasteland 2 or XCOM.

Some things really I like:

The artwork, especially the landscape. You can take your fancy 3d graphics. I prefer some really well drawn 2d stuff like Klei and Supergiant put out. This seems in the same ballpark.

The pervasive feeling of dread and hopelessness as you scramble against an overwhelming, inscrutable opponent. It's one of the things I appreciated about Mass Effect 3, so apparently I'm drawn to this for some reason. Frostpunk too, now that I think about it.

I like the high stakes choose your own adventure decisions with plenty of unforeseen consequences or where you often have to pick between two bad options. It's always a huge relief when something works out. Thronebreaker was also very good in this regard.

Spoiler re: first character death.

Spoiler:

His name was Egil. Young and earnest. Seemed like he had a crush on my daughter Alette. Died saving her life. He will be missed- especially since his stone wall ability was actually used to great effect in our first battle against the dredge.

Apparently this guy is very hard to keep alive through the game, but if you manage it, you get an achievement. Very interesting. Well, from this point on, I will be staying off the spoiler/hint sites.

So, a couple of comments.

The story is what makes this game more than the combat system. I strongly recommend, good or ill, you stick with your decisions. The game is hard set on those - you cannot go back and change them unless you save scum. However there’s also not really a need.

You can get through to the end even if things go horribly wrong, so long as your caravan survives. Yes, you can get beat up in the bigger battles (you’ll come to these later in the game and it takes you through the process) and yes, it’s entirely possible to leave yourself without enough food and everybody starts to starve. You’ll need to keep that in mind.

The melancholy you’re all feeling is there throughout this game, but it’s also what makes it as good as it is. Stick with it, it’s worth it. Not many games manage to elicit an emotional response from me - after all, they’re just computer games. They aren’t real - but this was one of them.

That's good to know about the game's resiliency. I was wondering whether I was totally screwing things up with the random choices I was making. I'm just going to keep driving on.

All the Banner Saga games are on sale at gog.com at significant discounts for the next 7 days.

Still not as cheap as the trilogy on console, but better if you absolutely want it them on PC.

AUs_TBirD wrote:

All the Banner Saga games are on sale at gog.com at significant discounts for the next 7 days.

Still not as cheap as the trilogy on console, but better if you absolutely want it them on PC.

Excellent! I've updated the first post with the new price, thanks!

AUs_TBirD wrote:

All the Banner Saga games are on sale at gog.com at significant discounts for the next 7 days.

Still not as cheap as the trilogy on console, but better if you absolutely want it them on PC.

And I have taken advantage of the deal. Thank you!

AUs_TBirD wrote:

All the Banner Saga games are on sale at gog.com at significant discounts for the next 7 days.

Still not as cheap as the trilogy on console, but better if you absolutely want it them on PC.

And bought. Just the first one for now. Thank you, I just ignored the GOG sale email like all the others.

Will install and fire up tonight.

I got in another 45 minutes or so this afternoon. I feel like the conversation and comments here helped a lot. I have a much better idea what I am doing. It's starting to come together nicely.

Random thoughts...

- Still not quite sure of the mid-level story lines, but I get the general idea of safely guarding your caravan(s) through the landscape. It's Oregon Trail on steroids!

- I keep getting people knocked out in combat. The AI seems to do a decent job of picking on the most vulnerable fighters. It doesn't seem to be that big of a deal, though. They just heal up for the next fight and all is well.

- Some of my fighters seem pretty weak.

- I'm on the fence regarding the choice-consequences element of the game. Sometimes I feel like I don't have enough information to make a good decision, other times I feel like the game is funneling me into weaker options when in real life I'd have less stark options, and other times I feel like I've misinterpreted the intent of the decision. But things seem to be rolling along regardless, so I'm pretty chill about the whole thing.

- There are a lot of names and characters with the way you bounce back and forth between the groups. I'm a bit confused as to who is who. I've just shifted back to the first group now, and yeah, I kind of forgot some of the details on these guys already.

So far, though, I'm enjoying this. It's not overly complex once you get the core mechanics down, and it moves along nicely. Glad we picked it!

I've put some time into this, and made it up to Ch.3. I've a few notes so far:

1. I wasn't sure at first, but I really like the artstyle of this one. It looks much better in motion than the still frames would indicate.
2. I think I sort of have a grasp on the battle system, and when to knock off armor vs. strength. The tip to keep weakened enemies alive was a fantastic one, and now I'm also often trying to weaken whichever enemy is coming next, just to reduce the damage we take overall.
3. The practice battles are a good way to rack up kills if you want to promote someone, even if they don't grant renown. This is important because,
4. Renown might be the most valuable resource at this point. Getting kills and being able to promote is fairly simple, especially with practice. But since renown is used for promotions (and gets expensive) and for purchasing supplies or accessories, it seems we will have the X-COM thing where there just won't be enough to go around. Choose who you want to promote carefully. I'm getting most of my main guys to level 3 (not the archers, though), but then I'm finding myself running short on renown for other things. May want to limit the promotions a bit going forward.
5. I make a point to upgrade shieldbreaking on most of my guys on promotion, since getting through that armor faster makes a noticeable difference.

