The Banner Saga

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The Banner Saga
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Developer(s) Stoic Studio
Publisher(s) Versus Evil
Designer(s) Alex Thomas
Programmer(s) John Watson
Artist(s) Arnie Jorgensen
Writer(s) Alex Thomas
Composer(s) Austin Wintory
Platform(s) Android
iOS
Microsoft Windows
OS X
PlayStation 4
Xbox One
Nintendo Switch
PlayStation Vita (Cancelled)
Release
  • Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS, Android
  • January 14, 2014
  • PlayStation 4, Xbox One
  • January 12, 2016
  • Nintendo Switch
  • May 17, 2018
Genre(s) Tactical role-playing
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

The Banner Saga is a fantasy tactical role-playing video game developed by Stoic Studio and published by Versus Evil. It was initially released for personal computers and mobile phones in January 2014. PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions were released in 2016, with a Nintendo Switch version released in 2018.

Stoic Studio

Stoic LLC is a video game development company located in Austin, Texas. Founded by three ex-BioWare staff in December 2011, Stoic is most known for developing the tactical role-playing video game The Banner Saga (2014) and its sequels, The Banner Saga 2 (2016) and The Banner Saga 3 (2018).

Versus Evil US-based independent video game publisher

Versus Evil, LLC is a US-based independent video game publisher. The company was founded to help independent game developers be financially and creatively successful in the highly competitive video game market. Led by 20-year industry veteran Steve Escalante, formerly of Bethesda Softworks, Versus Evil's services include a full suite of publishing support, including brand marketing, community, social, public relations, creative, production, quality assurance, legal, distribution and other general business support. Versus Evil's staff is located in California, Texas, and Maryland.

Personal computer Computer intended for use by an individual person

A personal computer (PC) is a multi-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and price make it feasible for individual use. Personal computers are intended to be operated directly by an end user, rather than by a computer expert or technician. Unlike large costly minicomputer and mainframes, time-sharing by many people at the same time is not used with personal computers.

Contents

Taking place in a fictional world inspired by Norse mythology, the game tells the story of the player's caravan as a whole, as they combat a warlike race named Dredge that despises humans. The game follows two playable characters, each having their own story that ultimately merges into one. The game features an interactive story which changes depending on players' decisions.

Norse mythology body of mythology of the North Germanic people stemming from Norse paganism and continuing after the Christianization of Scandinavia and into the Scandinavian folklore of the modern period

Norse mythology is the body of myths of the North Germanic peoples, stemming from Norse paganism and continuing after the Christianization of Scandinavia, and into the Scandinavian folklore of the modern period. The northernmost extension of Germanic mythology, Norse mythology consists of tales of various deities, beings, and heroes derived from numerous sources from both before and after the pagan period, including medieval manuscripts, archaeological representations, and folk tradition.

The game served as the debut title for Stoic Studio, which was founded by three former BioWare designers. The game was funded via Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform. The hand-drawn animation and art-style featured in the game was inspired by the art of Eyvind Earle, Ralph Bakshi and Don Bluth. Austin Wintory composed the game's music, with Dallas Wind Symphony performing. The game's multiplayer component, titled The Banner Saga: Factions, was released as a free standalone game before the game's release.

BioWare is a Canadian video game developer based in Edmonton, Alberta. It was founded in May 1995 by newly graduated medical doctors Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, alongside Trent Oster, Brent Oster, Marcel Zeschuk and Augustine Yip. As of 2007, the company is owned by American publisher Electronic Arts.

Kickstarter crowdfunding platform

Kickstarter is an American public-benefit corporation based in Brooklyn, New York, that maintains a global crowdfunding platform focused on creativity and merchandising. The company's stated mission is to "help bring creative projects to life". As of May 2019, Kickstarter has received more than $4 billion in pledges from 16.3 million backers to fund 445,000 projects, such as films, music, stage shows, comics, journalism, video games, technology, publishing, and food-related projects.

Eyvind Earle was an American artist, author and illustrator, noted for his contribution to the background illustration and styling of Disney animated films in the 1950s. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rahr West Art Museum, Phoenix Art Museum and Arizona State University Art Museum have purchased Earle's works for their permanent collections. His works have also been shown in many one-man exhibitions throughout the world.

