The Banner Saga 2 Review (Nintendo Switch) – Another Turn-based Cracker

While Stoic’s first Banner Saga was a look into a beautifully-realised and dangerous world, the team’s sequel is all about bridging the gap with what’s to come in the series’ third entry. That’s not a bad thing, though, as The Banner Saga 2 refines a lot of what made the first game great, and is representative of a package that is as competent and well-versed as its predecessor. Further, the Switch version of the game — much like the first — is a perfect place to continue (or start) your adventure.

If Banner Saga 2 is your first foray into the Norse-inspired world of dredges and the end times, you’ll be met with a few important choices alongside a fairly detailed recap of what happened in the first game. Beginning at Chapter 8 (with the first game ending at Chapter 7), you’ll take control of either Rook or Rook’s daughter, Alette. Following a confrontation with dredge beast Bellower, you’re tasked with heading off to Arberrang, with plenty of struggles to deal with along the way.

Much like the first game, you’ll be taking a caravan full of clansman, fighters, and varl throughout the wicked landscapes of a world without a moving sun. The caravan is, more or less, your central hub, where you’ll manage supplies, upgrade hero traits and abilities, and converse with allies.

Of course, keeping your caravan happy is an important part of the Banner Saga experience. Morale is kept high if you rest often on your journey and keep your caravan stocked with food supplies. If you can’t keep food supplies well stocked, you’ll start losing people to starvation and morale will drop — meaning bonuses you can gain in combat with positive morale will be lost. It’s something that’s well worth keeping an eye on, and, alongside the turned-based combat and narrative, keeps you actively thinking as you progress.

As progress can be carried over from the first game, it should come as no surprise that the Banner Saga 2 places heavy focus on its narrative. More importantly, decisions you make play a key role in how your caravan perceives you as a leader as well as how many battles you have to fight on your journey to Arberrang. Each decision you make has some sort of weight to it, from allowing people you’ve found on the road into your caravan to dealing with fights breaking out throughout the journey. There very rarely feels like there’s a clear good and bad way to deal with things.

This is thanks to the excellent writing, which manages to ground characters and make you feel for them and their struggle to stay alive in the face of the end times. Considering a lot of the interactions you have are delivered via text rather than voice acting, the writing team have done a superb job in conjuring up a game that feels personal and important from the outset. That said, the game’s voice acting — as sporadic as it is — is fantastic, and it’s a shame it isn’t used throughout most of the 10-hour adventure.

Not a lot has changed from the core gameplay formula of the original Banner Saga in its sequel, especially when it comes to battling. Beyond some new elements like blockades and a handful of new unit types, those who have ventured through the first game won’t find too many difficulties adjusting back to the game’s turn-based battle system.

Further, the graphics have been refined ever so slightly, though the 80’s Disney-esque art direction remains relatively untouched. The music is as fantastic as ever, too — a credit to Austin Wintory’s fantastic realisation of the Banner Saga’s Norse-inspired world.

As for the Switch port itself, Banner Saga 2 on Switch is very good. Much like the port of the first game, the Banner Saga 2 never really falters from a technical or graphical standpoint, with the game looking good in docked mode on a TV and phenomenal on the Switch’s screen. The genre it finds itself in — alongside the fact the game is so deep in its narrative and management systems — means it’s a perfect fit for Nintendo’s hybrid, and is a great way to enjoy the series for the first time.

While it’s no secret that the Banner Saga 2 is a stopgap between two very important story arcs in the series, it’s still a game that can stand on its own as a fantastic narrative experience. With only a month and a bit to wait until the third Banner Saga game ties up all of the series’ loose ends, catching up with everything via the two Switch ports is a perfect way of preparing for the final entry. Banner Saga 2 is an excellent game in itself, though, and barring a few small issues — like a few narrative flaws and the gargantuan cliffhanger at the end — stands as one of the better turn-based games on the system.

THE NINTENDO SWITCH VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS TESTED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
8
Conclusion
Much like its predecessor, The Banner Saga 2 finds an excellent spot in the Switch’s library. It’s a sequel that refines rather than evolves any of the key gameplay elements, but still manages to feel like an important piece of the series’ narrative puzzle.
Positives
Great Fit For The Switch
Excellent Narrative
Decisions Have Serious Weight
Composition Work Is Fantastic
Negatives
Feels Like The Stopgap Between Two Pivotal Story Arcs
Some Narrative Choices Don't End Well
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