When I think of vikings, I think of blood-thirsty ultra-warriors with a penchant for ignoring pain and cutting off heads. After playing a few matches in The Banner Saga’s stand alone multiplayer component The Banner Saga: Factions, I realized that I was going to need to utilize a bit more strategy outside of running towards the enemy and screaming.
The Banner Saga: Factions is a free-to-play one-on-one turn-based RPG featuring a viking-themed fantasy world. Think of it as an appetizer to munch on before the The Banner Saga’s full release. Two teams of five warriors face off in open battlefield to determine who is the greatest viking squad of all time. These squads can be customized and upgraded to fit your particular strategy, though things like weapons and armor aren’t a featured aspect of this preparation. Instead, you determine what sorts of classes you want featured in your team (they’re all RPG staples so nothing super new here) and then take to the battlefield.
Because the levels are wide open, this plays out a lot more like chess than other turn based RPGs, so thinking multiple steps ahead is even more important. Since I was playing the role of the non-intellectual viking I tend to see in movies, comics, and other video games, I wasn’t all that successful. I eventually caught on to the easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master gameplay, and was actually somewhat successful in combat, though my sole victory was at the cost of four out of five lives. Patience is also a very important factor to the game as matches, especially highly competitive ones can take quite a bit of time. That being said, there is an expert mode that reduces the amount of time you have to make moves in the game. I’d go into more depth about the combat system, but the tutorial does a much better job than I could possibly hope to do.
Winning matches or killing opponents rewards you with Renown, which can be used to purchase new troops or upgrade those that have met the prerequisites. You also have the ability to purchase renown through micro-transactions but rest assured this is not a “pay to win” game as the matchmaking system prevents you from getting in over your head.
I think it’s important to mention that this game has a very impressive visual style, one that has been compared to early Disney movies, which I think is spot on. A lot of time and effort has gone in to crafting a game that looks as good as it plays. The colors are crisp and the animations, while minimalist compared to other titles, are very fluid and natural looking.
While I enjoyed playing Factions, it did more for me in terms of raising my anticipation levels in regards to the full game as opposed to being something I’ll continue to invest a lot of time into. However, it was free and entertaining enough for the time I had with it. There are going to be people who absolutely love this style of game and there will be those that prefer a faster paced title. That is definitely not a knock against this game because Stoic knows its demographic and has done a great job crafting a combat system for the thinking man. Fans of vikings and strategic combat rejoice, I think you might have a new addiction.
The Banner Saga: Factions is currently available through Steam.
Cheap and Dirty Gamer – Being cheap used to be an insult, but with the economy in the dumps it’s now a survival skill. Being dirty also used to be an insult, but that changed after Christina Aguilera’s song came out. Not all gamers have the funds to play full priced games, but that doesn’t mean that gaming quality has to suffer. There are good free and cheap games everywhere, games specifically made for the sexy survivors among us.