The game received critical praise upon release, with critics praising the game's art style, combat, and story. The game was followed by The Banner Saga 2 (2016) and The Banner Saga 3 (2018), which concluded the series. A tabletop RPG tie-in miniseries, produced by Hyper RPG, aired from July 24 to August 14, 2018 on Twitch.

<i>The Banner Saga 2</i> 2016 video game

The Banner Saga 2 is a tactical role-playing video game developed by Stoic Studio and published by Versus Evil. It is the sequel to The Banner Saga, and the second part of a trilogy of games.

The Banner Saga 3 is a tactical role-playing video game developed by Stoic Studio. It is the final installment in a trilogy of games that began with The Banner Saga (2014) and The Banner Saga 2 (2016).

Twitch.tv live streaming video platform

Twitch is a live streaming video platform owned by Twitch Interactive, a subsidiary of Amazon. Introduced in June 2011 as a spin-off of the general-interest streaming platform, Justin.tv, the site primarily focuses on video game live streaming, including broadcasts of eSports competitions, in addition to music broadcasts, creative content, and more recently, "in real life" streams. Content on the site can be viewed either live or via video on demand.

Gameplay

A development screenshot of the game's turn-based combat component The Banner Saga combat screenshot.jpg
A development screenshot of the game's turn-based combat component

The Banner Saga is an interactive story, meaning that several events may or may not happen depending on the player's choices. The game follows two playable characters, each having their own story that ultimately merges into one. 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 complementary abilities. The game deliberately avoids 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. [1]

<i>Final Fantasy Tactics</i> 1997 video game

Final Fantasy Tactics is a tactical role-playing game developed and published by Squaresoft for the Sony PlayStation video game console. It is the first game of the Final Fantasy Tactics series and was released in Japan in June 1997 and in the United States in January 1998. The game combines thematic elements of the Final Fantasy video game series with a game engine and battle system unlike those previously seen in the franchise. In contrast to other 32-bit era Final Fantasy titles, Final Fantasy Tactics uses a 3D, isometric, rotatable playing field, with bitmap sprite characters.

<i>Shining Force</i> 1992 video game

Shining Force: The Legacy of Great Intention, is a 1992 fantasy turn-based tactics role-playing video game for the Mega Drive/Genesis console. While primarily a traditional fantasy-themed game, it contains some science fiction elements.

The Banner 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. Meanwhile, a darkness starts to encompass the world as a giant serpent causes massive earthquakes and breaches across the lands.

Factions

The turn-based multiplayer combat component was released on Steam as a free standalone game, called The Banner Saga: Factions, prior to the release of the single-player game. Factions became available to backers on February 18, 2013 and to the public on February 25. [2] It allows players to pit teams of six combatants, chosen from 16 classes, against each other. [3] Factions uses the city of Strand as its main user interface, with players selecting different buildings of the city to access various playmodes and functionalities. Additionally, according to Stoic, "the city will evolve as the story unfolds". [4]

Steam (software) Video game platform

Steam is a video game digital distribution platform developed by Valve Corporation. It was launched in September 2003 as a way for Valve to provide automatic updates to their games, but eventually expanded to include non-Valve games from third-party publishers. Steam offers digital rights management (DRM), matchmaking servers, video streaming, and social networking services. It also provides the user with installation and automatic updating of games, and community features such as friends lists and groups, cloud saving, and in-game voice and chat functionality.

User interface means by which a user interacts with and controls a machine

The user interface (UI), in the industrial design field of human–computer interaction, is the space where interactions between humans and machines occur. The goal of this interaction is to allow effective operation and control of the machine from the human end, whilst the machine simultaneously feeds back information that aids the operators' decision-making process. Examples of this broad concept of user interfaces include the interactive aspects of computer operating systems, hand tools, heavy machinery operator controls, and process controls. The design considerations applicable when creating user interfaces are related to or involve such disciplines as ergonomics and psychology.

