The Banner Saga 2: Stoic Studio faces up to the difficult second album conundrum… - Games Weekly

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Banner Saga 2: Stoic Studio faces up to the difficult second album conundrum…

Trilogies are both terrific and terrible. On the one hand, you begin your consumption of themsafe in the knowledge that there’s more to come; on the other, if parts two and/or three fail to live up to the first then the enjoyment turns distinctly sour. You feel let down. Cheated. The Banner Saga 2 is facing down this precise problem.

The original is generally recognised as a turn-based strategy gem in no small part thanks to a heart-wrenching system of narrative-impacting decisions you must make over its campaign. If part two fails to at least match that same quality then the planned trilogy will be forever tarnished; good work spoilt by a sloppy second act. This middle portion not only has to carry the weight of the preceding part’s plot, it has to set us up for what will hopefully be a finale of tension and drama. No pressure, then, guys.

Developer Stoic Studio is giving little away in terms of plot revelations and gameplay alterations at present, but what has been shown hints very much at an ‘If it ain’t broke’ approach. The trademark hand-drawn visuals return, as does the promise of tough decisions that will test your guile and compassion as leader of a nomadic band of warriors. The continuation of tone and theme comes as little surprise given the studio’s prior comments regarding the desire to make all three games feel like a single, cohesive epic without any pauses along the way. Given that narrative events in game one can play out differently between individual player’s games, it will be interesting to see whether or not your prior decisions come back to roost here.
“The studio desires to make all three games feel like a single, cohesive epic”
Of course, such a continuation is impossible to achieve at present as far as the Xbox One edition of The Banner Saga 2 is concerned the original is currently exclusive to PC. Our fingers remain crossed that a re-release of The Banner Saga shows up on Microsoft’s console prior to this new release, not only to facilitate the possibility of narrative persistence but also to open the game up to a wider audience. By way of reference,a port of the original has been confirmed for PS4 and PlayStation Vita. This being the first time the series is coming to consoles also raises the question of how interaction is going to be handled. With the turn- based combat playing out on a rigid grid of squares, the entire system fits the PC’s mouse/keyboard combination perfectly.

The nature of a turn-based game means that you have a long time to plan and make your moves removing the majority of the traditional difficulties associated with playing strategy games using a control pad. There’s little question, however, that the mere idea of replacing a mouse with an analogue stick  feels innately awkward. Too many PC games have failed to capture the imagination of a console audience thanks to precisely this, and it would be an almighty shame to see another added to the cemetery of failed ports. Although, no matter what the state of the controls, it’s essential that this sequel delivers expanded combat diversity, as that was one of the few flaws of the first instalment.

We’ve seen at least one new faction entering the fray, although we don’t know whether or not they’re friend or foe at this point. Balancing new additions against well-loved ideas is a key challenge for Stoic to overcome, not least in a medium where fandom can quickly and frequently morph into aggressive fanaticism. There might be more questions than answers regarding The Banner Saga 2 at this point, but it’s worth keeping an eye and ear out for the truth to reveal itself. The quality of the first game demands it.

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