Actually a Saga


Have you noticed the recent resurgence of turn-based strategy games? You know why that is? It’s because, fighting games aside, they are the best games. I’m particularly impressed with the number of indie studios taking a crack at the genre, a shift that will only lead to bigger risks and more exciting experiences.

My case in point here is The Banner Saga, a game that has been getting a ton of press coverage for all the wrong reasons. Those reasons being the mighty mobile developer King insisting that they invented the process of using letters to form words and furthermore using those words in the titles of video games, or some other nonsense. But it’s not their fault they’re evil – trademark laws that allow such claims to be passed are at fault here. But laws are meant to stop evil, not enable it. Anyway, the injustice here is that The Banner Saga is in danger of being remembered as that game King tried to mess with when in reality it is, hopefully, the beginning of a potentially fantastic and long-running series.

For the uninformed, The Banner Saga is a grid-based game where the player is tasked with swapping candy shapes to form lines of three or more. OK, I’ll let that go now. The Banner Saga is a Norse-inspired strategy game that takes place in a beautifully realised world of hardship and war. The project was born of a Kickstarter fund that smashed its $100,000 target seven times over, and it’s not hard to see why. Visually the game is simply delightful with an art style reminiscent of various slightly creepy cartoons from my childhood.

It’s easy to feel lost or uneasy with your place in the game world. It’s not a setting we’re used to playing in and the narrative constantly skirts disaster. Battles are often won at a cost of lives and even early encounters seem hard fought but once you’ve settled into the uncomfortable it envelops you. It’s a place that is so suitable for game-based narrative that it’s a wonder it’s not been used more.

The Banner Saga is a game that is both deep and foreboding, but one that will greatly reward you for your commitment. I just hope that the shadow of the ridiculous legal action against its name doesn’t leave a lasting stigma. This shouldn’t be known as the game that King victimised but as a great and artistic strategy game.

Available now on Steam.




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