Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS, Android, Linux, OSX, and Windows
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 01/04/2020 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
The Banner Saga 2 picks up exactly where the first game left off, and not much has really changed. There’s no major gap in the story between the first game’s conclusion and the second game’s beginning, and the game’s mechanics and visuals are largely identical. The only change of note is that the max level for your characters has been increased from 5 to 10 which makes sense considering that they’re about to go through an entire second game’s worth of combat.
The main narrative point driving this second game is the approaching apocalyptic “Darkness” that threatens to destroy everything – human, Varl, and Dredge – and seems to be unstoppable. While the first game had an uneasy atmosphere, Banner Saga 2’s atmosphere is downright foreboding with the lurking specter of global annihilation coupled with the continued pressure and attacks from the Dredge. As the overall circumstances become more desperate, so too do the situations in which your caravan finds itself. As the leader of the caravan, it’s up to you to find resolutions to these situations, and as is often the case in real life, many situations leave you little but a choice between “bad” and “worse.” I think Polygon hit the nail on the head in their review when they said “The Banner Saga 2 is intense and unrelenting in its mission to make you feel like the worst leader alive” because of the choices you’re forced to make really do feel that way.
The combat is exactly the same as it was in the first game. It’s your standard SRPG affair with a team of six fighters chosen from your roster of probably WAY more characters than that. I usually ended up with three times as many fighters as I was allowed to field, and while I played on Bitch Mode (my term for Easy) keeping me from having any injuries kind of exacerbated how overstaffed my army was, the game is definitely generous with making sure you’re never lacking people to field in a fight. Partway through the game, a fourth race – the Centaur-looking Horseborn – is introduced, and this adds a new element to your combat strategy should you choose to employ your Horseborn character in combat.
All in all, The Banner Saga 2 is a perfect follow-up to the original game even considering how high the original game set the bar. The game’s story continues to impress, the characters continue to develop and entertain, and the choices the game forces you to make continue to twist your soul and make you live with the consequences of your often ill-considered decisions regardless of whether those consequences are positive or negative. It’s a fantastic ride from start to finish that will leave you almost literally salivating to see how the story wraps up in the third installment.