Banner Saga: Turn-based Viking RPG


I am sad

[spoiler]Iver left me :( the big one armed bastard. he was my best mate and I will miss his wry sarcasm. Now I have to put up with grumpy Hakon instead.

(AND I had levelled Iver up to 10 ffs the ungrateful sod)


Heh, I remember similar sadness in the first game.


I can not figure out in Banner Saga 2 to tell if someone is injured?


This was the second tactical TBS I tried out this weekend (the first one being Legends of Eisenwald which I didn’t like) and I LOVE it. I instantly warmed up to the game which is pretty rare for me these days. Mechanics are very intuitive, characters are likable, combat is very fun, tutorial is excellent and the art style which I initially thought would be a gimmick is very very nice to look at. Can’t wait to see how the story unfolds.


Finished the first Banner Saga on PS4 yesterday. I like the style, story and the fact that most secondary characters can die depending on your choices, but it also has a lot of flaws… I don’t quite dig the cliffhanger ending and the fact that keeping your general populace alive is irrelevent (heck even the achievements don’t really care about it). The idea that strentgh is both attack and hit points is interesting (a hurt person is weaker after all), but targeting armor, which you are supposed to lower first to get at the opponent’s strength, is pointless 90% of the time since going all-out with strength or special attacks overwhelms most defenses anyway. I don’t really like teams alternating politely either, it forces you to desperetaly try to keep your opponents alive but weak for as long as possible, which is a decidedly un-Viking thing to do.

It’s also weird that there’s a heraldry option in the game that has no purpose whatsoever and that the multiplayer PvP module that’s on PC is not included in the game. It would have rounded out the package.

Not sure how I feel about my whole experience now. It was nice, but I wish I knew it was a trilogy, so I’d have waited for the whole package or the eventual all-in-one edition.


Late to the party. Gave this game another try after quitting it due to weird controls earlier. Those controls were still awkward this time around but somehow it didn’t bother me as much.

I ended up really liking the game. It has quality writing and an interesting story to tell. I have never been this attached to the characters in a tactical squad game. In contrast to XCOM where you have to make up the personality of the characters in your head, here you actually get to know them. Personally that made me more involved.

Another thing this game does well is creating the illusion of choice much beter than the Tell Tale games I tried. I have no doubt that the actual story is probably very linear but your choices do have real effects in terms of resources and party members that survive. The choices are never very clear cut and a lot of the dialoge makes you pause and think about your answers.

So all in all, thumbs up on this game from me.


This intrigues me: what made the controls “weird” for you? Were playing with a controller or with mouse/keyboard? The latter, at least, seems perfectly normal to me.


I’m sure its perfectly fine with a mouse but I played with a playstation controller. Let’s just say I often clicked the wrong button by accident and since nothing is reservable that often lead to me cursing. I think a big part of the confusion is that both the analog stick as well as directional buttons were needed to execute an action, maybe I sometimes confused them? Its all just very fiddly.


I like Banner Saga overall - played 1 & 2 and plan to get 3 when I can find the time for some gaming - but I dislike the choice system. I design/implement similar games on mobile, so I probably think about this way too much, but IMO it has a couple of features which I think makes it poorer than other choice-based narratives.

Firstly, you usually have no in-game way to predict the consequences of your choice. This is particularly bad in the first game, where you can make a choice, and suddenly one of your heroes die (I think the dropped this in the second). Granted, this is always a bit of a problem when doing choice-based games, but that’s why most narrative games nowadays don’t tend to have “You Chose Wrong. The End.” style choices. Secondly, with a few exceptions, almost every decision in the game that impacts gameplay has one choice that is - always - the best, and two other choices that are either bad, or simply objectively worse. This limits replayability badly.

I like the story, though and enjoy the tactical puzzles that the battles present.


I dabbled a bit with an XBox controller, but ultimately switched back to mouse and keyboard.

