The Banner Saga Review

The Banner Saga is made by 3 guys that are calling themselves Stoic games and is a game that has come out of the whole fiasco brought about by the popularization of kickstarter. No longer must you sell your soul to an evil publisher to get your game funded, instead  you can go directly to your fans. I have mixed reactions about kickstarter, and that’s coming from someone that has backed quite a few of them. But enough of the background, this game was actually released so it is, at least to some extent, a sign that kickstarter can help bring about smaller indie games that wouldn’t normally be able to get their foot in the door.

The game is a story driven adventure that you experience through cutscenes in which you speak to party members or other individuals, through battles played out in a strategy Rpg sections, and through supply management movement sections.

The word cutscenes may be a bit of a stretch, as not much movement happens during them, but it can be forgiven when they look like this.

Conversation

Many of the choices you have to make during these sections affect what you do and all of these decisions have consequences, whether these are good or bad , you must live with the consequences. The story switches from multiple points of views, showing you the two races, both the Varl who are giant viking creatures with horns, and plain ol’ humans that inhabit the world before finally their two worlds collide. All in all, the story is presented well, the decisions you make feel important and have weight, and the cutscenes are beautifully illustrated. The only problem I have with this portion of the game is that more often than not the consequences of a decision feel abundantly unclear. Some choices have clear best options while not always clearly being the right choice. To counter this however often times in reality you don’t know the full consequences of your actions until after you make them.

Next is movement and supply management.  Have you ever played the Oregon Trail? You move your caravan from one place to another, making decisions as you go and making sure there is food and supplies to go around. That’s the gist of it. If you have low morale your characters in battle will have less willpower, which will be talked about next. Not much else to say except that it can get pretty harrowing when you are running out of supplies and don’t know how many days before you are getting more. You might even make decisions you wouldn’t normally make under these stressful situations.

Movement

Now on to the combat. These types of games are really much more enjoyable then they should be. You move about on a grid based area and command your party members to and fro telling them who to attack and how to attack. Every character has a special attack and normal attacks. On top of that every unit, both you and the enemy, has a defense stat and strength stat. What is interesting to note is that your strength stat is the same as your health, so as you lose health you also start to deal out less damage.  It looks a little bit like this…

combat

On top of the above mentioned stats each character also has a certain amount of will power. With this willpower one of your characters can either move a little bit father than they normally would be able to or hit a little harder than they normally would. You start every battle with each unit having a couple of willpower, and then every time you kill an enemy you get one willpower that can be divvied to any character you chose. Like typical Rpg fare you level up your characters, allocate points, and get stronger. Unlike most Rpg’s however instead of having multiple pieces of gear to upgrade and switch out, each character can only hold 1 item that will buff them in certain ways. I’m still not sure how I felt about this decision. On one hand it took from me customization that I was accustomed to, but on the other I didn’t really feel like I was missing too much. Lastly, in order to actually level up and raise your stats it is based on the amount of enemies that a character has killed which can be inconvenient if you end up having a character that often deals damage but never closes the deal. On top of that you need to spend renown points in order to progress your level and raise the stats. Renown points work as your money. You use it to purchase supplies, to purchase items you equip to your characters and to level. Which gives you a nice trade off between what exactly you should spend your currency on. This system works relatively well, the only problem I have with the leveling is that for some reason if you have enough kills with a character to level it up, but don’t actually level them up you can’t change your item. This can put you in a situation where you might not have enough renown points to level, but want to switch items and can’t. As far as I can tell this must be a glitch. Oh well.

 

In the end the game left me wanting more. Usually for this type of game I would normally expect to play 25 to 30 to 40 hours, but unfortunately I plowed through the game in about 12 hours.However, this game gets a break on length due to both the price at which it was purchased, and the fact that was there was so well done. My biggest complaint with the game is that it was too short. Luckily this is only the first in a trilogy of games set to be released so hopefully Stoic games delivers their promise for this one.

My final verdict on The Banner Saga is a 9/10

The end

FINALLY! Sonic Generations!

I know this has taken quite a while, but this week was kind of hectic, and on top of that my save file kind of got deleted, so I’ve played this game about 1.5 times. On to my thoughts!

Sonic Generations. How do you describe it… Nostalgic? Fast-paced? Definitely. And definitely fun. The basic premise of the game is that something happens with the time space continuum, you somehow end up with two sonics, (with two different play styles), and they must team up to save the day. Really, don’t get too caught up in a story, you can tell the main focus wasn’t story. Now, with two different sonics, you get every level twice, except different. Here’s what I mean.

Classic Sonic

Look at the grass on Green hill zone.

Modern Sonic

The side of Sonic you didn’t know till he went 3D

Different enough that it’s fun to play separately, but still really the same level. Just from a different perspective at times. The game also has a ton of cool bonuses and unlockables. (Sonic Boom from Sonic CD. Yes.)

Remember that one time Sonic was a pinball?

There’s really no original levels per say in Generations, all the levels that you play are technically reworkings of levels from other Sonic games, but every level still feels fresh. It’s like they took some of the levels you loved from when you were younger, some levels you loved from when you were not so younger, and then took some levels you never played from a game that never existed (Sonic The Hedgehog 2006…. *barf*) and reupholstered them. Honestly City Escape has never looked so Damn good.

