The Banner Saga 2 in the test - The atmosphere is bleeding

Author: Reiner Hauser
Date: 2016-04-19 17:57:00
The second part of the tactical role-playing saga, planned as a trilogy, brings us back to the unique fantasy world of its predecessor, once again demands all of our strategic skills and continuously demands the toughest decisions. Are we excited? And how!

In the style of a Game of Thrones, the events change place and narrator again and again. While a last large group of refugees can slowly escape the chaos under our leadership, elsewhere we steer even deeper into it with a tough, battle-tested troop. With a clear impact on the minds and actions of the protagonists.

Uncompromisingly consistent

The story follows on from the end of the first part, in which we barely escaped the biggest dredge invasion in living memory. Thanks to an (optional) savegame import, in addition to the most important decisions, the level up of our heroes, our supplies and even the exact number of our clan members in our entourage are taken from the predecessor.

In the test, this means that, thanks to import , we even found a worse starting situation than actually intended. Nevertheless, we decided to use the old memory version. After all, these are not just any numbers. These are the clans under our banner!

Thanks to a short summary of the events, even newcomers can hope for a real experience, but if you want to enjoy The Banner Saga 2 in all its depth and with this special feeling of responsibility towards your own people, you should definitely get the first part beforehand and play it through if possible .

Not an easy decision

Essentially, the game consists of the same elements as the first part: A constant change between travel sections with our respective wards, round fights and dialogue passages with our heroes. On their automatic march, our tiny caravans move past the drawn landscapes, interrupted again and again by many events, mostly consisting of a text window, which demand difficult decisions from us right from the start.

The game often denies us the blessing of right and wrong. In addition to many unforeseeable consequences, we have to repeatedly decide between benefit and morality. Do we protect some families, the valuable supplies, or the useful fighters when a village is attacked? "Of course the families!" Shoots through our heads.

But when we realize that without further supplies we may be starving all of our followers, the certainty gives way to agonizing consideration. And as if that wasn't hard enough, one of our high-level heroes sometimes even bites the grass. The mean thing: with the right decision we could have prevented it! The Banner Saga 2 instills this lesson, just like its predecessor: We cannot save everyone.

For fame and honor - or food

We talk extensively and a lot with our companions in somewhat wooden dialogues. We do not come across cliché decals, but rather characters who make mistakes and harbor prejudices. To people who become plunderers out of sheer desperation and to heroes who slowly but surely lose heart and surrender to their fate in quiet melancholy. If the few who were able to withstand the chaos are overwhelmed by pain and grief, we sit with goose bumps in front of the screen and actually never want to leave the world of The Banner Saga 2.

When we're not talking, we have to feed our caravan by procuring supplies and maintaining morale by taking breaks. Above all, this requires supplies, which, however, are only available for the single resource of reputation. In turn, we get these almost exclusively from winning fights. Unfortunately, we also need the reputation for every level up of our heroes, which grants us bonuses on the character values and - this is new - unlocks further special attacks. So we are faced with another difficult decision: supplies or hero tuning?

Not new, but better

The tactical round fights still follow the same principle as in the predecessor and are really tricky again. We and the opponent take turns moving across the battlefield with a fighter, trying to combine our attacks and special abilities as sensibly as possible. If an opponent does not want to fall into our arrow trap at all, we simply push him into it with the angry headbutt of a Varl.

Basically every figure has an armor and a strength value, with the latter representing both life and attack strength. The special trick: With every attack we have to decide whether we want to attack the opponent's armor or his life points. While less armor makes the enemy more susceptible to further blows, an attack on the life points also weakens the opponent's attack power. However, a large part of the blow will bounce off the armor.

Big and small shovels

While the variety of missions and enemies in the previous game was still quite low, the second part almost eliminates this weakness and offers a lot of different goals. Sometimes we just take out the boss of the group, sometimes we destroy a barrier, while various new types of opponents, such as the beastly little Skulkers, who become invisible at some distance from our heroes, hit us. None of these new units turn the game upside down, but they bring a lot more variety to the battlefield.

The rest of the staging also goes a long way, albeit a slightly smaller one. Some cutscenes at the most relevant parts of the story and the occasional voice output loosen up the overly static dialogues, but are still used a tad too rarely. But that doesn't detract from the unique atmosphere. Once you have started your journey through the beautiful, detailed landscape and listen to the first-class music, you can't help but love this game.