True. I’ve been playing Nantucket today (thanks to the sale) and it’s a fun little game, where the consequences of your choices are spelled out: e.g. a percentage chance to lose a crew member, or for him to get some kind of disease, you getting an X amount of money (or lose it instead), one or more crew members gaining or losing states/skills, and so on. I think games like Curious Expedition had similar mechanics. Anyway, it’s very neat, and I agree it would be great if Banner Saga gave this sort of information to aid in your decision making.

Again, from having played Nantucket today, usually choices in that game have a decent risk/reward factor (e.g. 40% chance to get some gold, but 60% chance to lose a crew member in the process), and there’s nearly always – as far as I can tell – an option that boils down to “skip this” (meaning, you won’t suffer any negative consequences, but there’s also zero chance you’ll get something to your benefit). Of course, Banner Saga is essentially linear, so I’m sure that put constraints on the kinds of decisions that the developers were able to offer while still being able to tell the story that they wanted.


King of Dragon Pass (which was a major influence on BS) basically does the same as Nantucket and uses probability-based choices. I don’t think there’s really any good reason why Banner Saga couldn’t have done the same - many of the choices are very similar to the style of the ones in Nantucket.

Nantucket’s way of explicitly spelling out probabilities probably wouldn’t have worked in the more narrative style of Saga, though.


Well, there is that one stupid kid they made really hard to keep alive on purpose in the first Banner Saga. There’s even a trophy for it. Otherwise, the choices to make to keep people alive were mostly sensible.


This didn’t bother me at all actually. While there are real consequences to your decisions, like losing a lot of your supplies or a team member, the game doesn’t really have a fail state. I have only lost about two battles in the game and the story just proceeded. There are constantly new people joining your team I never felt low on team members. To me this is clearly not a game about min/maxing but about dealing with what happens to you.


With the release of the final installment I decided I should really go back and finish the original game. I got stuck on the first big battle on the bridge and couldn’t win. Found out later I wasn’t supposed to.

Anyway, I started a fresh game. I’m struggling to get through it. The game is just painful to me. Some of it is my expectations around combat. I don’t like people getting knocked out and that seems almost guaranteed to happen every battle. Some of this may be me needing to get good and understand the systems. I do think the game should help a little more though.

I disklike not having any idea of the consequences of my choices in between combat. I seem to always be starving. I dump my Renown into food and I do worse in battles because everyone is low level. It feels like an endless cycle of failure and frustration. Add that to the bleak tone and I’m left asking “why am I playing this?”

Am I missing something?


I applied a similar strategy of prioritising the supply stock when it came to spending renown. Did you notice that food has a different costs at every market? Sometimes you can get better exchange values.

When it comes to combat, all I can say you really have to pay attention to your health. If you can do a good chunk of damage without hitting the armor first, it is wise to do so. Try to keep enemy health levels below your team members armor and you are mostly safe. Unlike other strategy games you want to prioritise strong enemies instead of picking on the weaker ones. Keeping weak enemies alive is advantageous because they do so little damage in their turn. So switch focus between enemies often.

If all else fails you can always go into the option menu and lower the difficulty so you can enjoy the story.


Nah, you spotted the bleak tone :) To me that’s what it’s all about, it’s intended to be a struggle. You’re hauling that broken caravan of refugees across that landscape, I don’t think you’re really supposed to feel like you’re “winning”. Just doing the best you can. So if that whole aesthetic doesn’t work for you then fair enough, it’s probably not going to click. I really enjoyed getting to know the characters and their personalities, seeing who was in it for the long haul and who was in it for themselves.


Not sure I agree, Making enough wrong choices means you will have fewer characters, less willpower in combats, and less renown to level up your characters. It is very easy for the game to fall into a negative spiral where the difficulty ramps up way faster than you can ramp up your heroes (never mind that the game has some occasionally crazy difficulty spikes). Losing a few characters whom you’ve invested large amounts of Renown into because you’ve chosen a rather than b just makes that worse. Sure - the game doesn’t stop you from reaching the final battle (AFAIK), but by that time you’ll likely have lost most of the battles in the last half of the game, and will lose the final battle too. Most people quit long before that happens (@Mellified is not the first person I’ve heard of who’ve given up on the game because of this).