Rolling around at the speed of sound?

As classic Sonic you run to the right, spin dash, and pass through the spinning picture of Eggman and flip it so it shows you giving the camera a thumbs up. Just like in the good old days. As modern Sonic you move mostly forward, homing attack, boost, light-dash through rings, stomp, drive a car for a little bit, and near the end turn into a small space-ship. Before you start complaining about all that stuff, let me tell you now, it’s fun. As modern sonic you don’t really get bombarded with all those powers at once, but usually one level will focus on one “power.” The important part is that modern sonic is fast.

So, what bad does it have to offer? Not much honestly. As much as I try to complain, there are only a handful of thinks to whine about.
One being the short length of the main campaign. If you  race through the campaign, it’s at best an 8 hours affair. (This of course is much longer if you do all the challenges offered.)

Second thing that bugs me is to restart the level you lose a life. I’m not really sure who’s bright idea that was, because if you leave the level, and then re-enter you don’t lose a life.

Third thing that bugged me may seem strange, but hear me out. The levels which i have the most nostalgia for, and ended up having the most fun playing I suppose, are the early sonic games, and then City Escape. The way the levels are ordered though are chronological though, So first Sonic, then Sonic 2, Sonic 3, and then the two adventure battle games right after. My favorite level’s basically all come and go all at once, and leaves the second half of the game not as nostalgic. I’m not saying that the other levels are bad at all, (on the contrary, one of the levels I liked most at the end was a remake of one from Sonic unleashed,) it’s just that all my nostalgia was gone rather quickly. I never really played anything past Adventure 2 battle.

MMMMMMM… Nostalgia.

Lastly, and probably the biggest fault are the boss battles. It looks like they tried so hard to make them grandiose and fun, but most of the time the end up overstaying their welcome (in the final boos battle I think I heard all of sonic’s friends say that the boss was firing homing missiles at least 300 times each.) On top of the boss battles you also have rival battles. These are a bit better, as they are usually much quicker, and aren’t as obnoxious.

Oh how I loved Sonic CD

So to conclude, Sonic’s 20th Birthday came with a great gift for sonic fans. A fun, if not short romp through memory lane. I’d recommend this game to any hardcore sonic fans, not that I probably have to convince them of anything,  to anyone that ever had fun playing sonic when they were younger, and really to anyone that enjoys platformers. Could this be the return of good Sonic games? I hope so.

P.S. Anyone remember the Super-Peel out from Sonic CD? Was I the only one that liked that?

Quick Update

Just wanted to update, and let anyone that might be reading this (probably a whole two people), that if all goes well, I should have a write up of Sonic Generations up soon. I love playing the old sonic’s on the old genesis, (my favorite is playing through sonic 2 with knuckles), and hopefully the classic sonic relives some of that. I’ve heard good things about Sonic’s newest foray, and maybe, the sonic cycle can be broken? 

 

The Binding of Isaac

How often do you play a game where you get to kill your own mother? Actually don’t answer that. The Binding of Isaac  is a game that kind of confuses me. When you first start the game up you get a short story that sets up the scene, and at first glance you might think it just a simple zelda clone, (albiet a clone that only managed to copy the dungeons.) The Screen below is the first you will see upon entering a game. All rooms are randomized, and as such,every time you step into a game it will be different.

Yes, your arrows are your own tears.

It teaches you all the important things, like walking, attacking, bombing, and item-ing. Isaac is the first character you have access to, and as you play you manage to unlock more characters. This game is quite difficult though. It’s one of those if you die start all over kind of games. Count on dying. Other similar zelda-esque attributes include a store, and rooms dedicated to items that make you cooler.

A Phd for just 15 cents? Why am I paying so much for college...

I'm not sure what a rosary upgrades

Now the game isn’t very long per say, but you’ll probably be playing it for a while. Lots of stuff to collect, bosses to fight, etc etc. You can pick up the game now in the current humble bundle, 5.02 is what you’d have to pay at the time of writing this post in order to get The Binding of Isaac, Voxatron Alpha, and Blocks that matter, or you can just pick it up on steam for 5 bucks. Either way, it’s a steal at that price.

Dead Island

Today a friend of mine and I played a bit of Dead Island. First things first, this game isn’t really for everyone. Plenty of obnoxious quests that have you driving in these God awful vehicles, (unless you want to walk across the island for 30 minutes). With a friend though, is a different story. I can almost say that if you aren’t playing it with someone else, it isn’t really worth playing. It’s not really fair to judge the game on a single player only basis because, to be honest, it really shouldn’t be played that way. I’d say wait around till Black Friday when it’s cheap, and you and a couple friends play through it. I’m sure you’ll have a blast.

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney

I’m a sucker for the Ace Attorney games. Straight up. This is the fourth one at this point, and not much has changed. You, as an attorney must investigate, talk, and do lawyerly things. Now a lot of people say this game is kind of the black sheep of the bunch, but in all honesty, it’s really just more of the same. Which I like. The Ace Attorney series is really like no other, so if you can find it, I’d say at least pick up the first one. The second and third one aren’t in print anymore and are actually quite expensive.