Oh, I didn't realize that the kills accumulated in practice count for promotion. That'll help a lot. I've got renown to spend, but most everyone in the group with Rook are still Level 1 and 2. Thanks!

Lolz. I played another hour and a half today. I don't feel like I'm doing very well. I feel like I'm underleveled for where I should be in the game, and I keep getting people injured in fights. I also feel like I'm choosing poorly in some of the decisions, and in turn I'm ending up with some hard fights. Some of these conversations are pretty brutal as well. I just lost one of our better varls by choosing poorly.

Progress-wise, we just reached Godstone Denglr, everyone is Level 2-3. We've only "lost" two fights, one where we pushed our initial victory and got wiped out when we pursued enemies, and another where I just did stupid things.

The "whittle them down" strategy definitely makes a huge difference. You can get yourself in real trouble if you concentrate on enemies one-by-one.

It's an interesting game, though, and I'm enjoying it. I do feel like I'm "losing" but maybe we're not in as bad shape as I think we are. The game does a good job of creating a mood of fighting against insurmountable odds, and perhaps I'm supposed to feel this way as I make progress through the game.

Oof. This is getting even rougher.

Chapter 5 spoilers:

Spoiler:

If I'm interpreting this right, the Varl have been a doomed race without their god to create more- slowly dwindling like Tolkien's elves but without the luxury of sailing into the west. Then the dredge show up and it seems like most of their remaining population will be shortly wiped out at Einartoft. Tragic. Their king was being boneheaded and selfish about the bridge, but I can sympathize with his desire to preserve their greatest achievements when all else is lost.

And now it looks like we have to contend with this world's version of Midgard serpent. Splendid.

But my caravan presses on. We're starving, half my heroes are injured, morale is in the basement, and I can barely promote anyone much less buy any items. The dredge seem to be getting stronger too. Like Godzilla mentioned, it's hard to tell if I'm behind on the power curve or this is just the way it goes in this game. Will my guys ever catch a break? Outlook not so good.

I'm too lazy to do it, but it'd be cool to make a map of the characters' travels along the lines of this:

IMAGE(https://external-preview.redd.it/UsKadlb2znNx0l4VhHQIczXdyF91Ia9kvBFiAdYBOHY.jpg?auto=webp&s=7b6291c49d28bffd921dd6fb034d84b05f00ffdf)

And a graph of my caravan's strength along the lines of this:

IMAGE(https://s3.amazonaws.com/atg-prod-oaas-files/hum11c/original/6f200d7af194d6b552e031a242e82ce8.jpg)

A little more progress tonight. Our party reached Ridgehorn, which I think must be getting close to the end of Chapter 3. I think we're doing ... okay. Tonight was better than the previous days. Lots of dredge to fight, and we seem to lose at least one character each session to choosing poorly in conversations. I'm not sure it can be helped, really, as some of the choices seem pretty arbitrary. This half of our game party is Levels 3-4 now. Trying to concentrate on leveling up a core team.

Pressing the advantage in battle to win a second fight against fleeing dredge seems to help a lot. You can (sometimes?) get an item, and the extra renown the party picks up seems worth the risk. Even if we pick up wounded characters, it seems worth it for the bonuses.

I'm still getting a character or two knocked out and wounded in most fights.

I spent a bit of time reading up on the various characters' special abilities. I think using those better might help.

I'm definitely enjoying this. I'm not sure it excels at anything, but the combat is fun and straightforward, the events and story are good enough, and the art and music capture the mood nicely. The whole caravan mechanic is fresh and fun. Thumbs up so far from me.

gewy wrote:

Oof. This is getting even rougher.

But my caravan presses on. We're starving, half my heroes are injured, morale is in the basement, and I can barely promote anyone much less buy any items. The dredge seem to be getting stronger too. Like Godzilla mentioned, it's hard to tell if I'm behind on the power curve or this is just the way it goes in this game. Will my guys ever catch a break? Outlook not so good.

Ha! Good to know it doesn't get easier! I'm having trouble promoting people already at Level 3/4. Not enough renown to go around. It doesn't help when the character you promote to your team's highest level kills himself in some conversation event right after that.

That Napoleon graphic is one of my favorites, and yeah, seems fitting for this game, for sure. For the moment, my varl army is growing, but it doesn't seem to matter much because we keep running into bigger and bigger dredge armies.

Started. No idea what I’m doing. Some people don’t like each other and I’m going on a road trip.

It’s easy to overlook, but if you go into the heroes menu in camp, there’s a button that gives you some background info on each character. This really helps get a handle on who’s who.

Redherring wrote:

Started. No idea what I’m doing. Some people don’t like each other and I’m going on a road trip.

That pretty much sums up my whole experience with the game so far.

I confess that even at this point I don’t know where I’m going or why I need to go there. I’m sure this was explained at some point. I’m pretty comfortable with this, though. It feels like anytime I go somewhere with my wife.