@Mellified: While winning every battle without any losses can be hard, you shouldn’t be losing heroes in most battles. There are some battles that are (deliberately) heavily unbalanced against the player, but most should be completely doable without losses once you grok the particular tactical puzzle of that encounter.

It sounds like you may be forgetting/overlooking rule #1 of The Banner Saga - “Maim, Don’t Kill”, i.e., you want to reduce enemies down to 1 strength, but keep them alive as long as possible until you can kill all of them in 1-2 turns. You also need to organize your team in the right order - winning battles in TBS is all about controlling the turn sequence, so the initial turn order is hugely important.

Wrt managing the caravan, it helps to know the amount of time it will take to travel to the next village/town (something the game unfortunately doesn’t think to give you), as well as the times when the game will - without warning - decide to remove your stocked up supplies. Never buy food just before the chapter ends - even if it’s cheap - and in general try to minimize food buys. Your choices do make a difference here. Make the right choices in the game, and you pretty much don’t have to spend any renown on food at all during the game. Make the wrong ones, and you’ll be spending renown which then means your heroes are lower level making it harder to win battles (and gain renown) giving you less renown for food meaning even less developed heroes… etc.

Apologies if I end up sounding very critical here. As mentioned, I like The Banner Saga, but to me TBS1 in particular is very much a flawed gem from a game design POV. TBS2 is better, though the decisions are still very much good/bad/worst.


Maybe I was just lucky to apply the right strategies from the start so my game didn’t spiral out of control.

I started out by putting all my renown into my favourite characters but it wasn’t long before I lost my only level 5 that I put a lot of renown into because I was convincing him to give his best in a dangerous situation. From that point on I started managing my renown spendings in such a way that it was more evenly distributed over characters in the pool. I feel that gave me more bang for my buck and also mitigated the risks of losing someone and being dependent on that high level character that you can lose anytime. At the end of the game the highest level team member I had was Rook at level 4.

This wasn’t true for me. Certainly in the second part of the game there were always one or two characters getting wounded for a few days after battle. This forced met to rotate characters on a regular basis if I didn’t have enough supplies to rest.

Strangely enough I only bought one accessory from a market during the whole game. The attractive ones were just so expensive. So that’s a thing I hardly ever spend renown on.


This isn’t really surprising, if your highest level at the end of the game is a level 4 character, then you’re behind the power curve of the game. It means that all of your characters are not only missing the +2 (or more) ability points they’d get from being maxed to level 5 (which is - potentially +2 strength damage), it also means you are missing the final rank of your character’s special abilities. The difference between a rank 2 (2 armor break) and rank 3 (3 armor break) mark of prey attack is significant.

As I recall it, when I played my “canon” playthrough, I maxed out the “main” characters long before the end. Checked the final savegame, and I can see that I had all my key characters at Lvl 5, with some 100+ renown unused. I think I bought one or two items - the majority of items are simply not worth it compared to the ones you get for “free” as part of the story plot, so that looks about right.

I read in a reddit post that the max amount of renown achievable in Hard is ~750. Even if you only earn ~500, that should still be enough to level 7-8 heroes up to max (50 to take 1 hero to lvl 5), and still leave 100+ renown to purchase food for the caravan.

For sure that makes sense on a first playthrough, but in practice most of the “main cast” are invincible, so you never need to worry about them getting KIA. Since they’re also - for the most part - the best characters, that’s renown well spent.

For the rest, they can be divided into two - those who are permanent fixtures, but who can be killed by making the wrong choices - and those who are only part of the story for a short period. The former you can chose whether should die or not (and therefore chose whether or not to spend renown on them), the latter you should never spend renown on unless absolutely necessary.


Behind the power curve for what though? I finished the game having only failed two battles. The last boss battle I finished without any problems on my first try. It’s great that you did much better than me but I was able to enjoy and finish the game just fine albeit in a less efficient way.