The Banner Saga is a Viking-themed tactical role-playing video game developed by Stoic, a trio of indie game developers formerly of BioWare, and published by Versus Evil, an independent video game publisher based in the US. It was released as a single player campaign, The Banner Saga – the first game of a projected trilogy – on 14 January 2014, as well as a separate free-to-play online multiplayer game, The Banner Saga: Factions, in February 2013.
The game’s developers – Alex Thomas, Arnie Jorgensen and John Watson – left BioWare after working on that studio’s MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic, with the intention of making a game for their own enjoyment. The project was financed through the crowd funding platform Kickstarter. It was opened to pledges on 19 March 2012 and met its funding goal of USD 100,000 in the course of the next day. The project eventually accumulated USD 723,886 from 20,042 backers.
On January 14, 2014 the game was released with help from Versus Evil via digital distribution on Steam. Initially released for the Windows and Mac platforms ports to iPad and Android were released in October 2014 with more ports to Linux, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Xbox One planned for 2015.
Gameplay: A development screenshot of the game’s turn-based combat component. The core of the game is a single-player campaign of turn-based combat engagements inspired by games such as Final Fantasy Tactics and Shining Force, with the player controlling and being able to build up a party of characters with complementing abilities.
According to the developers, their aim was to create a “mature game for adults in the vein of Game of Thrones or The Black Company”. They intend to engage players emotionally by allowing them to build relationships with the game’s characters and shape the outcome of the story through an array of conversation choices. The game eschews certain conventions of action-oriented computer role-playing games such as the focus on a young lone hero’s story, looting and buying items, or reloading a saved game state after defeat. Instead, the developers intended to tell the story of the player’s caravan as a whole, and encourage players to accept and deal with the consequences of any defeats they may encounter.
The first game in the Saga centers on the return of the Dredge, a warlike race that despises humans led by Bellower, a nigh invincible Dredge who leads them on a warpath. As a wandering army sent to fight against the Dredge and find a weakness for Bellower, the caravan make many difficult decisions that would shape the fate of both man and Varl.
On launch day, the first “chapter” of the projected single player campaign trilogy obtained an aggregate score of 82 out of 100 (based on 32 critical reviews) on the Metacritic website, signifying “generally favorable reviews”.
According to IGN, The Banner Saga excelled both in its art and in its varied story full of meaningful choices. The reviewer also approved of the game’s tough, but rewarding combat system and bleak, but beautiful soundtrack, while considering that the game could have explained key gameplay mechanics better. Eurogamer also praised the game’s art and elegant combat system, while criticizing the lack of variety in combat. Hardcore Gamer commended its feature-quality production values as well as its deep and engaging combat.