Plot

The game takes place in a Viking legend-inspired world, stuck in a perpetual twilight since the sun stopped moving weeks before the events of the game, mainly populated by humans and giant-like creatures called the Varls, as the Dredge, an ancient race believed to be extinct for ages, returns to kill them all.

On the west, the Varl Vognir, together with several other companions that include his longtime friend Hakon, the retired Varl warrior Ubin, and the resourceful human Eirik, are charged with escorting Ludin, Prince of the human capital Arberrang, to the Varl capital Grofheim in order to seal an alliance between the two races. In the city of Vedrfell however, Vognir is slain in an encounter with Dredge, leading Hakon to take command of the caravan. Continuing their way, the caravan faces many of the Dredge, and, while exploring the city in ruins of Ridgehorn, find an unconscious man next to a woman's dead body on the top of a tower. As they rescue him and continue their way, the man, Eyvind, unsuccessfully implores Hakon to return to Ridgehorn, convinced his companion is still alive. The caravan reaches Grofheim, to find it aflame and completely overrun by Dredge.

On the other side of the country, the hunter Rook and his daughter Alette encounter a lone Dredge near their home of Skogr. They hastily come back to their town and their Varl friend Iver, to find the village attacked by the Dredge. Together with the Chieftain's wife Oddleif and the other survivors of the village, they escape to the town of Frostvellr. Finding the town unsafe, they continue their quest for shelter, eventually having no choice but to seek refuge in the Varl fortress of Einartoft. On their way, terrible earthquakes occur, seemingly caused by a massive form in the distance. Although the Varl of Einartoft refuse to let humans in at first, Iver, whose real identity is a legendary, long-disappeared warrior known as Yngvar, persuades them to let the caravan in.

In Einartoft, Rook, Alette and their companions meet Hakon, Prince Ludin, and their own companions who also took shelter in the fortress after discovering what was left of Grofheim. They all meet with the Varl King, Jorundr. The situation is soon revealed to be desperate here as well, as Einartoft is under siege from the Dredge and their immortal champion, Bellower. With the king refusing to destroy the bridge leading to the fortress, the companions have no choice but to fight the Dredge, leading to Iver being severely wounded and losing an arm in a fight against Bellower. As Eyvind tries to distract Bellower and save Iver, the massive form they saw in the distance earlier, a massive, terrifying serpent, emerges and gives a glance at the battle before going away, causing the Dredge to retreat in fear.

Meanwhile, Juno, the woman whose body was next to Eyvind when Hakon's caravan found him, awakens in the ruins of Ridgehorn, to find the gigantic serpent facing her. After unsuccessfully trying to kill her, the serpent speaks to her, revealing he was supposed to swallow what was left of the world, but is deeply troubled by the presence of a "darkness" taking over the world instead. After he leaves, Juno contacts Eyvind by telepathy, urging him to leave Einartoft and meet her down south in the city of Sigrholm.

Eyvind pleads with Rook to lead him to Sigrholm. Rook agrees, as Einartoft is already doomed, and the caravan leaves, soon warned by Ubin and other survivors catching them that the city fell a few hours after they left. When the caravan reaches the unwelcoming city of Sigrholm, Juno is nowhere to be found; despite Eyvind's protests, Rook decides the only hope they have left is to find shelter in the fortified city of Boersgard. However, they find another city in the brink of chaos, with no boats left, and where a group of mercenaries named the Ravens, led by the Varl Bolverk, rules the city. Boersgard finds itself stuck between the sea and a Dredge host. More Dredge arrive every day, while supplies are running out and widespread riots are tearing the city apart from the inside, as Rook and his friends decide their only hope resides in building new boats to leave by the sea before it is too late. As the city's defenses are about to fall before their goal is achieved, they are saved by Juno, together with Hakon, Prince Ludin, and an army of Varl who escaped Einartoft at the last moment. Despite this brief moment of triumph, they soon find themselves in more trouble as Bellower and yet more Dredge arrive. With the help of Rook, Juno creates a magic arrow; the Dredge would rout if Bellower was defeated, and although he is immortal, the arrow would hit his mind, convincing him of his own death and making him fall into a coma. The player is given the choice to give the arrow to either Rook or Alette; the one chosen ultimately hits Bellower, allowing their companions to defeat him and make the Dredge army flee, but is killed by Bellower after shooting him. Some time later, the caravans of Rook and Hakon, unified as one, leave Boersgard together with the Ravens on newly constructed boats, afflicted with grief, after giving Rook/Alette a proper farewell and funeral.

