PAX Prime 2013: Holding the Banner High – Hands on the Banner Saga
Stoic recently completed their $100,000 Kickstarter campaign for the Banner Saga and ended up surpassing their goal by a whopping $623,000. Apparently people like their viking turn based strategy titles. As a backer I felt entitled to check the game out inside the colossal Indie Mega Booth at this year’s PAX: Prime. Is this a banner worth carrying?
The Banner Saga is a turn based strategy game set in a frost covered world inspired by viking lore and mythology. While I didn’t spend a ton of time reading the dialogue between characters on screen , the game appeared to have a number of branching dialog options similar to BioWare titles. Decisions made in conversation could apparently impact the story in a number of ways, including which companions would follow you into combat, and which ones would live and die. The Combat system itself was deep and complex, with each unit having a distinct move set and special abilities. Archers could fire especially deadly penetrating shots, while mages could cast handy AOE attacks. Mid-way through a particularly difficult fight I realized that I had already run out of energy and could no longer perform any more special attacks… No bueno. Like any good strategy title, the Banner Saga appeared to be all about unit placement and patience. With such beautifully hand animated units, each battle played out like a miniature 3D viking cartoon… It was really pretty folks.
If you’ve ever seen animated classics like Wizards or Fire and Ice, Ralph Bakshi managed to use rotoscoping technology back in the 1980s to make some incredibly realistic looking cartoons. Stoic apparently used a similar rotoscoping technique to make some of the most fluid looking 2D animation that I’ve ever seen in a game before. When the main character Rook swung his ax you could really tell that the blade had weight and would really hurt if it connected with anything not protected by a thick layer of armor. I can’t fathom how time consuming it must have been to motion capture and rotoscope the game’s units, but the end result was absolutely stunning to see in person.
While my time with the Banner Saga was short, and there were no devs on hand to chat with, I ended up leaving the booth feeling incredibly excited for the title which is set to release some time in 2013. If you’d like to check out the multiplayer Banner Saga: Factions, it’s currently available on Steam for ….free!