I mentioned The Banner Saga earlier this year when King.com claimed the name was “confusingly and deceptively similar” to Candy Crush Saga, the former being a Viking-themed tactical RPG for Windows and OS X, the latter being an entirely original (ahem) money-grabbing match-three puzzle game for girls. You can see why people might confuse the two.
Anyway, less talk of ironic plagiarism claims; lots more talk of The Banner Saga, now available on the App Store for the entirely reasonable price of £6.99. Mobile Game of the Year? Yeah, probably. Join me below as I gush unreservedly.
Question: What is The Banner Saga? Well, the answer is threefold my friend. At its core, The Banner Saga is a Final Fantasy Tactics-esque hack and slash-a-thon, but it’s way more than that.
See, between battles you’ll find yourself making crucial choose your own adventure-style decisions in conversations, while the third prong tasks you with a spot of resource management. A delicious blend indeed.
When it comes to battles, The Banner Saga plays out in turn-based fashion, regardless of the number of combatants, though when one side is inevitably reduced to one man/woman/giant/evil dredger thing, we enter PILLAGE! mode, at which point each character – as opposed to player – gets one turn each.
I won’t dwell too much on the mechanics (or I’d be here all day) but essentially you’ve got two values for each character, specifically attack/health (red), and defence (blue).
When attacking an enemy, you deal damage in the amount of your red score minus their blue, though you can directly attack their defence rating with a view to making the opponent more vulnerable to future attacks.
Make sense? Don’t worry if not. It’s all very intuitive. Now let’s throw in a screenshot and discuss why The Banner Saga is so very good.
Firstly, each facet of The Banner Saga is fantastically done, and no element – battle, story, prep – outstays its welcome. A purely battle-based game might’ve proven a little tedious after a while, likewise a more direct choose your own adventure outing might've induced a few yawns (absolutely no offense to the sublime Sorcery!).
That’s probably because the story – in short: giants (Varl) and humans form a tentative alliance to battle dredger – is hella friggin’ interesting, and invites the player to invest emotionally in the characters.
Furthermore, there’s no hackneyed storyline involving a teenage male protagonist who’s destined to save the world, initially proving his worth by recovering a sword only he can yield.
Instead we jump around between multiple parties and with various characters temporarily taking the starring role. Incidentally, people will die, disappear and/or lose limbs. You’ve been warned.
Again, there’s plenty going on in The Banner Saga, and while it certainly doesn’t spoon-feed the player, nor is it ever daunting.
Now, I’m obliged to mention a few negatives, but these are microscopic flaws in an otherwise flawless diamond of a game.
A couple of The Banner Saga’s screens take a while to load, namely Map and Heroes, so much so that I initially feared the game had crashed. But it’s really not that bad, and entirely forgivable in a game of this scope.
What else? Ah, battle scenes can occasionally become a tad cluttered (stupid dead bodies), and as such it’d be nice to be able to spin the battlefield around. Likewise, I occasionally found myself tapping on the wrong square, but that’s probably because I was up till silly o’clock in the morning playing it.
Those minor gripes aside, The Banner Saga is – what adjectives haven’t I used yet? – glorious. I’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of the gameplay, but trust me when I say it’s well worth £6.99. In fact, it’s a friggin’ steal. Go play it.
PS. I almost forgot to mention the suitably epic soundtrack. Spot on.
- Varied gameplay (battle, talk, manage)
- The story
- The soundtrack
- A couple of screens take a while to load
- Can we spin the battlefield please?
- Occasional tapping of incorrect squares/sleep deprivation
Summary: The Banner Saga ain’t cheap as far as mobile games go, but you get what you pay for, specifically an insanely good turn-based tactical RPG wrapped up in a fascinating what-the-hell-happens-next story. So. Very. Good.
Price: £6.99 @ App Store
Compatibility: Requires iOS 7.1 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimised for iPhone 5.