So, if you want to avoid doing something wrong that is not entirely obvious, click below. Not much of a plot spoiler:

Spoiler:

At one point you're asked to wait in a town for someone important. Trouble is, you can wait forever and they will never show up. I wound up resting a ridiculous number of days before moving on. Since I had no supplies this cost a lot of people.

Now I have 0 fighters and 0 varl- pretty sad.

Seriously thinking of restarting now that I have a better handle on how the game works. I feel like I could definitely do better.

gewy wrote:

So, if you want to avoid doing something wrong that is not entirely obvious, click below. Not much of a plot spoiler:

Spoiler:

At one point you're asked to wait in a town for someone important. Trouble is, you can wait forever and they will never show up. I wound up resting a ridiculous number of days before moving on. Since I had no supplies this cost a lot of people.

Now I have 0 fighters and 0 varl- pretty sad.

Seriously thinking of restarting now that I have a better handle on how the game works. I feel like I could definitely do better.

Are you pretty close to the end?

I wasn't able to play last night, but read a bit on game progression on the Interwebs. A lot of advice just seems to say "keep going" for your first play through.

I'm still confused as to how we can "lose" the game. It sounds like you can get stuck at certain battles, just not being able to win it, and not winning it gives you a "Game Over" result with a reload to your last save point before that. Other things seem to say you can all starve and die, and so lose that way. But how it plays out and how hard it is to fail is a mystery to me.

Pretty close I think. I’m trying to avoid big spoilers, but reading online I also get the impression that the number of warriors and clansmen is not critical for progression- it just might impact the final ending of the trilogy. In fact, I read one person comment that if your caravan is doing too well you might not get to see one hero’s character arc play out.

If I restart, it’s mainly because I want to pick more fights with the dredge so I can amass more renown. I started getting overly cautious after one bad battle.

I have no confidence in what I'm doing, but I do seem to get more renown by pushing the attack and chasing down dredge when they retreat, even if it results in wounded characters. I'm probably screwing something else up totally by doing this.

It does seem that many people play once, then play again to set up their characters for Banner Saga 2. Seems like there is a whole art to it.

I made it to the beginning of Chapter 4 tonight, so back to the group on the east of the map. They are almost all Level 1, so we'll see how this goes.

The last fight of Chapter 3 was tough. One dredge in particular was able to cut down our varls with one hit. But we managed the battle with only two injuries, so I felt pretty good about the result.

Into Chapter 4 tomorrow! Things are settling in nicely now. I'm still not using abilities well, but I feel like I'm getting better at whittling down armor and neutralizing danger foes. Fun stuff.

I've been looking out for a PSN or a Nintendo eShop sale. I'm not sure how well this one shall gel. I've past on deep discounts before. I always stop for a browse when it is back on offer though. I do believe I included it as a choice during voting. I think I thought I probably owned it. Maybe on the PC? *ponders to turning the computer on*

Reading through the thread has saw me sway back and forth on "sounds interesting" and "maybe not" for a no-surprise analysis paralysis over here.

RnRClown wrote:

Reading through the thread has saw me sway back and forth on "sounds interesting" and "maybe not" for a no-surprise analysis paralysis over here.

It's certainly unique and creative, so I'm glad I'm playing it. It's got cool ideas, good vision, great mood, and decent execution. I might be focusing more on the execution part of it, but I appreciate the other elements quite a bit. It's short, too, which I think matches its complexity nicely.

It's interesting to read how everyone's progressing here. I'm tempted to start over and try on hard but then again I remember how brutal this game can be. The only advice I have is there are rarely situations where you get to pick the "best" outcome. It's more a case of trying to pick the least terrible one. Also, it's heartless but you have some leeway to lose people if you need to, unlike other strategy games where you quickly go into a death spiral.

Finally, I'm very excited to hear the final choice that everyone makes...

I wound up starting over to pick more fights with the dredge. Things definitely went much smoother now that I have a better grasp of tactics and more battles=more renown and higher level warriors. Well, everything's going smoother for the Western group at least. The Eastern group is still in rough shape: low on supplies and not nearly enough renown to promote everyone. I'll push through this time regardless though. I appreciate that it makes sense in context. In the West, we have a large force of battle-hardened giants and in the East it's basically a bunch of refugees.

I didn't really intend to make new decisions. I was fairly satisfied with most of the ones I made. There was one major exception though and I just couldn't bring myself to repeat this mistake- chapter 6 spoiler:

Spoiler:

That bastard Onef. I killed him right outside of Frostvellr this time. Felt a little bit like cheating, but so be it.

^You started over and got to Chapter 6 already again? Wow, that's fast. Nice work!

Yeah, I think my eastern group is going to be in trouble when I get back to them. They're wimpy compared to my varl group.

I should be able to play again this weekend, prolly tonight. I'd like to get through Chapter 4 and maybe 5.

Nah, decision is earlier. Consequences show up in chapter 6!