Development

Concept artwork from the game The Banner Saga, Travel Bridge screenshot.jpg
Concept artwork from the game

The game's developers – Alex Thomas, Arnie Jorgensen and John Watson – left BioWare after working on Star Wars: The Old Republic , with the intention of making a game for their own enjoyment. [5] The project was financed through the crowd funding platform Kickstarter. It was opened to pledges on March 19, 2012 [5] and met its funding goal of USD 100,000 in the course of the next day. [6] The project eventually accumulated USD 723,886 from 20,042 backers. [7]

The game is set in a Viking-inspired fantasy setting, so as to avoid what the developers considered the "overdone 'elves, dwarves and orcs' dynamic". [8] With a visual style influenced by Eyvind Earle's art for the 1959 Disney film Sleeping Beauty , as well as the work of Ralph Bakshi and Don Bluth, The Banner Saga's art features primarily hand-drawn animation sequences, characters and backgrounds. [8] 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. [8]

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. A port to Linux was released in March 2015, and ports for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were released in January 2016.[ citation needed ] A port to PlayStation Vita has been underway since 2014, but has been cancelled as of July 19, 2017.[ citation needed ]

Soundtrack

The fully orchestrated score was written by Austin Wintory for which he was nominated for the 2014 Original Dramatic Score, New IP by National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers (NAVGTR). [7] [9] It features Malukah, Peter Hollens, Jóhann Sigurðarson and Taylor Davis as soloists. The ensemble that performed the music was the Dallas Wind Symphony, [10] [11] and it was recorded at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, Texas. [12]

Reception

Reception
Aggregate score
AggregatorScore
Metacritic (Factions) PC: 67/100 [13]
PC: 80/100 [14]
iOS: 92/100 [15]
PS4: 79/100 [16]
XONE: 76/100 [17]
NS: 80/100 [18]
Review score
PublicationScore
TouchArcade iOS: Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [19]

The Banner Saga for Microsoft Windows has an aggregate score of 80 out of 100 based on 74 critical reviews on Metacritic, signifying "generally positive reviews". [14] The iOS version of the game obtained an aggregate score of 92 out of 100, signifying "universal acclaim". [15]

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. [20] Eurogamer praised the game's art and elegant combat system, while criticizing the lack of variety in combat. [21] Hardcore Gamer commended its feature-quality production values as well as its deep and engaging combat. [22]

GameSpot awarded The Banner Saga a score of 7.0 out of 10, saying "The Banner Saga is a beautiful game, filled with interesting ideas and enjoyable battles." [23] Eurogamer awarded it a score of 8 out of 10, saying "The Banner Saga offers a refreshing take on the tactical RPG with a story every bit as engaging as its combat." [24]

Dwellers Included awarded The Banner Saga Complete Pack with Survival Mode a 4.5 out of 5, saying "The first thing you’ll notice when you start playing The Banner Saga is how beautiful this game is; from the characters, to the backgrounds, even the animations, every visual aspect of the game is absolutely stunning." [25]

Sequels and other media

A sequel, The Banner Saga 2 , was announced in December 2014. [26] The game was released on April 19, 2016. [27] A miniatures board game, The Banner Saga: Warbands, was announced in August 2015. [28] A prequel novel, The Gift of Hadrborg by James Fadeley, was released in August 2016. [29] In January 2017, Stoic launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for a third instalment in the series called The Banner Saga 3. [30] In March 2017, the game bypassed its $200k funding goal with $416,986 raised. [31]

On July 18, 2018, it was announced that Hyper RPG would produce an official tabletop RPG tie-in show that would air on Twitch from July 24 to August 14 of the same year. It stars Shelby Grace, Andre Meadows, Steve Zaragoza, Dave Moss, and Trisha Hershberger, with Adam Koebel as the Game Master.

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References

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