Flying The Flag
Originally released on PC and mobile devices in 2014, The Banner Saga was eventually ported to Xbox One and PS4. Having played and highly enjoyed both Banner Saga 1 and Banner Saga 2, having the option to replay this beloved series on Switch just feels right.
You can read my review of The Banner Saga on Xbox One HERE.
After re-reading my original review I can say that everything mentioned still holds true with this Switch port. The only major difference is having the ability the play on the go given the hardware. If you have not played The Banner Saga before, owning the Switch version is now a good place to start. However, if you already played through both BS1 and BS2 on another platform, you will want to continue with your platform of choice as the decisions you make in one game directly feed into the next. You cannot, for example, take your save file from the Switch version and import it into the PC version of BS2. Seeing the consequences of your decisions, no matter how big or small, is one of the most rewarding features about this tactical RPG series so you will want to carry your save file through your system of choice.
As a summary, human and varl, giant Viking-like dudes with horns on their heads, are trying to team up to combat the dredge, stone demons with a mindless goal of assimilating everything in their path. Along the way, the player will make some tough decisions, try to survive a long road Oregon Trail-style, and endure many battles among many other things (trying not to give away spoilers here). The story is well written and still stands as one of the most engrossing game narratives I have played throughout the last couple console generations. Battle takes place on a grid in which the player uses the Will system. Will is used for pretty much everything including movement and attacking. This balanced system is a unique approach to combat and forces the player to think about each and every turn.
The Banner Saga’s character art and overall presentation looks and feels amazing. In fact, the game looks so good, it is devastating that the entire game isn’t fully animated like a Disney movie. In other words, it is so good I want more and get a little disappointed that is also wasn’t corrected in BS2 or this Switch version. At the same time, all narration is told through subtitles at the bottom of the screen; there is no voice acting or full animation really outside of the opening video. While this might seem like a detriment, just like the absence of fully animated cut scenes, the game still oozes quality. In fact, the lack of voice acting provides a novel approach, as if the player is playing a part of a really good book.
My only issues with the Banner Saga, and this goes for the Xbox One version I review earlier too, is the icons can be a little difficult to distinguish during battle. Also, text, like many HD games, can be difficult to read depending on your TV and set up. Shame this quality of life enhancements didn’t make it into the Switch port.
Even if you are not a fan of tactical RPGs, the story and presentation of The Banner Saga has enough going for it to pull you in and not let go until the credits roll. Then, you will want to immediately explore The Banner Saga 2 which is currently not available on Switch so hold onto your save file. Fans will also know that The Banner Saga 3 will be released soon on Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC later this year. The only downside about owning the Switch version is not being able to continue your save file onto the sequels, at least, immediately. If you have not played this fantastic TRPG, owning the Switch version might be a good place to start and could make it easier to play through mobile or docked options. However, if you already have a save file on another platform, stick with that and wait for the third and final game to be released this summer.
Not As Good As: already playing the first two games on Xbox One, PS4, or PC
Better Than: not having this game at all
Also Try: pre-ordering Banner Saga 3