Mento's May Mastery: Day 29: The Banner Saga

Oy, what a day it's been. I don't want to go into detail here, but we have a new staff member and the mods have been prepped all day to ensure his integration into the site runs smoothly. The site's been super cool about it, as we knew they would be, but it doesn't hurt to be prepared. Man, but it got a little weird that no-one picked up on the big news for some three hours after the Beastcast went up this morning. Anyway, as a result, I'm more tired than usual today and I could only squeeze in a couple more hours of The Banner Saga. Today's update might be a little bereft of concise critiquery as well. Is critiquery even a word?

I also found time to beat Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow last night after yesterday's May Mastery entry had already gone up. It was a lot of fun to revisit an IGAvania, and I'm more prepared than ever for Bloodstained to finally arrive in 2017 or whatever. I bothered to get 100% map completion, because that's what you do in a SpaceWhipper consarnit, but I think I'll draw the line before 100% soul completion. All you really get out of it is a strong mana regen ring. Well, that and twenty hours of your life down the drain.

Anyway, it's the end of the week, so that means it's time for another seven day round-up. This one's slightly less interesting, as five of the days were monopolized (well, dipolized. Duopolized?) by the last two games, but here goes:

  • Day 23 saw a twofer with the curious but unappealing puzzle-roguelite The Nightmare Cooperative and the slight but delightful adventure Lilly Looking Through.
  • Day 24 had me extol the virtues of a busy kitchen simulator in Cook, Serve, Delicious!, a game I am still playing in increments.
  • Day 25 was the first twenty-four hours of my three-day sojourn through the lands of Stark and Arcadia with Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. That game got weird quick.
  • Day 26 continued the adventures of Zoe Castillo, April Ryan, Kian Alvane and others in Dreamfall: The Longest Journey part two.
  • Day 27 involved... well, more Dreamfall: The Longest Journey as it turned out. I managed to beat it, at least, though any closure is going to have to wait.
  • Day 28 was the first day spent with the bitterly cold and bitterly sad The Banner Saga.
  • As for Day 29 (i.e. today, as of writing), well, spoilers but The Banner Saga isn't getting any cheerier. Tomorrow's probably going to be my last day with it whatever happens.

The Banner Saga

Though I barely made any progress in Chapter 3, which follows a squad of the giant-like varl as they make their way to their capital, I was sad to suddenly lose one of my best fighters in a story event. I've been told that such occurrences are common, in much the same way as they are in something like Telltale's The Walking Dead, but it doesn't hurt any less. Like I said previously, it's not just losing a character I'd grown attached to in the narrative, but losing a character I enjoyed using in combat and had invested some time and resources into building. Even worse, it was a decision I made that did for him, though I of course have no idea if there was a way to save him with a different path - I suspect so, but I've been told not to consider reloads or looking up the results of these decisions beforehand. True to my word, I've simply accepted the loss and tried to move on, not unlike the mourning in-game characters themselves.

I rocked the shit out of this battle! Two waves of enemies and zero injuries! No, you may not ask what difficulty I'm on!
I rocked the shit out of this battle! Two waves of enemies and zero injuries! No, you may not ask what difficulty I'm on!

The battle system is curiously built to weather missing fighters because it actually accounts for having fewer heroes with you and will ensure that it isn't too much of a detriment. A small party is pretty screwed regardless, of course, but if you have one or two fewer than the maximum it will allow you to move those units more frequently. The turns always alternate between the heroes and the enemy, with the hero characters going through an order determined by the player before the battle begins. The player also has some control over where the player characters start on the grid-like battlefield, though there's usually some limitations with where they can be placed. If you have fewer units, therefore, they'll get to act more frequently. This is great if the only characters you have are all the badasses you've trained to be invulnerable, because they can just cleave through larger parties of enemies.

In addition, I've picked up the secret to the combat system: maim enemies, but leave them broken and alive until the end. An enemy with low strength (which, as stated last time, also acts as health) will do almost no damage to allied units. There's a certain amount of chip damage you can expect, which will start to add up after a while, but by weakening a unit you weaken the overall side. A weak enemy that can barely do damage will still take as many turns as the big bruisers you've yet to wear down, and you can start working on them as their weak compatriots take all the precious turns away. Conversely, by one-shotting the grunts you allow the bigger nuisances to act more frequently. It's a little malevolent, this keeping folk alive just to toy with them and prevent the healthier enemies from moving as often, but surprisingly effective.

You can bring up this little camping screen whenever, allowing you to practice combat or customize characters. I sometimes like to take a break so I can read more of the map's lore.
You can bring up this little camping screen whenever, allowing you to practice combat or customize characters. I sometimes like to take a break so I can read more of the map's lore.

I've not found much to do with the caravan management side of things, though I imagine that won't last. The varls seem to have a huge number of supplies for this leg of the journey, though the human bunch that take the alternate chapters have to be a little more frugal. In another odd case of the game doubling up stats to make them more precious, the renown you earn for defeating enemies and winning battles that usually go towards upgrading characters can also be spent on procuring supplies for the caravan. If you spend all the renown on leveling up your units, your entire caravan goes hungry. The dire consequences this has won't be offset by a single character hitting slightly harder because you spent twenty renown on advancing them another skill level. It seems to me that you only want to level characters up a few times and then leave them be, unless they're the protagonist of that particular chapter, because the chances of them leaving or randomly dying are high enough that it doesn't seem like a smart idea to make too big an investment with any one of them. That dead varl was level 3, which meant a lot of renown had to be spent, and I'm more than a little steamed that he got himself offed in a cutscene. Shit happens in The Banner Saga though, and we just have to roll with the gutpunches.

Day 01: I Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamDay 11: MiasmataDay 21: Magrunner: Dark Pulse
Day 02: I Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamDay 12: BotaniculaDay 22: Magrunner: Dark Pulse
Day 03: I Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamDay 13: BotaniculaDay 23: The Nightmare Cooperative & Lilly Looking Through
Day 04: Life of PixelDay 14: Shantae: Risky's RevengeDay 24: Cook, Serve, Delicious!
Day 05: Life of PixelDay 15: Bit Dungeon IIDay 25: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Day 06: SPAZDay 16: Stick it to the Man!Day 26: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Day 07: SPAZDay 17: NaissanceEDay 27: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Day 08: NightSkyDay 18: The SwapperDay 28: The Banner Saga
Day 09: The RoomDay 19: ClaireDay 29: The Banner Saga
Day 10: Ultionus: A Tale of Petty RevengeDay 20: DokuroDay 30: The Banner Saga
Finale: Papers, Please
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