The Banner Saga 2 Review – Epic Continuation of Its Predecessor’s Dream
Editor’s Note: Be warned; this review contains massive spoilers for the series as the game is a direct continuation of the original 2014 title.
Following the critical acclaim of the original game in 2014, Stoic Studio is back with a second installment to continue the Viking saga with beautiful hand-drawn visuals, tactical combat sequences, and a strong gripping narrative.
Working on sequels is always a cautious affair but in light of Stoic’s presentation of the first game, release of The Banner Saga 2 was a necessity. Even with the massive cliffhanger ending, the original game brought not only an addicting narrative, but also a beautiful world that just needed to be explored further. Closing off the series right there would have simply proven to be a crime.
On that note, The Banner Saga 2 begins right after the events of the first game, picking up the narrative at Chapter 8 and grouping you with the same cast of characters. This is right after your actions decided on whether Rook or Alette would be leading the remainder of your clan.
The second game takes your previous actions into account, and also lets you decide beforehand on which character to go with.
At no point does The Banner Saga 2 makes you ask the question of its existence. The second game thrives in its own identity, making it apparent that there was still a lot left in Stoic’s journal to pen down a fascinating sequel with an equally deep storyline with plenty of twists and turns, alongside improved combat and breathtaking art design.
The Banner Saga 2 wastes no time in throwing you back into the Viking lore-based world, and tasking you with the challenging ordeal of keeping your clan members safe. Those who have previously gone through the treacherous caravan routes of the first game should know that there is still no salvation in sight for your clan in the second game.
The threat of the Dredge is still on the rise and on the verge of destroying the entire realm and its inhabitants. This time around, you and your people need to journey for the human capital of Aberrang, seen as the last beacon of hope where the living are preparing to form a last line of defense against the leeching darkness. As leader of your caravan, you must make sure that as many of your clan members survive this long perilous journey.
Much like the first game, The Banner Saga 2 relays its narrative through two different perspectives. During your search for sanctuary, your clan will join forces with Bolverk and his Ravens. Those who have played the first game will remember Bolverk’s appearance near the end.
Here, his group will eventually part ways, making Bolverk the acting second perspective through which the game will unfold a second narrative. Personally, I took this to be a simple side-story in the beginning but was proven wrong soon after.
Bolverk’s perspective contains some profound revelations that ultimately have a firm effect on the completely storyline. The Banner Saga 2 excels in overwhelming the player with the dreaded feeling of how important his/her decisions are going to prove for the clan’s fate.
Making camp to let your people recuperate from a previous battle may just give the Dredge the opportunity for an ambush. Changing course to rescue survivors may ultimately have severe consequences, and even unpleasant decisions may prove useful in the end.
In light of the two different perspectives, each group makes decisions based on their own moral grounds, forcing the player to jump between personalities.
For Rook/Alette’s caravan, it’s all about rescuing as many people as possible and reaching the human bastion by doing “good” in every situation. The Ravens, on the other hand, are fueled by greed and their decisions are based on satisfying their own mercenary desires.
It’s impressive how each decision for each situation is seamlessly woven into the narrative. Sometimes there may not even be a right answer and you’ll simply have to decide between the lesser of two evils.
Suffice to say, The Banner Saga 2 remains pretty similar to the first game, without adding any prominent new changes that affect gameplay, apart from new enemy types and a new party member. The combat system brings the same turn-based mechanics, and beckons players to strategize their titles based on different challenging battle scenarios.
Players coming from the first game may be disappointed to know that, but the developer didn’t necessarily have to introduce new elements to an already tried-and-tested formula.
The Banner Saga 2 delivers on the same promise of the original game, bringing the same level of quality and beauty that we’ve come to expect from Stoic. All players who love to dwell in high fantasy and/or turn-based strategy games shouldn’t look far from The Banner Saga series.
The Banner Saga 2 is now available for PC, with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions arriving on July 26.
This review was conducted using the PC version.